I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). It is a condition associated with cystic ovaries, irregular periods, excess hair growth, hormonal acne, weight gain, infertility, and even anxiety. Women who have PCOS usually have higher insulin levels, and therefore a low-GI or low-carb diet is usually recommended as a PCOS treatment. Androgen (male hormones) levels are also elevated. But how will meditation help?
PCOS and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. I didn’t realise how much until I figured out that I had my first panic attack around the same time I started experiencing my other symptoms, and that my anxiety was never bad before that. I was always a little anxious, but it was easily manageable before. I lost my ability to stay mostly calm around the same time that my period started showing up twice a month.
I didn’t know how much PCOS and anxiety could be linked, until I read that cortisol (the main stress hormone) triggers androgen production. While I knew that insulin caused this response, I wasn’t aware that I was missing half of the PCOS treatment puzzle. Focusing on just diet was not going to be enough. This helped me refine my treatment approach. I know most women stop getting their periods when they have PCOS, I have a different problem.
The Benefits of Meditation as a Treatment for PCOS
Meditation has been a great addition to my PCOS treatment plan. There are quite a few ways in which meditation helps PCOS and anxiety, and most of them are cortisol-related. These include:
- Encouraging Deep Breathing: When the body detects shallow breathing, it starts releasing more cortisol. In meditation, you are encouraged to take deep breaths, which can help train you to do so as well throughout the day. Deep breathing helps anxiety by lowering cortisol. I like to breathe in for four counts through my nose, and out for eight.
- Controlling Glucose: When your cortisol levels are high, your liver will start to produce glucose, which makes sense. Cortisol is released when the body’s flight or fight response is triggered. If you have to run or fight for your life, the extra glucose will give you more energy to do so, but chances are that you are not in danger, and your body will store it as fat instead.
- Aiding Weight Loss: A lot of women experience an improvement in PCOS symptoms when they lose weight. In fact, when a lot of women with PCOS seek treatment when they want to fall pregnant, they are encouraged to try and lose weight. Meditation can aid weight loss by teaching you how to be mindful. Mindful eating can help you overeat less, and listen to your body.
Ten minutes of meditation a day is enough to bring significant benefits. The quality of meditation is more important than the duration.
How to Start Meditating for PCOS and Anxiety
Meditating is hard, especially in the beginning. It can take a while to completely train your brain to be able to block out distracting thoughts and just focus on your breath, but the most difficult part is getting started. Meditation helps you to practice mindfulness, which can improve your performance in other tasks. As mindfulness is focused awareness, it is obvious how meditation helps you to stay in the moment and block out distractions. I am still fairly new at meditation, but I have found these three tips very useful:
If you have a short attention span like me, and do not always have an extra 30 to 60 minutes to meditate, start by only setting a ten-minute goal for the day. This alone can already be difficult, but know that even just being able to focus on your breath for a minute before getting distracted is already a win. In time, it will get easier, and you will become able to meditate for ten minutes or more. The main objective of using meditation as a treatment for PCOS is to reduce anxiety and cortisol, and stressing about not meditating enough will defeat the purpose.
Meditation is not limited to just sitting with your eyes closed and blocking out all thoughts.Movement meditation is an excellent way to get into the habit if you struggle to get your mind to be still. While walking, playing golf, running, doing yoga, or even dancing, you can practice meditation by focusing on your breathing, and being fully in the moment, while staying mindful of your body and actions. Movement meditation strengthens your mind-body connection as well.
It is a really good way to still get in mindfulness training when I struggle to keep still, which is most of the time.
Use A Mantra
Give your monkey mind something to do by choosing a mantra to repeat at the beginning throughout your session. It could be anything from “I am filled with energy”, to “I have the strength to say no to a cupcake” or even “I am enough”. Go for whatever feels right, and is relevant to the moment. I find that doing this helps me to focus, as I now don’t have to focus so much on blocking out thoughts. By focusing on one, you do it automatically. You can use your own mantra related to PCOS when using this type of meditation in your treatment plan.
Listen to a Guided Meditation
Meditation really is one of the best things you can incorporate into a PCOS treatment plan for anxiety. Guided meditations are one of the best ways to start, especially if you struggle to focus in silence. You can find a lot of wonderful guided meditations on YouTube, or Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer. When paired with a healthy diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, and other ways of relaxing, meditation can complete your PCOS treatment approach, and help you feel like your best self.
Discover How to Lose Weight with PCOS. Simply fill in the form below to get your free copy.