Let’s discuss PMS anxiety. I feel like there are so many symptoms that fall under PMS territory, but anxiety is one that just doesn’t get talked about that much.
My last four cycles have been incredibly hectic and stressful. Not only have we been navitating a global pandemic and national lockdown, but I’ve also had a whole bunch of other stuff going on too. I had surgery in December, more surgery in January, another procedure in February and in March I got the Covid.
I feel like I have been chasing my tail, recovering from one thing after another. One thing’s for sure, it’s really had an impact on how severe my PMS anxiety has been. I know full well that, for me, PMS is a really strongly linked to my stress levels.
does stress affect pms?
I’ve seen the affects of this stress play out in a few different ways. First of all – cramping! I fairly often get cramp a few days before my period, but I notice when I’m stressed out it’s more intense and is more frequent.
Another thing that I’ve picked up on is that, when I’m stressed out, I get more spots during my PMS phase. I’ve never had perfect skin – I am just not one of those lucky people! But, my skin has improved massively since I started living a less stressful life. I’m probably always going to be one of those people who gets hormonal spots, but I’ve noticed that when my stress levels are higher my spots are more painful, more angry looking and there are also a lot more of them.
But the thing that shows up most for me when I’m stressed out? PMS anxiety. First off, I wanna say this is a real thing and secondly, I find it’s closely linked to my general stress levels.
anxiety and negative self talk
I’ve had a really hectic few months. It’s been a little bit crazy and all of that craziness has finally caught up with me. I’m the kind of person that’s quite good at getting on with stuff and not realising how traumatic or stressful it is until I’ve come out of the other side. Now that lockdowns are starting to be lifted and the kids are back to school, I’m really feeling the effects of the last few months.
I’m premenstrual, and over the last few days I have had some serious negative self talk and anxiety cropping up for apparently no reason. To top it all off, a situation happened which caused me to react in a way that was completely unnecessary, but was fuelled by the underlying anxiety I feel during PMS week. I was already feeling anxious and this one thing tipped me over the edge.
Negative self talk. Can you relate? I’m not the only person that feels the effect of the inner critic around PMS week. In the lead up to my period I have been seriously doubting my capabilities at everything.
In my summer phase I wrote four or five podcast episodes. I was just able to crack on and do. I know that during my premenstrual phase, I’m not as able to do that. I don’t have quite so much energy for it, so I tend to slow things down a little bit through my premenstruum. I don’t put out quite so much work and I tend to focus on more analytical things. I find it easier to figure out what’s working and what isn’t working in my business and in my life once I get to the luteal phase.
This cycle however, I felt like everything was an issue. I’m having feelings and thoughts of “you’re not good enough at what you do”, “you don’t know what you’re talking about”, “you are a complete failure”. All these horrible things just keep popping into my head.
I am usually quite good at noticing these thoughts when they come through and addressing them appropriately. I don’t just push them away because I find that to be unhelpful. But, what I tend to do is take these thoughts and really consider whether or not they are true. It’s so easy to have thoughts pop into your head and just believe them, but not everything you think it’s a fact.
When I’m having these thoughts of “you suck at everything” or “nobody wants to hear from you” it’s difficult, but I try my best to rationalise it. I have to take a good look at the evidence. What about the messages I’ve received that say “wow, I didn’t know this. That’s super helpful”? Does that back up the thought “everybody thinks you suck?”. It’s definitely not always easy to catch these thoughts, but it’s something that I’m aware off and it makes things a little bit easier.
thoughts create feelings
I can’t necessarily say that just correcting my thoughts in this way gets rid of that underlying anxiety – because it doesn’t always. Especially if you haven’t looked after yourself well over the past few cycles. When you’ve got this general feeling of unease going on at the same time as these negative thoughts, it fuels the anxiety which makes more thoughts come in and then you end up in a vicious cycle.
The tipping point for me with this anxiety came after succession of minor inconveniences. First of all we ran out of heating oil, which wasn’t ideal but it’s our first time owning an oil fired central heating system – so I could forgive myself for not realising that we’d run out. It meant no heating and no hot water for a couple of days, but we have a log fire so I figured it was going to be fine.
Then we ran out of logs. Not ideal when you’ve got no heating and it’s pretty cold outside. I phoned to have more logs delivered and was told myself “it’s all going to be fine”. I was just about holding it together. I felt like I had a handle on the situation and then the logs turned up. They were wet, and couldn’t be burned.
This was filling me with a little bit of worry, but it’s not the end of the world. I can go to the shop and buy some dry logs. It’s not that much of an issue. It’s a bit unfortunate that we run out of oil, then we run out of logs and then the logs are wet – but, you know, worse things have happened.
Then I see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. The oil delivery comes three days early! I’m excited and everything is looking great again. The oil gets delivered, I turn the boiler back on and nothing. The boiler is not running and I don’t know why, or how to fix it. This just sends me into an absolute blind panic.
