Parenting Through PMS
Last week I was in a funk.
I felt irritable, cranky, and a bit depressed.
And I couldn't figure out why I was in a funk. Nothing in my life had changed. There were no circumstances that I could point to and say, “That's why I'm feeling this way.” But I suffered from apathy, lethargy, and utter annoyance when it came to the demands of parenting and work. No amount of chocolate made me feel better, either. In fact, it made me feel worse and my pants didn't fit.
At first, I practiced gratitude and reminded myself that my thoughts create my experiences. Naturally, by changing my thoughts about being in a funk, I could get myself out of it, right? Instead, I felt guilty for having negative thoughts in the first place. I said to myself, “What do you have to complain about, anyway? Your kids are great. Your job is great. Snap out of it!”
But that didn't help. I just couldn't shake it.
Then I decided to simply accept and allow the feelings for a period of time without judging myself for them. “You're allowed to feel blah every once in a while,” I told myself. “You're human.”
That helped a little, but I still barked at my girls as soon as they started an argument, instead of showing empathy or letting them work it out for themselves. They could tell I was edgier than usual, and I could see it affected their moods, too. They kept more of a distance from me than usual, which I appreciated at the time, but I was aware that I wasn't practicing the Calm and Connected parenting I preach.
Finally, it hit me. I realized that all of my symptoms — the irritability, fatigue, food cravings, and gloominess — were all linked to PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
As you're probably well aware, PMS symptoms usually occur one to two weeks before the start of a menstrual cycle. Thanks to the handy app on my phone called Period Tracker, I saw that I had eight more days to go. Just knowing that my moodiness was related to the hormonal changes in my body brought a small sense of relief.
I knew right away that I wanted to write about this on the blog to encourage mothers to start keeping track of their cycles and to become proactive by taking care of themselves before and during PMS.
Be on the lookout — the most common symptoms of PMS, according to the Office on Women's Health, are:
- Swollen or tender breasts
- Feeling tired
- Trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Headache or backache
- Appetite changes or food cravings
- Joint or muscle pain
- Trouble with concentration or memory
- Tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells
- Anxiety or depression
The symptoms are different for each woman and can even change from month to month. The app has a way to track symptoms throughout the month so you can identify patterns.
The experts say that getting the right amount of exercise, nutrients, and sleep are the best ways to start feeling better right away, but depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may also suggest medication, vitamins, or supplements.
I cut way back on the amount of sugar I was eating, drank more water, and went to sleep earlier at night. And of course, I also practiced my deep breathing and favorite mantras (“This too shall pass” and “Give me strength.”) I let my daughters know I wasn't feeling well, apologized for my crabbiness, and used our bedtime routine for connecting and snuggling. Within a few days, the patient and cheerful Pam had returned.
After last week, my message to you is this: hormonal mood swings are real, and parenting through them can suck. Lessening the effects of PMS is yet another reason to practice self-care regularly, and by tracking your periods and symptoms, you can be proactive and learn how to better manage them every month.
If you're ever debilitated by symptoms of PMS, please share in the comments anything you find to be helpful.
Please note: PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is a more severe form of PMS and can include symptoms such as suicidal thoughts and panic attacks. If you suffer from these symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as possible.
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