Discover more from Bloom by Chayn
In Bloom: ebbing and flowing in waves
Menstruation, rest, and knowing our own energy
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A warm welcome to our Bloom community!
This is Nooreen saying hello from the breezy city of Edmonton in Canada. We are ending the month of June here with longer days and shorter nights, and I’m making the most of the sun shining bright! I hope that wherever you are, you are able to stay kind to yourself, and pat yourself on the back: we have made it to the middle of the year. Wishing you all a blissful summer season ahead.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll settle into our grounding exercise and root ourselves in what the Chayn community has been up to this month - including a podcast launch, more Bloom courses, and new job opportunities - before diving further into the topic of working while menstruating. You are receiving this email because you subscribed to the Bloom newsletter.
Ground: Settling into our bodies and the present
We are going to do a simple breathing technique that you can use to de-stress anywhere. It's called the humming bee breathing, otherwise known as Bhramari Pranayama in yoga, where it’s often done after the warm up to start the practice. This kind of breathing helps to soothe the nerves, especially those around the brain and forehead, as the vibrations from the humming sounds have a calming effect. I do this exercise when I’m having a muddled day, or when I’m overwhelmed, to help recenter my thoughts.
First, find a quiet place to sit, or lie down if you prefer. Once comfortable, close your eyes, and keep them closed for some time. Observe the sensations in your body and the quietness within.
Now, slowly raise your index fingers towards your ears and place them on the cartilage between your cheek and ear. Take a deep breath in, and as you breathe out, gently press that cartilage without too much pressure. As you breathe in again, close the cartilage gently with your fingers; as you breathe out, make a humming sound like a bee. This sound can be low-pitched, but the louder you are able to hum, the stronger the results. Breathe in again and continue this same pattern 3 to 4 times.
Root: Connecting with the Chayn community
Chayn has just produced and released a podcast, Less than 2%. In this three-episode series, we look at how systems - from courts and the criminal justice system to charities and universities - are failing survivors of sexual violence across the UK. Find out more here, and give it a listen on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts.
We are still expanding our Bloom team, and we have some really exciting roles. Read more below.
Content advisor (Portuguese): Are you an intersectional feminist with a background in activism, education, mental health, or survivor support, who speaks Portuguese natively? Then we want to work with you! We are making Bloom in Portuguese, and need help translating and localising our courses while ensuring they stay trauma-informed. More details can be found here; apply via email by 14 July!
Trauma-informed therapist (UK; US & Canada): We still need trauma-informed therapists to provide individual support in English to survivors of gender-based violence from around the world. Apply ASAP via email!
We also have another Bloom course starting soon! On 18 July, we will release ‘Reclaiming resilience in your trauma story’. In this course, we’ll explore how trauma can affect our mind, body, emotions, and relationships, before looking at the tools we have within ourselves to live peacefully and find healing after trauma. For this course, there is also the option to receive weekly messages of support from us, the Bloom team. We’ll also be releasing ‘Managing anxiety’ in the next few weeks, a trauma-informed course about how and why we experience anxiety, and practical tools we can use to manage our anxiety symptoms in the short- and long-term. Finally, a reminder that ‘Society, patriarchy, and sexual trauma’ and ‘Healing from sexual trauma’ are still available for you to work through anytime on the Bloom platform. Sign up for all of these courses - and more - on our website!
Branch: Exploring together
Throughout a few of our newsletter deep dives, we’ve spoken about the toxicity of productivity culture and the importance of rest. Today, I am going to dive into another aspect of that toxic culture: what it looks like for people who menstruate. As someone who has dysmenorrhea, which is severe pain or cramps when menstruating, I struggle to do everyday tasks when I’m on my period like making my bed, cooking, sitting to work, and sometimes just getting out of bed. Along with that, my mental health dips. I’m yet to figure out the finer details that work best for my condition, but I would like to share what has been working for me, with those who may be dealing with something similar.
