My own journey to empower myself with endometriosis has been a gift. Working with the four phases (seasons) of the menstrual cycle was a revelation to me and really helped me connect to my inner wisdom. I learnt to work with my cycle rather than against it, which was transformative and powerfully enhanced my life. It was part of how I reduced my symptoms. I began to spot patterns on the same cycle days each month where certain feelings or emotions would arise and I was able to flow with them. I began to understand how I could help myself and the messages my body was giving me became clearer. It truly did become a mindfulness practice in a sense and the daily journal practice is a large part of it. I was able to sit with the natural shifts in my energy and mood over the month with a far greater knowledge of the gifts inherent in each menstrual phase. I grew to love the second half of the cycle which is not something I ever thought I would say. Particularly with endometriosis and having been angry and frustrated that I had to have a period.
Here is an example from my book, ‘Reclaiming Feminine Wisdom’ on how you can work with the menstrual phase…
Winter – Menstruation
Winter in nature is when the trees are barren, and everything has retreated. It is the time in our menstrual cycle where we are bleeding and wanting the outside pressures to fall away, naturally releasing and retreating inwards ourselves if we are lucky.
There is often a deepening of inner wisdom felt in this phase of our cycles if you take time to connect with yourself and listen. It is a time when our bodies naturally want us to stop.
If you can, try not to book important meetings or presentations. This will not fit into your energy and needs at this stage of your cycle and you may feel resentful. If it is not possible, just acknowledge that and then let it go; the awareness can help you move through with more ease.
It can be a great time to catch up on a book or to do some journaling. I found journaling helped bring forth insights and I was able to integrate the lessons. The energy in this part of the cycle is inwards—containing, healing and intuitive, a perfect time for a ritual release around anything that no longer serves us.
Menstruation is also a great time to let any emotional baggage you are carrying go. I once burned from my journal an issue I wanted to release from my life and my bleed came straight away. Feeling very connected to the wisdom of the body and psyche as the bleed is about releasing.
Sleep well and go to bed early if you can. You can also decode your dreams as they can be more vivid when menstruating. Often with self-care and rest you will awaken to the next phase of spring (pre-ovulation) with enthusiasm and space to create anew. Whatever you have let go of or released will not need to come with you into the next phase of your cycle. It can be easier to accept what has happened in your past if it is still affecting you in the present. Integrate any lessons, wisdom or strength gained from your experiences in order to move forwards. Open up to the uncertainty of the future, feel into what wants to come through you. Any inspirations? Are you being called towards something? Listen to this.
The winter/menstruation phase is also the time when ideas are being incubated underground. It is not time for them to come out into the light yet. Nurture your ideas, water them like seeds waiting to grow. Give them what they need before they will grow into the light (spring).
As you retreat into yourself, you can imagine being cocooned in a cave. If you are working or busy, you can visualise that you are protected in your cave. It will be a time for renewal. If you have a flexible working schedule or are able to work from home, then this is the best time to do so. Also try and book in some time for yourself. Let everything in your life settle and if possible, try not to push or strive for anything.
The biggest gift that the winter stage of my menstrual cycle gave me was the importance of setting boundaries. You must be truthful with your ‘no’s and prioritise what matters. I began to really see how not taking time out for self-care at this stage of my cycle would affect the next stage and even the rest of my cycle. We all have these shifts in our menstrual cycles, but I’d never really taken note before. I would always be trying to do too much in the winter phase and naturally we feel more tired as we bleed, more frustrated by the demands of the outside world. Many women will find having children at this phase of the cycle more difficult. This is because children can be demanding, and I often found it challenging because I had increased my awareness of what my body needed at this time, but I wasn’t always able to give myself what I needed. This is true for all of us at times. I found that the acceptance of my situation, and surrendering to it, with a few deep breaths, helped clear the frustration. If I could catch a bath or even take five to ten minutes to read, it helped me reset. It was a tool of self-care. I found my senses were heightened in this phase and I would receive clear signals and messages about what needed changing in my life.
In the autumn/winter phase of the cycle, I found that I felt guilty about working or would feel sad if I had not had much quality time with my children. This is an example of the kind of issues that may arise and need addressing.
Up the self-care by taking walks or anything that helps you retreat from the outside world. This is the phase I love going to the cinema and watching a good film. Book a massage. It is a great time to have a ritual bath, putting in some of your favourite essential oils, taking a herbal tea, or glass of champagne. (Your preference; mine is always chocolate!) Set the intention to rest and let go. Wear your comfy clothes or pyjamas if at home.
Related energetically to the Dark Moon (we cannot see the moon from earth)
Also linked to the New Moon (we start to see a small part of the moon)
Linked to the Crone archetype.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)—Links to yin energy.
The pituitary gland starts producing LH (Luteinising hormone) and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) to stimulate the growth of new follicles (for egg development). Progesterone and oestrogen are at their lowest, and this can affect your happy hormones. More so if you’re stressed and not eating well.
Meditation on Winter—What does your winter scene look like at this stage of your cycle? Close your eyes, one hand on heart and one on the womb, gentle music in the background. Connect into the pelvic bowl and wait for visuals to come to you. You can walk a path to your womb temple. What does the path look like? Does anyone meet you at the temple? Do they have any messages for you? How does your womb temple make you feel?
Journal, draw or paint the scene.
Support with stretching exercise or going for gentle walks. Most women will crave meat for B vitamins and iron in this phase to replace what is lost through their bleed. With endo I started out as vegan on supplements and then eventually added small amounts of grass-fed organic meat to avoid animals that may have been fed antibiotics or a diet involving pesticides. Talk to a nutritionist to make a plan for your cycle. Make sure you eat vitamin C rich foods to help with iron absorption. Connect in to what you feel your body needs.