A guest blog written by Kate Codrington.
How do you feel about your tummy? Did you suck it in just now? If so, you’re not alone. There is an epidemic of judgment about our tummies which causes unnecessary tension and body hatred. Any hint of softness seems to have us on edge, and yet your abdomen’s natural shape should be curved for optimal hormonal and digestive health. We are constantly judging ourselves as too fat or too bloated and this has a direct effect on our self-esteem and well-being.
The judgment seems to be particularly intense during the perimenopausal years, when the effects of cortisol can cause us to grow lovely muffin tops along with an increasingly short temper. The more we diet and exercise the worse it seems to get because to lose the weight, we actually need to relax and de-stress to rebalance our hormones.
I’d like to offer an alternative view to working harder. What if, when you noticed tension in your abdomen, you could consciously choose to relax, and reframe your thoughts to be positive, focusing on the amazing things it can do? Selecting our nourishment, eliminating toxins, creating serotonin, regulating our hormone balance and maybe, even making tiny humans! So how about, instead of fantasising about liposuction, we showed ourselves some self-love by massaging our abdomens regularly? OK, I know that might sound a little unusual, but giving your body some love with a daily abdominal massage can have amazing results.
Just like massaging any other part of your body, an abdominal massage will improve your circulation by bringing fresh oxygenated blood, and this will help all your organs to function better. Massage can also release tension in the abdominal muscles and in the fascia that holds your organs in place, which will further promote optimal gut and hormonal health. No one is surprised when your shoulders function more effectively after a massage, so why not your abdomen? Here are a few more benefits of a regular abdominal massage:
Abdominal massages will boost your immune system
With most of your immune system centred in your guts, your health is truly in your hands when you massage your abdomen. Alongside eating nourishing food having a super-oxygenated, vibrant gut will really help you stay healthy. This study found that abdominal massage decreased gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation and abdominal pain.
Massaging your abdomen before your period could decrease PMS symptoms
If you get cramps, brown sludgy blood, or constipation around the time of your period, an abdominal self-massage through your menstrual month could improve your issues. This study that circular stroking of the abdomen helped to improve PMS symptoms like pain, water retention, and the rages so common in perimenopause.
Acting ‘as if’ you love yourself will improve your body image
With all the difficult feelings we have about our bodies, spending time being kind and compassionate to ourselves can have a ripple effect, even if have to act ‘as if’, just fake it till you make it. Try lying with your knees up and resting your hands on your belly, you can notice the judgments as they arise and replace them with positive thoughts. Massaging your abdomen gives you time to reflect, release those negative thoughts and reduce stress.
Massage yourself happy
Your colon, that much ignored but essential organ, is responsible for making most of the happy hormone, serotonin. Ever noticed how depressing it is to be constipated? That’s because your colon is not functioning optimally and isn’t producing its regular dose of serotonin. A deep massage clockwise around the periphery of your abdomen will give your colon some serious love and help get everything moving. Stroking your skin also produces oxytocin, the hormone released post-orgasm and post-birth. Known as the hormone of love, it actively combats stress levels and cortisol in the body. At perimenopause there has never been a time when we need more of these yummy hormones!
Five steps to a heavenly tummy
- Lie down and get comfy with your knees bent, supported by cushions.
- Rest your hands on your lower belly and notice how your abdomen expands as you breath in, and releases as you breathe out.
- With every out breath, send a big smile of gratitude into your belly. Do this five times. Think of all the food it’s digested, the energy and nourishment it has sorted for you.
- Using your favourite body butter, with one hand on top of the other, start to move your hands slowly in a clockwise direction around your belly. Starting at your right hip bone, slide up to your ribs, across to the left beneath your ribs, then down to your left hip. Keep it slow and relaxed and at a pressure that feels good for you. Repeat 10 times.
- Complete your massage by resting your hands on your belly and sending it another massive smile of gratitude.
Self-care abdominal massage is safe and simple to learn. The only times you wouldn’t massage is when you have your period, after surgery, if you have an IUD, or if you’ve taken painkillers which might mask an issue.
You can find a video to guide your self-care abdominal massage and download the full instructions here
Kate is a UK-based menstrual and menopause mentor, a writer and facilitator and has been a therapist for more than 25 years. She has featured in Time Out, The Evening Standard, the London Metro and written for wellbeing publications including Well Doing, Juno Magazine, Counsellors Cafe, Mind Body Green Rebelle Society and Massage Magazine.
She worked as a Reiki therapist in the 90s and studied Biodynamic Psychotherapy with Gerda Boyesen, working both in private practice and with women affected by HIV and AIDS. She is also trained in Body Psychotherapy, Pregnancy Massage with Shiatsu, Abdominal-Sacral massage and Fertility Massage and is a member of the ABMT (Association of Biodynamic Massage Therapists).
She has trained in Womb Yoga with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, in Menstruality and menopause with Alexandra Pope. Now, in partnership with Leora Leboff she runs Woman Kind retreats, facilitating virtual and real-life retreats. Her next free menopause event is Hot Flush Party on the 7th August.
Her mission is to change the way we regard menopause and show women how to relax into their own, inner authority through their cyclical nature and menopause process. You can find out more about Kate on her site here.