Goddessing Self Care

Moon-time Howling

For today’s #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday, I will be examining focusing on how women can engage in healthy and healing behaviors during our moon-time and throughout our cycle. This time is especially fraught for me as I suffer from PMDD, which stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I describe my experience to others as having full-blown depressive episodes around the time of my cycle, which dissipate rapidly once bleeding commences. This experience can feel animalistic to me in its rawness and rage, even as I seek to reclaim it as part of my femininity. My writing here regarding moon-time is primarily aimed at those who identify as women, although I think it could also be useful if you have women in your life for whom you would like to serve as a support person.

The physical aspects of being a woman of child-bearing age have never been easy for me. I went through puberty earlier than most of my peers and did everything possible to hide the fact that I was getting my period. I would get severe stomach problems every month, to the point I’d need to leave school. I now experience migraines that correspond to my cycle. My mood swings during the premenstrual time are extreme and leave me feeling disillusioned with life and detached from those around me. I am prone to rage. My PTSD symptoms also increase significantly.

Given the distress I experience with my cycle, Goddess Spirituality has opened a new world to me in terms of the ideas of “red tents” and “moon-time.” There are dueling theories regarding whether menstrual huts served places to separate women who are viewed as spiritually unclean, or as places for women to gather during their cycle because of its sacred power. I think the former is much more likely than the latter in many societies, but I hope women gathering together in this way can become something we claim as sacred ground for us to celebrate our feminine experience. I think there is a good deal of cultural appropriation as well in what we make of these rituals, so I hope that we can develop new practices that are not overly reliant on customs and practices that may be sacred to a culture different from our own with which we are unfamiliar.

After coming to an understanding of how menstruation can be celebrated instead of shamed, I feel more able to view my experience as part of the general ebb and flow of life. In gathering in community with other women, I’ve seen how common some of my experiences are. I feel encouraged to take the time where things get especially rough for me as an opportunity to turn inward, and to release those things in my life that are no longer suiting me. I have high points as well throughout the month and I put more effort than I used to into harnessing the energy and strength I have at these times towards accomplishing tasks, so that there is less to do at low points.

I’ll be describing the self-care that I’ve personally found useful throughout my cycle, but I do want to note that you may not find yourself following the same pattern. Some women are energized during their time of bleeding, and drained around the time of ovulation. Others may not notice these changes. Trans-women as well as women with certain physical conditions may not have a traditional menstrual cycle, but may still identify with the ebb and flow of energy throughout the month.

Self-Care During the Waning and New Moon Phase

The time of the month leading up to and when we are bleeding correspond to the waning and new moon phases. Your energy may begin to decrease, and you may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities you have in your life. You may find yourself withdrawing from others. Your emotions may be heightened. This time of the month and moon cycle offers an opportunity to:

  • Deepen your inner work. Your intuition is ripened and ready to release new knowledge. Use this time to learn more about yourself and your unconscious needs and desires.
  • Connect to your support system. Even though the impulse is to pull away from others, staying in touch with them and opening up the vulnerabilities you may be experiencing can enhance your relationships. I often find myself having more meaningful and longer conversations with a select person or people during this time.
  • Attune to your body’s needs. My body proclaims its needs loudly during this time. I ignore it to my peril. I tend to be more likely to schedule doctor’s appointments and adjust my habits to ensure healthy nutrition and sleep during this time.
  • Refresh your environment. I tend to redecorate, organize, clean and update my physical surroundings during this time, releasing any physical materials that are no longer needed. Surrounding myself with fresh flowers, scented candles, incense or other fragrant materials keeps me in touch with beauty even if I feel “gross” physically.

