PMS. We’ve all been there right? You get to the week before your period your stress levels go through the roof. Every little thing seems to irritate you and you’re getting more flustered by the minute.
If you throw it back to last week, you were probably feeling full of confidence, full of life and full of energy. You were a superwoman getting stuff done without a care in the world.This week, though, is a whole different story.
When you get to PMS week your body’s requirements are different than they were the week before. You’re feeling more sensitive, more easily distracted and less energetic. It’s easy to see these things as huge negative points but that doesn’t mean that they have to take over your entire life.
If we have a bit of a think about what’s actually going on in the menstrual cycle when you get to PMS week, all of the things that you’re feeling suddenly start to make a little bit more sense. I’m going to walk you through that real quick before we get into three ways that you can reduce stress in PMS week.
At this point in your cycle your body is thinking that potentially you could be pregnant. Whether or not you practice safe sex is really not your body’s concern. Your body doesn’t know whether or not you used a condom last week.
Of course keep in mind at all times that the sole function of the menstrual cycle is reproduction. The whole point of having this cycle is that you get pregnant, have a baby and continue the human race. Of course you might not want that right now but keep it in mind because this is the way your body is thinking.
In the cycle so far you’ve shed the uterine lining, you’ve started to grow a new one, you’ve ovulated (which means you’ve released an egg) and your body is thinking that the egg has potentially been fertilized and is on its way down the fallopian tubes to your womb. Your body is quite literally preparing for that incoming pregnancy right now.
You have hormonal changes going on in the luteal phase that are there to help support and nourish that potential pregnancy. Like I already said, your body doesn’t know at this point if you are pregnant or not, so it’s getting ready just in case. Those hormonal changes affect, not just the biology that goes on inside you, but also emotional and behavioural changes too.
Each one of the changes you might experience as you go through PMS week is there for a reason. I know they don’t seem like they are beneficial because they’re not always great experiences to be going through. But, when you can understand why they happen it makes things a little bit easier for you.
In this post I’m going to tackle three major things that might come up for you through PMS week and give you ways that you can reduce those stressors.
Premenstrual Mood Swings
First up, let’s talk about the mood swings. We have all been there haven’t we? You go through the rest of your cycle happy as Larry, but you get to the week before your period and you feel miserable, irritable and angry.
It’s like you go from being someone who’s happy and full of confidence, to suddenly becoming snappy, anxious and grumpy. You end up asking yourself “where is the person I was last week? What happened to them? Where have they gone?”
I’m talking about this from experience. I have this one story that will always stick in my mind. It was back before I really discovered the magic of cycle syncing.
It was a Thursday (I’m not sure why I remember that part, but somehow I do) and me and my husband were going to the supermarket. I don’t recall exactly what happened but I know that our plans got changed. I think we were supposed to do the supermarket shopping after we’d done something else, but the plans changed and they got flipped around.
Me, being the person I was back then and bearing in mind it’s PMS week, I’m stressed out anyway. Full of anxiety about going out to the shops, and I’ve forgotten to tell my husband that the plans have changed.
I’m there, rushing around trying to get everything ready for us to leave and he’s just kinda stood there on his phone not doing a lot. Quite honestly, I lost it. I was so annoyed at him, but he didn’t know we were supposed to be leaving the house in 2 minutes. We ended up having a massive argument.
You have to understand from his point of view, we’re going out to the supermarket in 2-hours time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I came and shouted at him and had a go at him. He’s on his phone, not helping me to do something that he didn’t know what’s going to happen. So, the poor guy just had this bomb dropped on him because I didn’t communicate well enough what the heck was going on with me that day.
We end up having this huge argument and it went on for hours. We get in the car, we go to the supermarket and even when we get to the supermarket car park we’re still fighting He’s tried to shut this argument down10 times already because it’s going nowhere. We’re going round in circles, it doesn’t really even matter.
I am so angry that I just cannot let it go. I’m not even really angry at him, I’m just angry. I even remember thinking to myself at the time “Why am I doing this this? It makes no sense! I don’t even care that much and still I am shouting and getting upset. Why is this happening?”
