We all know it happens, ladies. PMS can make us emotionally wobbly, tired, cranky and irrational. Blah!
The physiological causes behind PMS are plentiful, including (but certainly not limited too) the well-known hormonal changes, with oestrogen dominating the first half of our cycle until ovulation, and then the gradual increase in progesterone (a sleep inducer) during the second half of the cycle. This means from day 14 (of a 28 day cycle) to bleeding, women require more sleep. And if you don’t get that extra sleep? Look out. You’ll build an increasing sleep debt and experience sleep deprivation’s short-term consequences. These, of course, get uglier the more sleep deprived you become – right up until menstruation (then oestrogen and progesterone levels plunge).
The tireder you are, the greater the affects. Think moody, emotional and irritable, poor concentration and decision making abilities, an increase in inefficiencies and mistakes, and acting from the ‘emotional centre’ rather than the higher order functions (in particular, the anterior syntax cortex). There’s a whole load more, too, but that’s a story for another day…
“Let’s just agree we understand each other!” says Siobhan Komander, founder of Liverpool St, which delivers organic, natural, cotton tampons to Australian women on a monthly basis. What’s important in the here and now is managing those symptoms. But how? “It’s tough to wrangle your mind back into a state of ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’ when you are in the midst of PMS. But when the dog bites, or the bee stings, there are ways that can help escape the bad mood and the inner dialogue driving it.”
Here, Siobhan shares a few of her favourite PMS mood wranglers …
1. Tune into the cause not the symptoms
“Let’s take a moment to breathe and think about the cause of our bad mood. PMS – that unruly beast that grabs hold when we least expect it and holds on like a dog with a bone,” explains Siobhan. “When you catch yourself in the midst of irrational thoughts or feelings, stop and tune in to what’s happening for you. Re-calibrate your mind into understanding the cause – you’re not having a breakdown or mental episode, it’s the hormones talking! Now that you’re tuned into the why you can take action.
Step 1. Be kind to yourself.
Step 2. When you find being kind to yourself difficult, try again.
Step 3. Repeat as necessary.”
2. Do something you love
Writing, sewing, colouring in, walking, listening to music or your favourite podcast… “Do something that will distract your mood from its current state and focus its energy into something you love,” Siobhan suggests. “You’ll find taking the spotlight off the negative and into doing something you get genuine pleasure from will soon have those neurotransmitters firing more positively and you smiling brighter.”
3. Avoid sugary, salty processed foods
“Our mind is a beauty – when she’s feeling bad or sad she looks for comfort in the form of learned behaviours,” says Siobhan. “She seeks pizza, chocolate and alcohol because you feel ‘good’ (read happy, thanks serotonin). On your way to the cupboard stop and… breathe for the count of one, two, three.
“Think about what you’re doing and why. Remind yourself of what you know to be the truth. The sugar hit will feel good for an instant but the trough you sink into an hour later will not. It’ll actually be worse than you’re feeling now. Not to mention the shaming inner dialogue. Pivot. Grab a piece of fruit, cheese and some herbal tea instead. Your mood will take a turn for the better, not worse!”
4. Say ‘No’ to self-judgement
There’s just too much judgement going on in the world and you need to focus your energy in a positive way. “Hey, we know it’s not all rainbows and butterflies but you don’t have to beat yourself up either,” says Siobhan. “If that devil on your shoulder won’t stop with the angry, miserable thoughts, go back to the cause. Remind yourself this is just a symptom and the cause is your hormone levels shifting. Inhale deeply, exhale to empty. Let the negative go. Replace a negative thought with a positive one.”
5. Fake it ’til you make it
Smile, laugh, watch a YouTube video of a cat playing the piano if you have too! “Sometimes turning a frown upside down really can help turn your mood around,” laughs Siobhan. “Yes, you can fake yourself into a better mood. Go on, do it! Challenge yourself to find something positive when a negative thought creeps in, it’s a really good habit to get into for a positive healthy and balanced life.”