Self-Care During Waxing and Full Moon Phases

When the bleeding time ends, we enter a stage of energy and excitement as our bodies build towards the full moon of ovulation. You may experience a feeling of needing more in your life. Sexual desire could increase. Creativity blossoms. This time of month and moon cycle provides a chance to:

  • Set goals. The beginning and middle of my cycle can be a place where I take the reflection I did during my moon-time, and decide upon the specific goals that will get me closer to what I am seeking in life.
  • Direct your energy flow. There are times during this part of my cycle in which my energy can feel abundant. If I’m not careful, it gets spent on activities like making expensive purchases or starting a project for which I don’t truly have the necessary time or resources. It takes sustained effort for me to ensure I am channeling the energy I feel into productive and healthy endeavors.
  • Participate in community action. I am more interested in spending time with others at the start of my cycle. I find it useful to balance my engagement so that I don’t over-commit for the rest of the month, and so that I take advantage of this time to dig into relationships and activities.
  • Rejuvenate self-care behaviors. I find it easier to make positive changes in my eating, sleeping and exercise behaviors as I approach ovulation. My body has fewer cravings and I have the energy needed for vigorous exercise.

Your experience throughout your monthly cycle may mirror mine or may unfurl differently. What changes, if any, do you experience throughout the month? How does your energy peak and descend? How are your emotions and relationships affected by these changes? Women’s cycles have been stigmatized and ridiculed throughout human history; it is vital for us to stake our claim to our experience as our own unique way of being a woman in the world, and to find the common ground we all share.

Goddessing Self Care

Healing Time

For today’s #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday, I’ve decided to consider our relationship with time, and how we can slow down in order to have more time for self-care.

How Does Trauma Affect Time Perception?

A symptom of PTSD is a sense of a foreshortened future. People afflicted with PSTD may not see themselves living long, full lives because they are frequently in fight-or-flight mode with their sympathetic system stuck in high gear. I’ve literally spent years conceptualizing my life in this way. I’ve seen my experience as a battle and a struggle for survival. I’ve also viewed it as an escape attempt as I fled danger with no rest in sight. I think some of the resistance traumatized individuals may have to self-care and slowing down could be rooted in the dominance of a mindset that is focused on threat.

How Do You Move Through the World?

Earlier this year, I was planning a large party at my house and used a home grocery delivery service. The driver’s vehicle broke down and I was left having to go to the store and get all the ingredients with little time to spare. I raced through the store running the entire time, and came extremely close to dumping everything when I practically crashed into another shopper.

I get teased for walking extremely quickly; my physical presence in any sort of crowd tends to convey the message that I needed to get somewhere 10 minutes ago, and that, no matter the setting, it is a serious event that must be conquered by experiencing it as quickly as possible (back to the battle mindset). I’m well aware of the flaws in logic and absurdity of my actions, but I struggle to rein it in.

There is a certain type of person who amazes me. Someone who can stand in a grocery store and make pleasant conversation, while just standing there. Nothing entering or exiting the individual’s cart. A person for whom there doesn’t seem to be a large, constantly chiming, internal clock that drives every waking moment. These individuals are likely engaging their parasympathetic system, the “rest and digest” mode of life that allows for connection, communication, and an easier pace. Of course there is a time and place for urgency, but I suspect we are able to lead healthier and happier lives when we regulate and slow ourselves down appropriately.

How Can We Maximize Our Self-Care Time?

Self-care doesn’t always occur naturally or easily. It takes time to figure out what kinds of self-care might be needed, and to actually follow through on our commitment to it. It is so easy to brush off taking care of ourselves to free up reserves for others, our job, our home and a million other things, but there is usually a long-term cost to doing so. As I described above, our personalities may predispose us to brush past self-care and “being” in favor of accomplishing and “doing.”

In order to dedicate time to self-care, we can be to establish a routine for asking ourselves what we might be needing, and how we can best get those needs met. This could be done on a daily and/or a weekly basis. Just ten minutes of meditation and inner listening may open up a well of information that we can dig into to see where we are fulfilled and where we are lacking in satisfying our needs.

