There are many different ways to manage incontinence symptoms, but mindfulness is perhaps one of the most underrated among them. When used in conjunction with other treatments, such as dietary changes and bladder control products, mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and reduce incontinence incidents over time. In this guide, I explain four reasons why mindfulness can help with incontinence and offer tips for getting started with mindfulness.
At this point, you are probably wondering how exactly mindfulness can help with incontinence. Here are four specific reasons that people with incontinence should practise mindfulness.
4 ways mindfulness can help with urinary incontinence
1. Mindfulness helps to reduce stress
Stress is a known contributing factor to many psychosomatic health conditions, including urinary incontinence. When we are stressed, our muscles tighten up, which puts pressure on your bladder, triggering the urge to urinate more frequently. Therefore, reducing stress can help reduce symptoms and lead to fewer incontinence episodes overall. Even if your bladder leakage has a definite physical cause, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), practising meditation can still reduce stress related to your diagnosis and treatment.
2. It can lessen anxiety around urination specifically
While incontinence is often rooted in physical causes, there is a psychological component to it as well. People who experience incontinence often become very anxious over the idea of having an accident in public or not being able to find a bathroom in time. A little bit of anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing — for instance, it can prompt you to research public restrooms ahead of time. However, when left unchecked, this anxiety can actually worsen the urge to urinate and cause it to happen more frequently as well, resulting in a vicious negative cycle. Regular practice of meditation and mindfulness can help interrupt that cycle by reducing the anxiety around incontinence, thereby helping reduce urges over time.
3. It can help control urinary urges in the moment
For some people with urge incontinence, meditation is also an excellent tool to help them mentally weather unwanted urinary urges. Many doctors instruct patients with urge incontinence to wait five to 10 minutes to see if the urge passes instead of using the bathroom immediately. In the beginning, it can be very distressing and anxiety-inducing to resist these urges. But mindfulness can help you to focus on something else and helping you to stay calm in the moment. Mindfulness also involves noticing sensations in your body and then letting go of them, a good skill for navigating urge incontinence. If you build your meditation skills when you are calm, it will make it easier to resist the urges when they strike.
4. It can support pelvic exercises
Pelvic exercises such as Kegels, pelvic tilts, and pelvic floor breathing are often prescribed in incontinence cases that are caused or exacerbated by weak pelvic muscles. However, it can be difficult to perform a Kegel correctly because you need to mentally identify the right muscles and contract them in the appropriate way. By increasing your awareness of your body, mindfulness can help you perform pelvic exercises more effectively so that you see results more quickly. Some people even like to practise meditation while they exercise in order to relax their minds while they work their bodies.
Tips for getting started with mindfulness
Getting started with mindfulness really isn’t that complicated, but it can seem difficult if you’ve never done it before. Here are some tips to help you get started with mindfulness and meditation:
1. Start with just five minutes a day
The key is to pick an easily achievable number, and pretty much anyone can set aside five minutes a day consistently. Once you are consistently meditating for five minutes a day, increase it to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, and so on until you are meditating for however long you want.
2. Incorporate mindfulness into your morning or evening routine
Most of us already have a routine when we wake up in the morning and when we go to sleep at night. Incorporating mindfulness into one of these existing routines will make it harder for you to forget to do it. In fact, to get started, you can even focus on doing one existing part of your routine mindfully, such as taking a shower or drinking your coffee.
3. Get comfortable when you are ready to meditate
Most people like to sit on a supportive cushion, but some people prefer to lie down instead. Do whatever works best for you, and you may need to experiment around a bit before you figure that out.
4.Try different meditation approaches
Speaking of experimenting, you may need to try several (or more than several) types of mindfulness and meditation before you find one that you like. For example, lots of people like to meditate while sitting still, but some people really need to walk, practise mula bandha yoga, or otherwise move around while they do it.
5. Be kind to yourself as you are getting started
It’s totally normal for your mind to wander a lot when you first begin to meditate. Just notice what is happening without judgment and try to calm your mind again instead of beating yourself up about it.
6. Try guided meditation
Try a guided meditation if you have trouble practising on your own. These audio recordings are available in different lengths and styles so you can find one that suits your preferences. There are many apps like Insight Timer and Calm that you can use.
Because incontinence can be caused by underlying medical issues, it’s important to get a diagnosis from your healthcare provider before embarking on your mindfulness journey. However, in many cases, mindfulness can be an excellent complement to other incontinence treatments and is well worth a try if you haven’t already experimented with it.
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