I’m dedicating this post to negative self talk. It’s something that crops up quite often for people in the premenstrual phase, but it’s also so subtle that you might not even notice it.
When it comes to PMS, often we can just feel crappy about ourselves and we’re not always aware of why that is or where it comes from. Do you ever get to the week before your period and suddenly feel like you’re a failure? Or that you suck at everything you do? Or that you’ll never complete that big goal that you have in your mind? Or that you just can’t move forward with your life?
Sometimes we can get this feeling of depressiveness and it can feel really disempowering. Often though, we’re not paying attention to the thoughts that are fuelling those feelings. This is where negative self talk comes in.
Thoughts Create Feelings
You can probably already pick up on the fact that PMS week is not always a joy. PMS week can actually be really freaking hard, but I think when you come to understand your cycle and understand the feelings that come up through the different points in the cycle, it makes it much easier to rationalise the thoughts that you’re having. But, that’s only if you’re able to pick up on them.
I think we go through a few phases when we start aligning with our cycles. I think first of all it starts with a shift from “I have no idea what’s going on in my life and why I feel the way I do” to “okay now it makes sense why I feel or think the way that I do in certain points of the cycle”.
While understanding your cycle and how it affects your mood is a massive step forward, it’s only really the beginning. Sometimes this understanding of your body can have you feeling like a victim to the cycle. It can feel like you have no control over what it is that causes these fluctuations in mood and happiness.
I want to make the suggestion that actually you do have control over this stuff – if you are paying close enough attention to pick up on it. I’ve said this before, but the cycle is really (at its core) a self awareness tool. You can use your cycle to really get in tune with who you are as a person and why you think and feel the way that you do.
It's Not Always Easy
This isn’t something that’s always easy to do, and it definitely comes with some practice, but I find when I get to PMS week I have a lot of negative thoughts going on. It comes out as a lot of negative self talk, talking down to myself and not being particularly kind to myself.
You really have to be able to stop yourself in your tracks and think “what is going on with me right now? What am I thinking that is causing this negative emotion?”. All emotions start in the brain.
I’ve practised cycle awareness for a long time. I am way more aware of my thoughts and feelings than I used to be. I’m not going to say it’s an easy practice necessarily, but it definitely gets easier the more you do it.
Often we can just feel rubbish and we don’t fully understand why. We can just have these emotions going on inside of us. Maybe a depressiveness or an awful feeling that we’re just not good enough, but those feelings come from somewhere. They don’t just magically appear out of thin air. Nine times out of ten, they are related to a thought process that you have going on
Let me give you a little context on what I mean. I’m just going to tell you a little bit about my experience and hopefully you can relate and you will understand what I’m trying to say a little better.
Think your period pants have to be boring? Think again!
ModiBodi are period proof underwear that absorb your menstrual flow without the need for pads and tampons. Simply, wear, wash and reuse. ModiBodi period underwear comes in a range of styles and colours to suit your mood. And best of all? You can try Modibodi risk free for 30 days (see website for full terms and conditions).
It's Not Always Easy
Quite often, especially towards the end of the premenstrual phase, I get to this place where I just feel like I’m not good enough. Not good enough in my work, not good enough at communicating with people, not good enough at really being able to achieve the things that I want to achieve, and it leaves me feeling of sad and defeated.
In order to make sense of those feelings (which can seem like they come out of nowhere) I first have to try and rationalise my thoughts. In order to rationalise what’s going on in my head, I have to sit myself down and ask myself “why do I feel like this? What is the story I’m telling myself right now that is giving me this emotion?”
Let’s be honest, nobody wants to feel sad or defeated or depressed. If the thoughts that were going through my head were making me feel happiness or success, they wouldn’t feel like such a problem. So, I try hard to catch what those thoughts are.
Again, this is a practice that you build upon. You might not be able to catch your thoughts every single time. But, if you can firstly notice that you feel a certain way, and then secondly, sit yourself down and be really honest with yourself. You need to find out where that emotion is coming from.
What is the story you’re telling yourself right now? Once you can figure that out, you’ll be more able to rationalise whether or not that story is true. This is the primary goal when we catch these negative thoughts. Are they true? I’ll be willing to bet that often they’re not.
The other thing that can be useful when you catch these thoughts is to relate them to your cycle. Think to yourself “where am I in my cycle right now?” Does that have any bearing on why you might be feeling this way.
Recently, in my autumn phase, I was sitting at my laptop doing some training. I like to keep up with a lot of education. I’m always learning something new. So, I’m sitting in front of my computer, taking this class, just feeling horrible. I get a pang of worthlessness wash over me. I feel totally out of my depth as a human being.
I had to stop what I was doing and sit myself down. I asked myself “Cherrelle, what is the thought process that is going on here? What is the thought in your head right now? What is leading you to feel like this?”
If I’m quite honest, that thought was “you are not good enough. you are never going to learn this. you are never going to be able to achieve what you want because you don’t know this stuff”.
And you know what? In my rational mind I know that that is absolute bullshit.
not everything you think is true
I am a capable learner. I’m a keen learner. I have learnt so many things over the course of my life. This negative self talk just isn’t true. But, it’s something I have to deal with often in my premenstrual phase.
I’m someone who is quite aware of my cycle and how it plays out into my life. I fully understand that this negative self talk is most likely to crop up for me in the premenstrual phase. Generally, through the rest of my cycle I don’t get it so much.
I’m actually quite a confident person these days and that almost feels a little bit scary to say. I’ve spent most of my life believing that I’m an anxious person and I’ve allowed that to hold me back. The reality is, I’m not an anxious person. I sometimes experience anxiety (as does everyone in the world) but that anxiety does not define me.