After we’ve identified ways in which self-care is needed, the next step is to transform our view of it from an indulgence to an investment. I’ve neglected my physical self-care in certain areas for quite a while. I’ve recently started to budget more fully for those needs. It occurred to me I could spend the money on activities like massages or exercise equipment. These seem like a splurge to me but, when I consider my long-term health, I can see that they might not be. Consider the self-care investments that would most benefit and equip you for life’s challenges.

I am curious to discuss how you allocate your time as it relates to self-care, and whether you’ve been sucked in to the Type A, fast-paced, always “on” mindset for which I’ve clearly fallen, or if you have other methods of managing to time pressure.

Goddessing Self Care

Honoring Limitations

Today would typically be my next post for #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday. Unfortunately, my workload and health issues have piled up to the point where I feel like my day-to-day is a never-ending series of obligations. As a result, I need to slow myself down and respect my own limits. I want to carve out more time to dig into my spiritual practice so that what I write come as much from a place of authenticity as possible. I will still be blogging, but I am now planning to post about once a week, with additional posts as I am able. Looking forward to our continued conversations!

Goddessing Self Care

Softly Slumbering

For this #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday, I will be sharing about sleep. Did you just yawn? Talking about sleep sometimes makes me tired 😊 Our bodies and minds benefit when we are able to get a good night’s rest. Mental health conditions common to trauma survivors are related to specific sleep problems. Specific behaviors can improve our sleep environments and we can elevate the act of sleep to a sacred practice.

Health Benefits of Sleep

Attaining a healthy night’s sleep affects nearly every aspect of our being, and is linked with living a longer, healthier life. Getting sufficient sleep at night seems to improve our fertility, immune system and metabolic functioning. The REM state of sleep appears to help our brain process memory. When we miss out on sleep, we suffer from short-term memory loss and our capacity to focus and learn is negatively impacted. Whenever I miss a few hours of sleep, I find myself having trouble keeping track of everything I’m doing and sometimes forgetting the next step in a process. Both of these experiences are indications of short-term memory deficits.

Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep problems can be symptoms of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety. Hypersomnia can occur with depression; this would include feeling tired even after a full night of sleep and engaging in excessive sleeping. Insomnia includes difficulty falling asleep, waking up repeatedly throughout the night, and/or waking up early in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep. This can be a feature of depression or generalized anxiety. Those who have bipolar disorder may feel energized despite sleeping only a few hours a night and can eventually swing into a deep depression.

PTSD is linked with numerous sleep problems. A specific symptom of PTSD includes having nightmares reliving the traumatic event. People who have suffered trauma are also more likely to have REM behavior disorder, meaning that they move during REM sleep, which can lead to injury to themselves or those with whom they are sharing a bed.

Some sleep experiences that can be startling if you are unaware of their origins include the hallucinations that can occur while we are falling asleep or as we are waking up. You may feel or see a presence in the room. In addition, we are paralyzed by our brain every night during REM sleep. When parts of our brain come to full consciousness without a simultaneous release of our muscles, we experience sleep paralysis, which can involve awareness without the ability to move your body. If these types of experiences occur frequently, they can be a sign of narcolepsy.

Sleeping Soundly

Behaviors that assist us in getting a high-quality night of sleep are called sleep hygiene. Medications to help us sleep may sometimes be necessary but can come with a lot of side effects. To improve your sleep environment, consider the activities that occur on your bed or in your bedroom. If you are spending time concentrating on your computer in your bed, you might be confusing your body. You are conditioning your body to associate your room as a place to stay very alert and focused but also to a place to sleep. This discrepancy can increase insomnia. Having your bed designated only for quiet activities may help you to attain a peaceful night’s rest more easily.

To the extent that it is possible for you personally, consider creating a sacred sleep environment. Think about the sights, sounds, textures, smells and tastes that are most likely to induce a calm and peaceful place of respite, and redesign your sleeping space accordingly. I have a Goddess statue and a few trinkets in my bedroom that help me center. I’ve incorporated darker colors and blackout curtains in my design in order to bring the moon and nighttime vibes inside. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the extent to which these small changes have made it easier for me to get a restful night’s sleep.

