How to improve your emotional state during PMS

You are feeling moody, low and respond with a bark at almost any request? You find yourself at the end of your cycle without any energy and positivity left? It might not be you but PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). Have you already heard about them? Read below to find out more about the physical and psychological impacts of these syndromes on your health and what you can do to feel better on your own.

Research shows that the period before menstruation may have a psychological and physical impact on women. Up to 85% of women report having at least one symptom of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), while between 3 and 8 % report suffering from PMDD ( premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

Among the physical symptoms of PMS and PMDD we count:

  • Headache
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue

Among the psychological symptoms of PMS and PMDD we count:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained anger
  • Mood swings
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Feeling overwhelmed …

Although most physical symptoms can be treated with medicines, emotional symptoms do usually request additional treatment, such as therapy or guided self-help practice.

There is a significant amount of research conducted on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and PMS. Results show that CBT might help women suffering from PMS or PMDD better handle hormonal imbalance throughout their menstrual cycle and how this impacts their thinking and mood. Therapy helps patients restore their emotional health and in long term it can have a positive impact on how women feel before their period.

What is CBT and how does it work?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is about how people perceive their thoughts and the impact these have on their wellbeing. During therapy sessions, the therapist and patient will try to identify patterns and situations that trigger a negative mood. Patients will learn how to manage negative thoughts that trigger a depressed mood and change them into positive ones.

Although working with a professional therapist will benefit you more than trying out a self-help guide on yourself, there are many free resources that can help you identify your thoughts patterns. This will help you become more aware of your thoughts and how they impact you.

You can find below one method very used in CBT that I’ve been working with and that proved to be efficient:

  1. Try making a table with three columns. Entitle the first one “behaviour”, the second “thoughts” and the third “feelings”
  2. Write down your behaviours applied in particular situations, what your thoughts were at that moment and how you were feeling
  3. Do this from the 21st day of your cycle until around the 5th day to see how it fluctuates and try to identify the patterns
  4. Once you identified them you can work on finding “alternative thoughts”. This means thoughts that will uplift your mood, such as doing a pleasant activity, practising self-care, talking to someone, etc.

For instance, if someone did not put the milk back in the fridge and this annoyed you and made you think you have to do everything in the house, you might have felt irritated and angry in that moment.

If we do the above exercise, then it will look like this: in the first column we will write: “milk left outside”, in the second column: “I have to do everything, I am responsible” and in the third: “angry, irritated, “.

After doing this a couple of times, you might start observing some patterns in your thoughts. This could be for instance actions that other people do or don’t do. Maybe it always annoys you when someone does not do something the way you hope them to, or maybe this type of behaviour annoys you only before your period.

The last step is to work on alternative thoughts that will make you feel better. For instance, doing a breathing exercise for 5 minutes will help you empty your mind. You can also distract yourself with something else (an enjoyable activity) and this might make you feel better.

After you found something that helped you decrease your anger, perhaps you can talk with the person in cause about the particular situation and how this made you feel and why this matter is so important to you. It is important to communicate your emotions to others so you feel yourself understood and so that the others can make sense of your behaviour in certain situations. Sometimes we might not find the best methods to show what we intend and this can make all the difference between a fight or a simple discussion.

Working to understand yourself, what triggers your feelings and how you can ameliorate the situations will not only benefit you but it will also have a positive effect on those around you: work, family, friends.

If you need more psychological support on how to work with CBT on your own, you can reach me via the contact form page.

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