I’d love to say that this was a one-off but honestly it wasn’t. If I think back, this happened every month, without fail. I don’t have a formal diagnosis of PMDD (which is premenstrual dysphoric disorder), but back then I categorically would have been ticking all the boxes for that diagnosis.
Living in sync with my cycle has changed so much for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still get irritable in the luteal phase. If I think back to that story, it didn’t start with anger. It started off with irritability.
Little inconveniences that would just tick me off. One inconvenience built on top of another inconvenience, which built on top of another inconvenience, which built on top of another inconvenience, which eventually led to explosive rage. Raise your hand right now if you can relate.
There are two reasons why you might experience these emotional outbursts. Firstly, you have a natural drop-in serotonin when you get to this point of your cycle. Serotonin is the happy hormone hormone. It gives you feelings of uplifted mood and well-being.
It is closely linked with oestrogen. When we get to this part of the cycle, oestrogen takes a decline and therefore serotonin takes a decline with it. So, that might be why you notice a drop in mood when you get to the second half of your cycle.
Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
The other thing I’ve noticed that makes a big difference in my life is not understanding the fluctuations that come with each phase of the cycle. It’s this notion that you should be “performing” the same way week in, week out. If you think back to the person you were last week, it probably feels different to the person that you are this week.
If we don’t recognise that, actually, we are two different people in those times and we require different things from ourselves – it’s really easy to get angry and frustrated. If you get to PMS week and you are trying to live your life in the same way you were during ovulation, you are going to feel frustrated with yourself.
Pay attention. Notice when you are starting to get snappy and take yourself away from the situation to calm down. You have to realise that you need a little more space during PMS week. If you can work on reducing stress, you’re going to feel much better.
One other thing that often comes out around PMS week is a kind of foggy headedness, or brain fog. You might find that you find it more difficult to concentrate as you make your way through the luteal phase.
I know this is a major thing for me. Again, when you compare it to the person you were the week before (at ovulation) it feels completely different.
During ovulation I can smash out work. I feel like a hero. I get loads of writing done. I get loads of podcasts done. I also feel more organised in general.
I stay up later, which means that I’m just getting more done because I have more time. I feel more confident. Less guilt. I feel like I’m a better parent. I’m more tolerant. I could go on and on and on about the pros of ovulation.
But, we’re not talking about ovulation right now, we’re focusing on PMS week. And In comparison, PMS week looks like an absolute hell hole.
The truth is, you are more emotionally sensitive. You are more foggy headed. You are feeling different. It doesn’t mean you’re incapable, it just means you have to come at things from a different angle. You need to learn to be a little kinder to yourself.
Work To Your Strengths
When it comes to being productive around PMS week there are two things I really like to keep in mind. The first is to recognise what my skills are in this half of the cycle, because they are different than they were at ovulation.
The second is to keep in mind how much I’m piling on. More work equals more stress and, like I already said, during this time we want to reduce stress as much as possible.
When it comes to recognising what my skills are, I find during PMS time I think more analytically. I feel like you have to be a little bit careful here because there’s a fine line between being analytical and just being nitpicky.
I do find that it’s a really good time for checking up on what’s gone well for me in the last few weeks and for figuring out what’s not gone so well. I find it’s a good time to ask myself what things in my life I want to change.
There is a fine balance here though. You might get to PMS week and feel like your whole life is terrible. You need a new husband, you need to put your kids up for adoption, you need to re-decorate the whole house, get a new job and become a whole different person.
I would encourage you to take a step back, give yourself some breathing room and do what you can to reduce stress. I will almost guarantee that you do not need to do all those things. This is what I mean when I say there’s this fine balance.
Instead of throwing your whole life away, be looking out for things that are bugging you. It might be that a situation has come up during PMS week and you think “actually, this has annoyed me for a while”. That’s an indication that it could be something to consider changing.
