For some of you, what we’re talking about today is a total non-issue. I want to high five you and then maybe give you a good hard slap. It’s like the women who say they’ve never felt insecure in their lives, or never found a bit of cellulite on their perfectly smooth rear. I’m so happy for you, and hate you just a little bit, all at the same time.
But for those of you who have ever felt like you turn into a total nutcase in the week leading up to your period, this article is for you.
For as long as I can remember, I have hated my period. Not just because it’s inconvenient, or unpleasant in a thousand different ways, but because it turns me into someone I don’t recognize, and certainly don’t like. I don’t know how something so small can take over so much, but it does. It totally does.
In the week leading up to that blessed week of femininity, it feels like I somehow manage to gain a cool 5-10 pounds. I feel flabby and uncomfortable and nothing seems to fit. I’m cranky, constantly. Nothing anyone says is right, and anything anyone says can be turned (as if by magic) into something that either enrages me, or hurts my feelings.
For years, it felt like my kryptonite, my rainy season in an otherwise sunny life. PMS felt like my deal-breaker, the thing about me that made me entirely too much, and even unlovable. Like, “You think you like me now, but just you wait.” My hormones were the one thing I’d change about myself if I had a chance—zapping them away once and for all.
But unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. It’s a reality about our lives, something we’re forced to grapple with, a beast we’re forced to wrestle exactly once a month.
So if you’ve ever felt this way—bowled over by your hormones each month—here are some things to try that might help. They’re tricks I’ve learned the hard way, but ones that have drastically helped me. I hope they help you too!
PMS Hacks: How to keep your hormones from messing up your life
1. Change the way you think about your body
This is going to feel 100% fake at first, and it will probably start out that way. But something significant I began doing a few years ago is to think and talk about my body in a different way. I’d always treated my period like a curse, something I hated about myself, something I would have gotten rid of if I could have. But that wasn’t helping anything. So I began intentionally thinking about it differently. I began to thank God for the fact that I am a woman, for creating my body, and for the fact that my body will hopefully be able to make a baby at some point. (Which is pretty stinking miraculous when you think about it that way.)
Thinking about my body as a gift instead of a curse started to shift the tides. Being at war with anything is hard, being at war with something inside of you is miserable. So instead, let’s thank God for our bodies, and for everything they’re able to do. It helps. I promise.
2. Get some backup
For years in my relationships, I would try to hide this part of myself. I would try to contain it. I would try to be quiet, or isolate myself, or just not say whatever frustrated, irrational thing was about to explode out of my mouth.
As you can imagine, this behavior modification doesn’t work so well, especially in a time when we’re more impulsive than ever.
So when my husband and I started dating, instead of trying to hide my struggle from him, I told him about it.
I distinctly remember the conversation. It was in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant, and I was crying. I had to tell him that my body seemed to turn on me once a month, making me frustrated, and cranky, and totally irrational, and that there was very little I could do about it.
I cried because I was afraid it would ruin us. I was afraid it would be too much to handle, or that even me telling him would be just too much.
But instead, Carl kissed me, and held me close, and told me that it was okay.
Having that truth out on the table has made it so much easier when those irrational moments do arise. Because he knows what a struggle it is for me, he shows me sympathy and grace instead of being fed up or frustrated.
Having him on my side has been unbelievably helpful. And this is the same for family and girlfriends. Instead of trying to handle it perfectly on your own, bring your loved ones into it with you. They’ll give you the grace you need, and be able to help you through when you can’t see the way.
3. Keep track of what happens so you can remind yourself you’re not crazy
The scariest part about PMS for me is that I forget what’s real and what’s just a symptom of the week. I feel like I’ve gained a ton of weight, or like my relationships are a mess, or like I’m an emotional wreck. But the worst part is I forget about the PMS altogether, feeling like my feelings aren’t a symptom. They’re reality!
I went through this cycle about a zillion times before I finally got fed up and wrote down what exactly PMS brings with it. Having these benchmarks helps me differentiate between what’s real, and what will feel better in just a few days.
4. Don’t make any big decisions
I don’t know about you but for a lot of us, the feelings and frustrations we experience during PMS are enough to prompt us to make some poor, irrational decisions. It’s like it wipes away our patience and our grace, making us wonder if we really should quit our job, or end our relationship, or stay mad at that friend forever.
But in the midst of PMS, we’re in no place to be making big decisions. In the last several years I’ve disciplined myself to wait another week. It gives me time to breathe, to calm down, and to really decide if this decision is right, or if it’s just a product of how I was feeling in the moment.
It’s saved me a lot of heartache, but it’s definitely a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
5. Be really kind to yourself
The worst thing about feeling this way was the way I’d treat myself when I did. Not only was I feeling totally off my rocker, but I was furious at myself for being so far off my rocker. I’d chide myself for being too much, or for being a lot of work. I was mean to myself during this week, telling myself to get it together, or get over it, in a menacing tone.
But at some point, I realized this is just totally not what I needed.
Instead, I realized that what I needed was for myself to be really kind to me during this time. I needed to be spoken to in soothing tones, to be gently reminded of what I knew was true. I needed to be taken care of, and pampered a little, and loved.
And so in the last few years, that’s what I’ve begun to do.
Instead of trying to shove myself into something uncomfortable when all I want to do is be wrapped in soft clothes, I let myself wear soft clothes.
Instead of speaking to myself harshly and telling myself to get it together, I gently ask myself what I need to feel better, and then give myself that very thing.
The second I started treating myself more gently during my period, things really began to change. It’s amazing what some love and support can do, especially when it’s coming from yourself (for more help in this area, check out this podcast episode on self-care).
6. Talk to your doctor
PMS is a real thing, in fact PMDD (a more severe form of PMS) is totally a real thing as well. These are things that impact our lives, that change our moods, that affect our work life and our home life and our relationships. This isn’t something you cook up in your mind, or you being crazy. This is a thing that is going on inside your body. And it’s totally worth talking to your doctor about.
There are kinds of birth control out there that are aimed at helping manage PMS symptoms. There are types of anti-depressants that are great for easing some of the toughest emotional PMS symptoms. I guarantee you are not your doctor’s only patient feeling this way, and so he or she is totally capable of helping you figure out the best way through this.
I’m not recommending anything in particular, I’m not a doctor. But what I am telling you is that you don’t have to go through this alone. Talking to my doctor and having her help me figure out a solution that was right for me changed everything, and I want you to know you have that resource available to you as well.
Our bodies are beautiful, wonderful, miraculous things. But they’re also super tough to manage sometimes. There are physical and hormonal realities about our lives as women that we’re forced to grapple with — and they’re realities that most people don’t talk about, or even really understand.
But more than any hack or tip or trick, I want you to know this: You're not in this alone.
P.S. Related to this topic, we have a podcast episode called, Answers to the Embarrassing Body Questions You've Been too Afraid to Ask, if you want to check it out!