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‘Every cycle has something to teach us if we’re willing to tune in’

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By Shayna Sappington
01st Jun 2023
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‘Every cycle has something to teach us if we’re willing to tune in’

Did you know that your menstrual cycle influences your overall wellness? Menstruality mentor Kitty Maguire shares how we can work with our bodies and our cycles to be our optimum selves.

As a menstruality mentor, how do you help women become more aware of their menstrual cycles?

In my role as a menstruality mentor, I work from a holistic approach – this means looking at the person as a whole and assessing all contributing factors to each individual as part of their unique stories. 

Menstruality consciousness is a lifestyle choice. By understanding the spirit, science and sacred elements of yourself, you are able to make informed choices in support of your body, which brings autonomy. 

How does our menstrual cycle affect our overall well-being, both body and mind?

The menstrual cycle is a vital sign, a window into your overall health. In fact, in Chinese medicine, a women’s cycle is commonly explored as part of acupuncture treatment (a technique for balancing our life force for overall wellness).

Typically, we aren’t asked about our menstrual cycles so we don’t grow up with a model of hearing or seeing the signs our body shows us. We should be questioned on:

  • How long is your menstrual cycle?
  • What’s the consistency of your menstrual blood?
  • Do you have sore or swollen breasts throughout your cycle?
  • Do you experience PMS (premenstrual syndrome)? These refer to the symptoms you may experience in the weeks before your period and may include: mood swings, feeling depressed or irritable, headaches, tiredness, bloating or breast tenderness.

 

All of the symptoms above give an insight into potential disharmony in our menstrual cycle. Learning about our hormones and how or why they show up when they do in our body is really helpful to understanding yourself.

For example, during post-menstrual bleeding, we move into the first half of the cycle, the follicular stage, and as oestrogen rises this hormone brings more energy to the body. Hair and skin can feel nicer and more radiant, and concentration, memory and coordination can feel sharper as well.

And, for anyone preparing to conceive, it’s really important and extremely helpful to understand your menstrual cycle as little changes can make a big difference. We can feel more sexual as we get closer to ovulation. This is nature’s way of sending signs it’s time to get creative, regardless if you want to make a baby or not.

In turn, how we live our life will impact our hormones. It’s important to know that when the bigger challenges or life events surface in our lives like trauma, grief, illness, or pregnancy – these thresholds shape us differently and that includes our menstrual cycle. Overall, our menstrual cycle is an insight into many aspects of our life. Very few things in nature are linear, our menstrual cycle included. Every cycle has something to teach us if we’re willing to tune in.

Once we know these patterns, we can start living a cyclical lifestyle. How can this benefit our day-to-day?

Through cycle awareness, you learn to know yourself deeper and greater. Being able to understand your hormones and how or why you’re feeling and behaving the way you are is life-changing for so many. It doesn’t mean you won’t experience tough days and menstrual challenges anymore, but you will be able to support yourself better than before.

By working with your cycle, you can:

  • Learn how to schedule your capacity and bandwidth around your cyclical experience and intelligence.
  • Learn to say no or bring in small tools to mind yourself on those rough days.
  • Begin to see patterns of anxiety or burnout and determine when they’ll surface.
  • Don’t take on any extra load to help others while you’re menstruating, as your capacity and vitality are running very thin.
  • Know the best way to prepare for your period by buying the right period products. For example, when your period is about to start, wear a liner just in case it arrives. And, by understanding your flow, you can use the right pads for your cycle. (It was such an honour to talk at the Always event with so many incredible women and I’d like to thank IMAGE and Always for making that possible. I look forward to many more.)

 

Once we have this understanding, we can slowly weave in subtle or big changes that will bring a healthier harmonious experience to our lives.

Recently, I potty trained my three-year-old. I thought it’d be a good idea to work around his schedule and attempt this during the Easter holidays, but for me, I had the worst PMS flare-up I’d had in years. While my potty champ did fantastically, I was a shadow of myself and found it extra challenging.

In hindsight, I’d advise anyone to cycle sync if they can. Schedule things like this in the window of your cycle when you’re most patient and energised. For me, this can vary but is typically around day 6 to day 19 of my menstrual cycle.

How can women of all ages start to celebrate menstruation?

There are many ways to honour menstruation – ritual, rest, sober dancing, journaling, womb yoga, women’s circles, drumming, yoga nidra, art therapy, cooking, and tea ceremonies to name a few.

It’s the most potent time of our cycle. We can have incredible dreams, connect to the spirit world and feel a greater sense of clairvoyance. Menstruation is a sacred time and how you choose to experience it is your choice.

What’s important is that you get to slow down and nourish your body, especially during menstruation.

What are some daily practices that help us stay in tune with our menstrual cycles?

If we practice menstrual cycle awareness (MCA) and cyclical living, we can create healthy habits to carry and bolster us through our menstruality lifetime.

1. Awareness – Practising a simple self-awareness ritual that acknowledges how you feel and charting this (like journaling) is a great way to perform self-care daily.

2. Movement – Choosing how you exercise, what type of movement and when, is helpful.

3. Diet – Drinking plenty of water and eating a nutrient-dense diet will fuel your amazing and constantly changing body. Most women aren’t getting enough protein, magnesium and vitamin D, which impacts our nervous system, energy and endocrine system.

4. Rest – Remember, it’s the little moments that will top you up. Try meditation and embodiment practices during menstruation, or take a relaxing shower or bath. Also, learning to truly rest with no screens is a radical act and your body will adore you for the proper rest. Get to bed a bit earlier so your circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) can support your hormones and immune system.

5. Support – Having an outlet to be heard and not always looking for advice, mostly just having space to acknowledge how you’re doing, is incredibly important. Find a peer group or women’s circle, or share with your loved ones and reciprocate for them.

6. Education – Knowledge is power. Informed choice brings wisdom.

7. Self-Love – Connecting to your body and particularly your womb and menstrual cycle can be tough for many if there’s trauma or generational trauma. Get yourself a guide to support you therapeutically, be it for emotional and mental care or healing. An acupuncturist or naturopath are incredible resources to have to bring your body into harmony.

The power of gaining lifestyle choices that aid your vitality and fuel your stage of life, means you have the ability to make informed choices on how, when and why you move your body and show up in the world as an embodied cyclically living human.

In our partnership with Always, ‘Go With Your Flow’, we’re on a mission to empower women and people with periods to use the appropriate period products; understand how our moods might be affected; how our relationships might be impacted and ultimately allow us to give our bodies and minds a chance to thrive. Learn more at always.co.uk.