When I say that my analytical brain is more engaged during PMS week, I use that in so many ways. I use it in my business to see what is working and what isn’t. But I use it in my home life too.
I find that I like to organise things when I get to PMS week. It’s almost like a nesting instinct before your period comes. I’ll find that I just want to clear out a cupboard that’s been bugging me, or I want to rearrange the cutlery drawer, or I want to overhaul the laundry system that we have going.
I’m actually really good at those things during PMS week. It makes sense, if you can, to organise your life in a way that allows you to do jobs like that when you’re in that luteal phase. This is what I mean by syncing your life with your cycle. It just means doing things that align with your current cycle phase.
For me, it has to be Mooncup.
Mooncup is an economical, eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads. It’s my all-time favourite period product and it totally changed the way I feel about that time of the month.
Take Regular Breaks
The second thing that I also like to do is be aware of how much work I’m piling on. Obviously there are things that need to be done regardless of where you are in your cycle, but if you’re clever about it – you can pile on more work when you’re ovulating. This leaves you with some breathing room to take a step back and do less work when it comes to the luteal phase.
This is important because you need to understand how your hormones are working in the luteal phase. Your body thinks there’s a very good possibility that you could be pregnant and is trying to keep you safe. When you’re ovulating you want to make things happen. You want to be doing all the things. You have more energy to be out in the world hoping to meet a potential mate.
Now that you’re potentially pregnant, it’s the opposite effect. Your body is thinking “okay we don’t want you doing too much because, as far as we’re concerned, we’re still living in caveman times and if you go off and do too many things you increase the potential for getting eaten by a bear”. That means no you, which means no baby, which means no continuation of the human race. As far as your body is concerned, doing more during the luteal phase is a genuine threat to humanity.
Of course, we know we don’t live in caveman times anymore. We live in a modern world where we just want to “do” all the time. That’s where the extra stress comes in. You’re trying to live a life your body wasn’t prepared for. If you understand the way your body works, you can realise why you might need to take a bit of a step back when you come to the luteal phase.
Be mindful about how much work your piling on and make sure you can take regular breaks. This is something I’m really conscious of when I get to the luteal phase. If I try to do too much work it becomes really really stressful. Especially when you consider that there might be some kind of brain fog going on as well. Concentration becomes really hard. You make more mistakes, which then means you get more irritated, which could potentially lead to that explosive anger we talked about before.
One thing I do like to do to tackle this is the pomodoro technique. It’s Italian for “tomato” and the idea is that you work in short bursts and bank up tomatoes before you have a break. So you work for 25 minutes that earns you one tomato and a 5-minute break. Once you’ve earned four tomatoes you can then take a long break.
Tomatoes aside, the idea is that in taking more regular breaks you actually are more productive. I don’t like to do this at any other time other than the luteal phase. Most of the time I am very happy to sit at my computer and work for 4 hours straight. I have the focus to crack on and whatever I need to in one sitting. I don’t find the need to break quite as regularly through the rest of my cycle.
Breaking more often is really beneficial in the luteal phase. I find taking more regular breaks not only makes you more productive but it creates less stress. We all know that stress reduction is the aim of the game when it comes to living in sync with your PMS self.
3 Tips For PMS Stress
My three biggest ways to reduce PMS stress are firstly, self-awareness. Be aware of how you feel. Take some time to understand what your needs are during the luteal phase.
Secondly, understand why you feel the way you do. Make a point of learning how your hormones play out and how they affect your mood. Simply just understanding why you feel a certain way can make it much more easy to manage.
And thirdly, make more time to do the things that light you up. Balanced your excess stress with things that bring you joy. Don’t be piling on more and more and more work. Work smarter, not harder and be intentional with doing things for yourself.
Now if you’re reading to this and you’re like “Woah hold up pal, you just said a whole load of stuff that makes so much sense to me! Where the heck can I learn some more?” – you can find me on Instagram @cherrelleslaney or visit my website at www.cherrelleslaney.co.uk. I have a whole bunch of blogs, podcasts, resources that you can work through to help you get more in sync with your cycle.