Why mindful menstruation is the new self-care

Periods are no longer taboo as we become more aware of the many benefits of reconnecting with our menstrual cycle.

Gone are the days of not talking about “that time of the month” and sneaking tampons out of your bag and into the bathroom at work.

A growing number of experts are working to end the stigma around periods to help us understand how to better live with the ebbs and flows of our cycle.

So popular is the mindful menstruation movement that social media platform Pintrest named it as one of its top health and wellbeing trends for 2022.

And leading the charge? Millennials, of course.

What is mindful menstruation?

It’s quite a concept, but naturopath Belinda Kirkpatrick explains there are a host of benefits to being more in sync with our menstrual cycles.

“It’s pretty normal to dread period time because many people equate it with cramps and bloating and generally feeling yuck,” Belinda says.

“But menstruation is more about hormonal changes than bleeding and understanding the phases of your cycle means you can plan for the times you’ll have more energy or when you’ll feel introspective or creative.”

She cites the example of the World Cup-winning US women’s soccer team, who tracked their period cycles for peak performance.

“As women, the rise and fall of our hormones affect everything that we do and while every woman is different, it can really help to know when you should plan your hardest workouts and when you’ll need a night in under the doona,” she says.

Understanding every stage of your cycle

Curtin University researcher and PhD candidate Felicity Roux says self-awareness of your cycle is not only a useful way to get the most out of exercise but can be good for mental health too.

“Focusing on only the bleeding part of the narrative and glossing over ovulation is like skipping to the last chapter of the book,” according to Felicity, creator of the school-based ovulatory menstrual health literacy program My Vital Cycles.

“If you have difficult times in your cycle, such as painful periods or pre-menstrual tension, knowing your own fixed days between ovulation and your next period gives you a heads-up to put some self-care strategies in place.”

And for those confused about when you might be ovulating, one tell-tale sign, she says, is changes in cervical mucus.

How do I practise mindful menstruation?

You may have mastered mindfulness on your yoga mat and in long walks in nature, but exactly how do you focus attention on the intricacies of your cycle?

Here’s what our experts suggest.

  1. Understand the cycle has two phases

“The follicular phase starts on day one with a menstrual bleed, which can last between three to seven days.

“Ovulation marks the end of the follicular phase and the start of the luteal phase, which can range from 11 to 16 days.”

  1. Keep track of your cycles

“Do this by using a journal or calendar and pay attention to any changes or fluctuations that occur,” Felicity says.

  1. Take notice of any patterns

“Note down the changes in your mood and energy levels and any difference in physical sensations in each phase,” Belinda suggests.

  1. Use what you know to your advantage

“If you’re tired and emotional all of a sudden, think about where you might be in your cycle and it may save you from losing it over hubby not putting the bins out,” Belinda says.

“From organising a massage when you have your period, to planning a big night out, it’s all about understanding your body.”

Written by Liz McGrath.