'Womb Witch' on how connecting with your menstrual cycle can change your life 4 weeks ago

'Womb Witch' on how connecting with your menstrual cycle can change your life

"From a very young age we're taught to hide our periods, like it's a shameful thing."

Periods can be a burden at the best of times, but according to a self-professed 'womb witch', it doesn't have to be this way.

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The stigma around menstruation is alive and well, in fact, a recent study found 55% of Irish girls are embarrassed about their periods.

At the same time, there's been a growing interest online in the link between menstruation and spirituality. Many claim following our natural rhythm and listening to our bodies can make us feel empowered.

Jen Kavanagh is one of the people who's been embracing the mental and psychical benefits of connecting with your cycle. While studying nutritional therapy, she became interested in women's health, and found a passion for turning menstruation into magic.

"The term 'womb witch' crosses the divide between the holistic-based work that I do and the spiritual practices that are also involved," she explains. "I don't just look at things from a nutrition, diet, lifestyle point of view, I also look at things on a spiritual and energetic level - what's going on in the body in that sense.

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"In general, women are so disconnected from their cycles. From a very young age we're taught to hide our periods, like it's a shameful thing.

"The work I do is to try to educate women on what they can do to naturally to support their cycle."

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Jen says the way we have been taught to think about periods can often be misleading.

"Every advert around periods on TV is like a woman eating chocolate, feeling crap and down in themselves, and they're in pain - that's how it is in, like, TVs and movies. But... our body doesn't have to do that.

"It can be telling us that something is wrong and because we mask it so much, whether that's being on brith control or using painkillers or anti-inflammatories, we're masking all of these symptoms, instead of stopping and asking ourselves - well what is our body trying to tell us?"

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While it's easy to pop a painkiller and just "get on with it", this is a short-term solution. For people who experience painful periods, PMS, or other conditions that make that time of the month unbearable, simple lifestyle changes that "work with our cycle, instead of against it" can help in the long-run.

"For someone with PMS, by listening to their body, changing their diet, they can make huge changes and this is what I've done myself.

"I suffered very badly with periods, I got mine at a very young age, and it was so heavy, I used to sleep sitting up in bed at night. And it runs in my family, I've seen some of the women in my family have hysterectomies at very young ages. I was on the pill for a long time as well, it helped with pain, but then it just stopped working. And I just thought there has to be another way to go about this."

So how exactly does one set out on the journey to connect with their cycle?

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"I'll always track where my cycle is, I would've started doing this using an app. Now I can tell just by the symptoms I get throughout the month.... But that only comes over times. So the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is ask - how am I feeling? Checking in with my body and mind.

"Then I start every day with a bit of movement, which might be some yoga or mobility training or even just some stretching. I also do a little bit of meditation and some EFT tapping. It varies, but as you move into the later stages of your cycle and you're feeling a little bit more overwhelmed and it's coming closer to your period, maybe you're anxious, there's darker thoughts there, that's when tapping can be really beneficial.

"Throughout the day, I just try to stay very conscious of what my body wants and needs. Do I want to go to the gym or a walk in nature? Do I want to be social or do I want time for myself? It's all about checking in.

"The biggest part of that is nutrition, and I don't mean you have to eat healthily 100% of the time. But just changing what you eat in accordance with what your body needs at certain parts of your cycle can have a massive impact.

"What I really noticed is that my irregular cycle, which could have been anything from 30 days to 50 days, has now regulated to a 28 or 29 cycle, which is incredible.

"But the biggest thing to remember is this takes time. I came off the pill five years ago and, through these lifestyle changes, I'd say everything's only settling now in the past year and a half. Do one thing at a time. When we try to change everything all at once we can become overwhelmed and think, 'this isn't working', or 'I can't do this'.

"Patience, time and consistency is key."

Jen has created workshops and retreats dedicated to helping women become empowered by reconnecting with themselves. Everything can be found here.