Sacred Sleep

Sleep is a biological act and does not necessarily or inherently involve a spiritual component, but I think it can be transformed when we view it as an active spiritual practice. For instance, when we dream, our unconscious mind has an opportunity to express itself. I think Goddess can speak to us during this time. In order to remember dreams, most people find it necessary to record them immediately after waking. This ensures that the vivid details will be captured. You may need to adjust this practice if you have PTSD and experience trauma-related nightmares. I have these in cycles; there are times I go without them during which I think it would benefit me to more fully examine my dreams and look for Goddess symbols.

The moments between sleep and awakening are a time when our mind can be particularly open. I tend to find myself immediately running through all the things I have to do for the day. A practice I am now incorporating is to spend the first light of dawn in a visualization. This will include creating a rich, full color picture in my mind of a nature scene, and using all my scenes to fill out the imagery. When I consider starting each day in a tropical jungle, snowy mountaintop or wind-raked beach, it seems a little easier to transition to addressing the mundane tasks that lie ahead of me. An interesting side effect of this practice has been that I am sometimes able to remember my dreams more fully, possibly because I am engaging similar brain areas.

I hope you will share tips on what you do to improve your sleep and reap its benefits. I know there are many other spiritual practices that relate to sleep and would love to learn about what you have found to be particularly meaningful. Sleep well!

Goddessing Self Care

“Get the $%#$ Out of My Way!” Tips for Processing and Meeting Our Emotional Needs

In recent weeks I’ve shared about physical, spiritual and mental needs that I believe we all have. I’ve also touched on how these needs connect to self-care, how they vary over time, and how we can tell if our spiritual needs are going unattended. For today’s #GoddessingSelfCare Sunday, I turn now to examining our emotional needs.

As I’ve spent a few days drawing together ideas about emotional needs, I’ve found myself struggling with my own reasoning on multiple occasions. It is a situation of knowing something in my head and heart but having a very hard time getting my emotional being on-board. I am the kind of person who can suppress my emotional expression at will, turning it off in situations where I deem it is inappropriate, and then letting loose in “safe” places. I don’t recommend this  “Jekyll and Hyde” as a way of being in the world; my early life experiences and general makeup forged me into this style and it creates uncomfortable discrepancies. I’ve had many people react with shock when they drive with me for the first time, as this is a “let loose” area where I scream, rant, threaten and swear. I once had a five-minute commute where I cursed people with the “f-word” four or more times, go out of my car to walk into the building, and proceeded, without a hint of irony, to curse several times at the people driving. Side note: any tips on combating road rage are appreciated!

Processing Emotions

What’s your response to a strong emotion? Do you sink into it and let yourself fully experience it? Do you ignore it and try to change it if it unpleasant? Do you hold onto it and try to keep it going past its natural cycle? We all have a need to recognize and express our feelings. I do not agree with the idea that we are giving “energy” to something negative if we feel all of our feelings to their full extent. They are a powerful source of internal communication and we make them a sacred experience when we draw them into ritual or meditation. From the perspective of theories regarding PTSD and dissociation, discounting or numbing emotions can be a symptom of mental health concerns.

If we conceptualize emotions as messages, then they often dictate or require a reply or action. If you are able to negotiate a response, don’t leave your feelings hanging! I really didn’t get this concept for a long time. I would focus on experiencing my emotions in their raw state, but would then often start cycling through depression or anxiety patterns as I alternately felt overwhelmed and stuck in emotion, or distant and avoidant of it. Now, in my better moments, as soon as I have an intense negative emotion, I name it and sit with it for a bit to see if it naturally dissipates. If it doesn’t, or if I find myself returning to it quickly, I ask myself what my underlying need is and how I can best meet it. Taking at least one concrete action towards resolving the situation from which the emotion rose has really helped me become more able to handle the intensity of my feelings.

