This blog post was written by Brazen founder, Kirsten Karchmer:
There are so many factors that significantly impact your period and determine how easy or hard that time of the month is for you. A non-exhaustive list would include stress and how you manage it, the quality and quantity of sleep you get, what and when you eat, the type of exercise you do and how frequently you do it, and how much water you drink throughout the day.
But the one thing that makes the biggest impact, and actually influences your ability to change the other factors, is your mind. This is not to say that your PMS, cramping, PCOS or Endometriosis is all in your head (IT’S NOT!). But your mind does have a tangible impact on your hormones and how effectively you can heal your body.
A recent study showed that telling people invented results from fake genetic tests could affect their production of the satiety hormone ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel full).
In that study, participants fasted overnight and were given a 450 calorie meal the next day. After the meal, participants were asked how full they felt and their ghrelin levels were measured.
Then participants were told they’d be getting a genetic test to determine if they had the genes for making a lot of ghrelin (these people feel full easier) or just a little (higher risk for obesity). A week after the fake genetic test was administered, the overnight-fast-then-450-calorie-meal experiment was repeated.
Can you guess what happened? The group that was told that they had the gene for making a lot of ghrelin reported feeling significantly more full than they did after the baseline meal test and, more importantly, they actually produced two times as much ghrelin as the previous week. Double the ghrelin production just from being told that they had a gene that would do that!
Participants were told one piece of false information, they believed it, and it changed their hormones. That’s how much power your thoughts and beliefs have over your body.
So, what kinds of things does your mind tell YOU throughout the day?
Maybe things like:
- Period suffering is normal.
- You are fat.
- You have endo so you are going to suffer until you have surgery or take more drugs.
- You are sick.
- You are not enough.
Your mind creates stories for you and, for better or for worse, your body responds to them every day.
If you're a person who really suffers during your period and you’ve struggled with it for a long time, you may think about how terrible your period is each month. You might have already decided that this is just the way it's going to be for the rest of your life until you finally go through menopause, that it’s impossible for it to be better. (I can't tell you how many women have told me their periods were so bad that they’d rather just have their uteri removed than continue to menstruate.)
If that is how you think about your period and your body, how might those thoughts impact the way your body responds?
What might happen if we were able to start changing that mindset? How would your hormones and period be different if you trained your mind to feed you the opposite narrative? To tell you:
- You are not doomed to suffer and have bad periods.
- There is hope and you can have a healthy, painless period.
- You are beautiful.
- You are healing.
- You are enough.
We know. Some of you may be thinking, “How in the hell am I supposed to do that? My period is beyond awful and it’s unlikely to get better unless I have surgery or something radical like that.”
Here are a few steps that you can take today:
- Start really paying attention to what you think about and, more importantly, what feelings you experience throughout the day.
I am all about going deep down to the root of the problems. Since our feelings drive our thoughts, being mindful of them is key.
- Try to identify the feelings you experience most often.
It can be worry, fear, anger, sadness, or a host of other feelings. The point here is to get yourself out of the dark and into the reality of what’s happening inside your head on an unconscious level. This is your habitual mindset.
- Look for patterns.
Are certain feelings tied to certain activities or times of the day? What are you doing when you feel the feelings you identified in Step 2?
- Think about what you want to go on in your head.
Your habits aren’t fixed. You can decide what you want to go on in your head. The two things to identify in this step are: (1) a feeling you want to experience less often and (2) the emotional state you would love to nurture and have as a habit – it could be joy, abundance, love, peace, or whatever floats your boat.
Most people think changing your habits is hard. I think that is just another mindset trap that will keep you limited in your ability to have what you want in life. At the end of the day, changing your habits comes down to practice. Once you’ve identified the current habitual feeling that you want to change and the feeling you want to experience instead, all you have to do is set a few reminders on your phone and practice the feeling you want more of.
Step 5, the practice part, can trip people up sometimes – how the eff do you practice feeling an emotion? It is actually easier than you think.
I’ll use my own experience as an example. Working through steps 1-3, I noticed that I often feel overwhelmed, especially when it comes to planning and executing and even more so if I have a lot of errands on my to-do list that day.
In Step 4, I identified that the feeling I want more of is joy.
Putting step 5 into practice, here’s what I do: In the morning I take a look at the day I have ahead of me and identify times that I’m likely to feel overwhelmed (ie: blocks of time that involve errands, planning, and executing!). Then I tell myself that, during those times, I’m going to stay super focused on anything happening that might cause me to feel some joy. These joy-provoking things can be little things like snagging a good parking spot, getting free yummy samples at the grocery store, seeing a cute baby, or laughing at something random with my daughter in the car.
If I know an errand or planning session is going to happen at a certain time, I’ll even set a reminder on my phone so I get a little ping to focus on joy when I’m in a potentially overwhelming scenario. When I focus on the spark-joy things, the overwhelming feeling fades to the background and I’ve realized that I’m actually getting addicted to feeling joy. Every day, I remind myself that it is all a choice and decide that I’m going to continue to choose and look for examples of joy instead of overwhelm.
After that, it’s just rinse and repeat. Steps 1-4 are relatively quick, you can probably sort them out after observing yourself for just a couple of days. Step 5 takes repetition, but if you do it every day for a while, your subconscious will start to become more flexible and you will be able to get it to do amazing things.
So, what are your habits when it comes to thoughts and feelings? Which ones do you want to nurture and which ones you want to change?
I’d love to hear about what you are learning about yourself and your journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how it is going and how I can help. (I read and answer every email personally.)