Throughout the rest of my cycle, my confidence takes centre stage more than anything else. But, when I get to the premenstrual phase my confidence takes a back seat and the inner critic completely takes over. We get to PMS week and in comes Debbie Downer with her barrage of negativity.
When this happens, I’m able to rationalise my thoughts. I’ve got better at doing this over time. The first thing is to just pick up on your feelings and work out where they’re coming from. Like I said, it’s not easy but it gets better with practice
But, this is a two -pronged attack. Not only do I stop the thought process in its tracks, I also understand my cycle. In understanding my cycle I’m able to understand how it is that these negative thoughts are cropping up so often.
When you’re in the thick of PMS week it can feel like that’s your entire life because that’s what you have your focus on right now. When you can understand that this moment, this feeling, this phase, won’t last forever – it’s easier to rationalise it.
It helps to understand the hormones that are at play here. Through the pre-ovulation and ovulation phases, you have a rise in oestrogen which also gives a rise in serotonin. Serotonin is your happiness and well-being hormone. When you have a rise in serotonin, generally your mood is just more uplifted
When you get to the premenstrual phase, you don’t have that serotonin lift. Your oestrogen takes a bit of a decline and serotonin takes a decline with it. You end up feeling lower in mood.
That’s often why these negative thoughts are coming in more easily at this point. I think we have to realise that those negative thoughts aren’t necessarily true. Strip it back. Take that feeling and strip it right back.
Where does it come from? What is the thought that you’re having? Whatever that thought is, strip it back more. Is that thought the truth? Really, is it true?
Strip it back again. What evidence do I have to suggest that this thought is either true or false? I’m going to bet you nine times out of ten, you have very little evidence to validate the negative thought.
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.
you are not your feelings
In the example I just gave, I’m sitting at my laptop thinking “I’m never gonna be good enough because I don’t know this stuff”, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn it. The truth of the matter is: yes, I don’t already understand this information (which is why I’m taking a class on it) – but the fact is I know I’m a good learner. I know that by the end of the class I will understand the information.
The fact that I don’t know yet, what bearing does that really have on me as a person? What does that tell me about myself? Other than I don’t know this information yet, it doesn’t give me any other context. Really there’s no evidence to back up this thought or this feeling
Another thing that makes PMS negative self talk more easy to deal with, is if you know it’s coming. If you’re aware of your cycle and how it plays out, then you can be more vigilant in catching those negative thoughts before you end up in a downward spiral of negative emotion.
I think this can be especially true when it comes to body image. Sometimes I will get up in the morning, look in the mirror and quite honestly not like what I see.
But, there will be other times when I get up in the morning, look in the mirror and think “holy hell – I look great! What a good time to be alive! I’ve never been happier with what I see in the mirror!”
Those times when I’m more critical of myself, I’m able to stop and think “where am I am I cycle today? what thoughts and feelings do I know are going to crop up for me at this point in my cycle?”.
My personal experience of PMS week is negative self talk, anxiety, some mild sadness and feelings of defeatedness. I know that these things crop up for me over and over again. When I can look in the mirror and think “oh God I don’t like what I see”, I can actually rationalise that by saying “okay, I don’t like what I see today – but by next week I won’t feel the same way”.
It means I don’t have to take on those negative emotions as part of my being. Those feelings and those thoughts, they’re not who I am. They’re just thoughts and feelings that are cropping up because of where I am in my cycle.
I’m hoping that you can relate to this concept. I’m hoping that you’ve been able to understand what I’m trying to convey here. I feel like this is actually kind of deep and I think oftentimes we don’t realise how much the cycle plays out into our thinking, into our thought processes and into the way we feel.
Generally we have the idea that PMS week is not that great. You might feel moody and you might get frustrated more easily. But actually, when you get right down to the nitty-gritty of it – you can pinpoint how the cycle plays out into your feelings and your experience as a person.
If you’re not able to rationalise some of the feelings that come up through the premenstrual phase, then it’s likely that you could hold onto them and perceive those as part of your being. You might end up believing that you are an anxious or depressive person, when actually you’re not. What you are, is a person who gets anxious or sad sometimes.What you are, is human.
I spent most of my life believing that I was an anxious person. It wasn’t until I let go of that notion that I was able to overcome it. I had to change my thought process. I realised I don’t have to be an anxious person. I will always feel some amount of anxiety (because that’s a natural human emotion) but once i let go of the “I am an anxious person” label, I was able to move forward from it.
I think this is similar to what can come up through the premenstrual phase. If you learn to define yourself as being worthless or not good enough when those thoughts come up, you are way more likely to believe them as you go through the rest of your cycle.
In this way, the cycle can be used as a tool to help you overcome some of that stuff. Firstly, it helps to know where you are in your cycle to be able to predict what might come up for you. It can help rationalise it to some extent. In knowing what is likely to come up for you, you’re more able to pick it out, nip it in the bud before it gets too far, and avoid ending up in a complete emotional hole.
If you find that premenstrual negative self talk is becoming a bit of a problem for you, I have a free exercise that you can take yourself through. It’s a journaling worksheet, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to journal. You could do this exercise out loud if you want to but, I find sometimes writing things down can really help you to unpack some stuff that’s going on in your head.
It’s a completely free worksheet, you can find it on my website at www.cherrelleslaney.co.uk/freebies. I’ve got tonnes of other stuff on there too. From working out what your mood swings are trying to tell you, coping with PMS anxiety, and other free resources there for you.
If you’re struggling with that negative self talk around PMS week, or even at any other point in the cycle (but I’m betting it’s gonna show up for you more in PMS week) then grab your free journaling worksheet.