It’s not all gloomy! There is very much a place for joy, happiness, and exuberance within Goddess Spirituality. I chose a particular positive emotion each morning on which I want to concentrate each day, in order to expand my mental horizon to also include uplifting emotional experiences. My brain’s default setting is towards the negative and pessimistic, so I have to make a concerted effort to include positive emotions. The broaden-and-build psychological theory suggests that these joyful emotions play a key role in promoting psychological resilience and strength. It suggests that we can have moments of happiness amidst our sorrows, and that in doing so, we are more able to develop solutions to situations we face, which then spurs us on to creative actions and connection with others.

Attuning to Emotional Needs

Have you ever copied a baby’s sad facial expression, only to have it perk up and start laughing? Early in life, emotional mirroring provides us with a template to learn to regulate our inner feeling states. We don’t necessarily go around copying others faces to try to make them feel better as adults, but looking into someone’s eyes and knowing that he or she “gets” you satisfies a deep longing we have to be seen through an empathetic gaze. We need the presence of others in order to heal our inner wounds. We can also experience this healing in a sacred place. One of my most powerful meditations has been with Kuan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, as I experienced her really seeing my suffering.

Despite the fact that others are crucial to meeting our emotional needs, I think a thorny area for many trauma survivors is accessing a feeling of support and care from those around them. There are many complicating factors here. Survivors, myself included, may struggle with trust and hesitate to open up to others. When they do open up, they may not be met with the response they expected. I’ve had people respond with sadness, anger, indifference or even change the subject abruptly when I’ve disclosed my trauma history, and at times when I’ve simply shared how I was feeling.

When Our Emotional Needs Go Unmet

What can we do when we don’t feel like someone is meeting our emotional needs and we’d like a different response? First, I think the initial challenge is to determine if we’ve really made our needs clear and explicit. I think we set ourselves up for unnecessary heartache and loneliness if we expect people in our lives to be able to accurately guess how we are feeling and what we want in response without telling them.

If you know you’ve made yourself clear, then the next step is to decide if it’s worth repeating or if this person simply isn’t able or doesn’t want to meet your particular emotional need. It’s disappointing to realize the emotional limits of a relationship, but I’ve found myself experiencing a huge reduction in how much I am triggered when I come to terms with these boundaries. Letting go of expectations unleashes our ability to respond to our needs.

The final step would be to resource who else in our lives could potentially meet our need, as well as to determine how much we are able to be there for ourselves or to take other actions that might help us emotionally. Perhaps there is another person who is likely to be more supportive, or inner work such as journaling and drawing that would be of assistance. It’s pretty simple to sum these steps up in writing, but I have found myself wandering back through them and learning the same lesson repeatedly in order to grow in my emotional depth as a person.

Another twist to connecting emotionally with others is that sometimes there can be a disconnect between how others are showing up for us on the whole and how we experience that presence. There have been times in my life where there were many people who expressed care and concern for me, but I was in a dark place emotionally and felt like “nobody” cared. At other times, there have been objectively fewer people responding to me, but I felt a sense of connection with them and the world as a whole so it seemed like “somebody” cared. Perhaps even checking in with ourselves and asking if it’s “nobody” or “somebody” who is there for us might give us a sense of how open or closed emotionally we are. This way of thinking can be bitter medicine, as I know I would have argued strongly with myself during my closed times to try to prove how little people were there for me, but, in looking back now, I do see that depression skewed my perception, heightening others’ flaws and cutting short my attention to the ways in which they were reaching out to me. I am curious if my own or other people’s sense of connection with Deity shows the same variation; I suspect there would be a correlation.

Emotions flicker through us like moths to the light, dissipating just as we finally reach out to grasp them. Being able to identify, express and resource our emotional needs acts as a container to help us process the feelings that impact our thoughts and behaviors. With Goddess as our guide, we can then use them to light our way through dark and difficult times, and release them in celebration to the brightness of hopeful days.