I wanted to bring attention to this topic for two reasons. First, there is still a stigma attached to menstruation. In some communities, people who menstruate are considered ‘unclean’ or ‘dirty’ to be around; at the same time, it is often considered ‘shameful’ to talk about or bring any attention to having our periods. When growing up, I remember using ‘period codes’ - words we’d use to replace the word ‘period’ - and hiding sanitary products in school to avoid attention. There are so many ways period stigma manifests and causes wider problems like lack of access to sanitary products, underfunding of reproductive health studies and interventions, minimal menstrual leave policies, and more. All because we can’t talk about our pain and what we need?
Did you know? Before Rupi Kaur was known as a poet, she broke the internet for a ‘period photo’ that Instagram had removed? In 2015, Kaur and her sister created a photo series about periods for a university project. Read about it here.
And of course, we can’t talk about menstruation without discussing the shame and stigma that anyone who menstruates who isn’t a cis woman - a cis woman being one who is assigned the female gender at birth - experiences. Period products are often only available in ‘women’s’ restrooms, and people often discuss menstruation using the language of ‘women’ exclusively. Not all women menstruate - whether that’s trans women, intersex women, or cis women with health difficulties - and not everyone who menstruates is a woman; many people with trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming identities menstruate. Most societies still have a long way to go when it comes to implementing inclusive language and practices around menstruation.
And this culture of menstruation secrecy touches every aspect of life. Traditional workplaces, because they are built by an overarching patriarchal society and a capitalist drive for maximum output at any cost, are not inclusive of people who menstruate. There are few countries that have menstrual leave laws, and many that still have not considered them.
As with everything, we progress one step at a time. I do have hope that we will be able to bring change and slowly build a nurturing system for those who menstruate, as there are many organisations, like Chayn, that are working to provide wellbeing support to their team members.
Now, let's look at how I take care of myself during my period while making sure I’m completing my tasks at work. When someone is on their period, naturally, rest is very important. For me, unfortunately, it’s not a want but a need when it comes to taking a day off, especially when I’m on the first day of my period. In school, I would skip days and take them as sick leave. The same at my full-time job after university. Over the years I have noticed that along with needing rest when I’m on my period week, my energy levels tend to decrease the week before my period, which then affects my mood and productivity. This happens because many bodily functions change according to the menstrual cycle; here is a good article on what actually happens during the menstrual cycle.
These experiences lead to a concept introduced to me by my now line manager, Kim, known as ‘cycle-syncing’. Cycle-syncing was coined by Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist, writer, and founder of the period-tracker app Flo, in her book WomanCode. ‘Cycle-syncing’ basically means to match our life activities to our menstrual cycle so we don’t burn out. Vitti goes through each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle - follicular, ovulatory, and luteal - and how our bodies and energy levels function at each stage. Based on these phases, we can apply cycle-syncing to what our fitness routine looks like, what we should eat, activities we can do according to the phase of the menstrual cycle we are in, and more.
So, we decided to apply it to my work routine. I meet with Kim at the start of every work week to prioritise my tasks. I usually put down my period week on my calendar to make sure that I don’t have any major deadlines or events that week. The week prior to my period week is when my energy levels start dropping, so that’s when I focus on admin tasks that don’t need too much brain power. All my core activities are assigned for the week after my period when my productivity levels are high and my brain is focused. This system doesn’t always work, but I aim to stick by it as it is something that has helped me stick to my work goals over the last couple of months.
Did you know? As of 2015, folks in Zambia have a menstrual leave policy where people who menstruate get a day off each month.
But it’s not just about ‘cycle-syncing’. There are days when this ‘schedule’ does not work and my mental health is not doing well, so I end up taking a rest day or delegate tasks. I’m grateful that we are able to have Mental Health Days at Chayn; in fact, it’s all part of the Trauma-Informed HR Toolkit that we are currently building. If you’re interested in sharing this toolkit with your organisation, please get in touch. Even if you can’t integrate ‘cycle-syncing’ into your work routine, if the idea appeals to you, you could try it out with your exercise routine or eating habits!
For those in our community who menstruate, whether you try cycle-syncing or not, I hope you find something that works for you. And whatever your circumstances, whether you menstruate or not, remember to be gentle and kind towards yourself and your body.
As you know, for anything urgent, you can always reach us at email@example.com.
With love, and until next time,
Nooreen and the Bloom team