Why do my periods cause anxiety?

Are you one of those lucky people who glides through daily life without ever getting the dreaded fear?  If you are, then I salute you!  By ‘fear’ I’m not talking hangover doom, or the “Shit, I forgot the kid’s school fancy dress party” fear, although this one deffo brings on anxiety.  I am talking about that hormonal imbalance, just on the lead up to the time of the month fear.  The one that totally ruins your day, makes you feel like crap, takes away all of your confidence, makes you feel scatty and forgetful and gives you mild to severe panic attacks throughout the day… yeah that one!

I hate it.  And as the months and years are ticking by I feel as though my monthly’s are getting worse.  I’ve now gone from one shitty week in the month to 2 shitty weeks in the month.  I get the ‘count down’ to the period, where I have zero energy, can’t sleep properly and even the most basic of tasks feels like being dragged through mud.  Then there’s the gnarly grumpiness that creeps up from nowhere and its not safe for anyone to be in the same vicinity as me!  And as any hormonally challenged woman can attest, with the time of the month come the uncontrollable tears, just watching the TV ads has me in tears and god help me if the kids tell me they love me, I’m balling uncontrollably… even the misplaced spoons in the cutlery draw have me crying a tsunami.  I mean, in the words of Tammy Wynett, “Sometime it’s hard to be a woman”…

Now firmly in the 30s heading towards the 40s club (shit, did I just say that?) I find half of the time I’m a gibbering, soppy, angry and at times sweaty mess!  That only gives me 2 weeks a month to be utterly amazing at everything I do, when I feel on fire and on top of the world.  When anyone can project their negativity on me and I just flash them the – fuck you bitch eyes!  I feel robbed of those good days!  Damn you hormones!

Now, my anxiety is starting to hit fever pitch just before I’m due on.  What makes it worse is I’m performing on stage at the moment, and there’s times I want to be curled up on the sofa crying to One Born Every Minute or giggling insanely to Gogglebox, but to be on stage, in all your glory and that fear kicks in is absolutely horrendous.  All that goes through your head is ‘Don’t look at me!’ Obviously I know this is totally impossible but it does make my work harder than it should be at times.

So, why when my period is due does it create anxiety?

Well during our period, it turns out us ladies are less able to cope with stress….. no shit Sherlock.  But it still isn’t clear why this happens, so see we are a very complicated species!  Experts seem to think that the increase in cortisol rapidly rises in the days immediately before we start, which makes it more difficult to manage the stresses in your life, in turn making you feel more anxious (I got this from the natural health site www.avogel.co.uk).  This theory messes things up a little for me, as I use working out and keeping fit as a huge part of my daily routine.  When I’m not menstruating it helps keep me focused, keep a positive mental attitude. and the outlet of energy quite frankly helps keep me sane, as I do have a very busy life.  But this excess cortisol when menstruating makes me feel very down and weepy and probably intensifies my anxiety.  So I’m thinking now I will use more holistic workouts like yoga and Pilates during this time, that will help keep me calm and balanced, and not make the hormones peak so much.

Something I have touched on in the past, and I know even more so now with touring, mindfulness would be perfect for me.  You would be amazed how unaware we are of ourselves and the world around us. How we take on the energy of external factors that have absolutely nothing to do with us, and use up valuable energy on things that really do not concern us.  Or worrying too much about things that are just out of our control (said the control freak!!).  In my past, I found letting go of the ‘control freak’ inside, and living in the now, to be so liberating and it made my life so much more enjoyable.  I can remember times where I’ve lay in bed all night, told myself to have an early night, and then proceeded to worry about every single event in my life that had passed and start to make up scenarios in my future, that more than likely would never happen… and so worried myself sick.  Times like this have led to me being totally exhausted, running on empty and inevitably getting actually quite poorly.

Our thoughts do not control us, we control our thoughts

Mindfulness and a therapy called CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) were my saviour.  They got me back on track and helped me focus on the things that really matter, which is the here and now. Becoming more aware of the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing helped me see patterns that I was making, a lot of them quite destructive, but almost all had no real activity on my day to day life. “Our thoughts do not control us, we control our thoughts”, one of the best quotes I now know, but always have to keep reminding myself.

I also think it’s really important as busy mums to find time to switch off from all the worries of life, even if it is just 10 minutes a day, to focus on ourselves.  To breathe deeply….  and to remember how bloody awesome we actually are!  I am terribly hard on myself, I know this because so many of my loved ones around me say it all the time.  And if I stop and take a minute to think about how hard I actually am on myself at times, it makes me sad.  I wouldn’t tell someone else the things I tell myself at times, and if I saw a friend being as tough on themselves, I would be the first to say to them “No, you are wonderful…. and powerful… and intelligent… and beautiful.  A warrior, the glue that keeps it all together, so give yourself a bloody big pat on the back, and pour yourself your favourite tipple or treat yourself to that nice massage, listen to a positive affirmation podcast”, … or whatever it is that floats your boat!

Do it all and hold your head up high ladies.  I suppose life will always be stressful but it’s how you manage the stress it gives you, as they say – When life gives you lemons….. give them back and ask for a cook, a cleaner, a psychologist and 2 weeks in the Caribbean!  x

Helpful tips

  • Have a look at different mindfulness practices – Meditation, Yoga, Tai-chi, or even long walks and hikes.
  • Visit www.bemindful.co.uk to learn more about mindfulness, and how it can help you.
  • Visit www.BABCP.com, the website of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies

 

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