In reality, it’s not the end of the world. Okay, I’d rather the boiler worked but it’s not as if I can’t have someone come and look at. It’s really not that bad but in my head this is a terrible, terrible thing. I phoned my husband and he told me that he knows what the problem is, he knows how to fix it but he’s at work so he can’t do it until he gets back. He says “don’t worry about it, just keep the log fire going with dry logs and I’ll fix the boiler when I come home”.
At this point I’m stood in my kitchen, crying about the boiler. The boiler that he knows how to fix. He knows exactly what the problem is. He knows how to fix it. But I’m in a heap on the floor, having a panic attack about it because the anxiety and the emotions that I feel are just too overwhelming.
I knew I couldn’t just sit like that all day. It was 9 o’clock in the morning. The boiler wasn’t gonna get looked at till about 7 o’clock at night and I didn’t want to spend all day feeling this way. I had to pull myself together and distract myself from the problem for a little while until it was able to be fixed.
not doing myself any favours
I spent the day tidying up clearing things out. Having a good sort out is something I find I like to do in the premenstrual phase anyway. It’s something that feels good to me in that phase. It feels a bit like I’m nesting before I bleed.
So, I spent my day doing odd jobs. When my husband came home at the end of the day, he immediately went to the boiler and he was said “I know what I need to do to fix it. It’s probably gonna take me about 10 minutes”. Let me tell you, those 10 minutes were horrendous for me! I just could not shift this anxiety. I knew he was going to fix it but at the same time I was terrified that it couldn’t be fixed. Or that he was gonna blow himself up trying to do it. Both of those scenarios were completely irrational by the way.
At one point I went to ask how he was getting on- it was stupid of me. I shouldn’t have gone there. He started talking to me and I burst into tears because I was so afraid that something was seriously wrong. Or that it was going to go seriously wrong. Again, with nothing to suggest that that would be the case.
I had to excuse myself because I couldn’t cope. Within five minutes he’d done what he needed to do, fixed the boiler, the heating was on, the hot water was on and everything was fine. But those last 10 minutes really showed to me how powerful premenstrual anxiety can be.
It can play its way out into something that (once you’re through it) seems so ridiculous. In my rational head there was no reason to be worried. There was no reason to be afraid. There was no reason for me to react in the way that I did. But emotionally it just felt so tense and so heavy.
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.
i wasn't listening
Usually in my PMS phase I am really good at listening out for what I need. I know that any stress, frustration or anxiety that I get through my premenstrual phase is just a signal that I’m not looking after myself properly. My body is crying out for me to slow down take a little bit more relaxation and put away as much stress as possible. If we’d run out of logs and oil in my summer phase I probably wouldn’t have felt half as bad about it but it happened in my premenstrual phase.
After I’d had this big anxiety blow out I actually felt much much better, but there is some thinking that goes along with that. Like I said, I’m already trying to correct any negative thoughts that come into my head. I’m already paying attention to the stories I tell myself and correcting them, .But sometimes you need to step away from a situation that can’t be solved immediately.
This is exactly what happened with the boiler. I didn’t know what to do with the boiler. I wasn’t sure how to fix it and I got anxious and agitated about that. I didn’t wanna continue to feel like that all day so I stepped away because there was nothing I could do in that particular moment. I distracted myself with other things until I was in a position to deal with it. I’m not saying avoid your problems because avoiding your problems doesn’t make them go away. But, it’s not worth carrying the anxiety about it for the whole day.
I could’ve spent all that time from 9 am till 6 pm feeling anxious. Instead what I chose to do was come away from it and distract myself with other things until the time when it could be dealt with.
I still had to go through 10 minutes of anxiety and crying while I waited for it to be fixed, but 10 minutes was better than nine hours. I think you have to go through the shit to feel better about it. I’m not one for toxic positivity. I don’t think it’s helpful to push away negative emotions and only focus on the good stuff. I’m not about that at all. I think the struggle is part of the process. Yes, I wanted to limit the amount of time I felt anxious for, but I still needed to process those emotions to feel better
I mean, we all feel better after a good cry. Crying releases endorphins which make you feel happier. Instead of trying to avoid or push away those emotions, if you lean into them I find you feel better much more quickly.
I think there’s so much to be said for this when it comes to living your life in sync with your cycle. Lean into those emotions and lean into the way you feel instead of trying to push through it. Process in your mind what is reasonable, what is rational, what is true and what isn’t true.
get in sync with your cycle
It’s the same with your energy. Lean into the way you feel. If you feel super productive lean into that and use it. If you don’t feel so productive lean into that because your body is trying to tell you something. Your body is trying to tell you to slow down for a reason.
This is what I love so much about living in sync with my cycle. Everything you need to know is already there. You’re being told exactly what you need right now, you just have to pay attention and listen out for it.
It becomes really predictable. You can get into a cycle of understanding what’s going to come up for you month after month after month, and also have some understanding of which things trigger you to feel a certain way.
I will never not say this – tracking your cycle is absolutely the stepping stone to a better premenstrual experience. If you want to learn to live a life that’s more in sync with your cycle and fully understand yourself as you navigate the four phases, check out this blog post.