Are you struggling to fall asleep at night? Do you feel like your mind is running on overdrive with all that you have to do? For women entering into their menopausal cycle, at whatever age that cycle begins, estrogen depletion can cause a series of symptoms. At the neurological level, menopause can manifestas loss of memory, mood swings, fatigue, and irritability. This process of the body fluctuating is natural, but it doesn’t have to be life-changing. It requires is more attention to the self, an opportunity to take time to better understand what your body and mind really need.
One of the best ways to do this is to create time in your day for personal reflection and mental exercises. There are many benefits that are proven when the mind activates through various activities, like crossword puzzles or mind games, but one of the timeless practices that can truly help during this time of transition is meditation. Meditation, and the accompanying practice of mindfulness, have been buzz words in the United States for the last few years. Though they may seem like a trendy solution, the history of these practices is rooted in daily integration.
There is nothing new that you need to become more mindful. There is no program you need to buy, nor any class you need to take. Becoming mindful, and carving out time to meditate, is really just giving the mind time to relax, to recharge, to accept the changes that are happening at a hormonal and personal level.
A Mindfulness Exercise for the Mind
During menopause, many women question their own identity. What does it mean to be woman without the cycle that has governed, in some extent, your body for the last few decades? What it means is that you are at a time of redefining, of clearing out the old to make room for the new. A meditation exercise can be woven into the morning or evening routine. These practices help align the mind with intention of the body. They can also help focus the brain so that the feelings of irritability, of moodiness, of lack of focus can be addressed.
As one of the core practices of mindfulness-based stress reduction, a method of mindfulness pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the body scanis an opportunity to check in with each part of the body, to reconnect all of the parts. This exercise can take as long as you have, from 5 minutes to 20 minutes.
Materials: A comfortable chair, yoga mat, or place on the floor; a timer if wanted
Find a comfortable seat or lie down on the ground. However you want to be is fine. Close your eyes and begin by slowly counting your breaths, in and out. A breath in and a breath out count as one. The second breath in and out count as two. Do this up until ten full breath cycles, and then repeat. After counting for a few cycles of ten breaths, you will notice your mind feels more malleable, less chaotic with its thoughts. Now, it is time to check in with the body.
Begin with your left foot. Draw your attention to that foot. Envision it. What is it feeling now? Is it cold? Warm? Tingly? Whatever you feel, that is fine. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Just note the feeling. Then move your mental gaze up to your left calf, your knee, your thigh. Ask yourself as you scan each part of your body–How is this part of my body feeling?
Work your way from your legs to you abdomen, your stomach, your chest, your arms, your neck and shoulders, and finally your face and your mind. If you feel your thoughts begin to wander, just let them do so. You don’t have to corral your thoughts as if you’re training a wild stallion. Let the thoughts pass. Keep bringing your focus back to where you are in your body. When you conclude scanning your whole body, before you open your eyes, pay attention to how your body in general feels. Is it lighter? Do you feel less stressed? Open your eyes slowly, smile at yourself, at the time you’ve taken for you.
Love Mind, Love Self
This exercise can be repeated whenever you need to take a few moments to reconnect with yourself. Remember, more than anything, that during this time of transition it is important to be gentle with yourself. Approach the process of menopause through the lens of curiosity, trying to better understand what is happening in your body and what it wants as it changes into this new season of life. It is a season that is full of new blossoming, of new opportunities. It is a rejuvenation into the next phase, and a clear mind is one of the ways you can best support yourself as you transition.
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