Today is the World's Biggest Coffee Morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, and after a tough couple of years of lockdowns and pandemic-induced isolation, it’s clear that much more than the coffee is drawing people to these events - talking to others is a basic human need many people didn’t realise they missed.
“What’s that got to do with the menstrual cycle?” We hear you ask. Read on to find out…
The symptoms many people experience during PMS are no different from some illnesses; tiredness, tummy pain, headaches, to name a few. Then there are the ones that seem hand-picked to make us feel less confident in ourselves, like anxiety, bloating, acne, and many more. It’s no wonder we feel rubbish during this time in our cycle.
Why would anyone want to leave the house and see other people?! The answer is of course, we don’t want to, and there’s a very good reason for this.
It helps to understand the science behind what you’re feeling. In the Luteal phase of your cycle, hormones are often to blame for low mood and irritability. After ovulation, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, affecting the brain’s neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which influence your mood, sleep, and motivation. When these chemicals drop to low levels, it can lead to sadness, anxiety, trouble sleeping, food cravings, and more.
In fact, depression is one of the most common symptoms to come along with PMS. Around 50% of people who seek treatment for PMS suffer from depression or anxiety. This is what makes us want to close the curtains and get under the duvet. But is that what we should do?
There is certainly an argument for being around other people rather than isolating during PMS. One study found that early humans may have evolved their basic language to share ideas and help others develop tools that allowed them to live longer. Perhaps this is the reason socialising in person is thought to affect the parts of our nervous system that release neurotransmitters to calm stress and anxiety.
“Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like a vaccine, they protect you now, in the present, and well into the future, so simply […] giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.” - Susan Pinker, Psychologist
One study found those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer seem to fare better with access to others going through similar experiences. This could be linked to studies that suggest having good social relationships benefits physical health too, proving a lot of good can come from calling your friend and asking them to come over… and bring chocolate.
You don’t have to don your best dress and head out to a bar to dance, but you can find ways to socialise on a smaller, more gentle scale. Think of low impact activities you can do with people who energise you rather than drain you.
Gravitate towards walks, coffee dates, movie nights, and things that won’t zap your energy. Seek out people who you can open up to, who have a supportive, understanding side to them, and will happily remove any expectation from your time together - all you have to do is meet up and chat.
If you’re really in a funk and can’t imagine leaving your house, phones and video calls could be your friend. We’re not talking about scrolling through Instagram and living vicariously through your friends’ pictures (that will make you feel worse) but reach out to someone you can be open with about how you’re feeling, and schedule a catch-up.
It may help to talk about what’s on your mind, but if you don’t want to, you may see benefits from talking about anything from the weather to your weekend plans. Think of a phone call with a loved one as taking your medicine, filling up your hot water bottle for belly cramps, or taking your daily Mood Food supplement. It’s something that will improve your mood in the long run, make you feel less alone, and help you feel more connected.
If depression is a real problem for you during your PMS days, there are some things you can try. Tracking your symptoms helps you keep an eye on your emotions. Note it all down; sadness, anxiety, food cravings, the lot. This can also help if you choose to speak to your GP, so they have a better idea of your symptoms.
If you do speak to your GP, there are also hormonal birth control options that could ease symptoms like depression, but remember these can also worsen symptoms, so keep track of how you feel when you start any new medication and communicate with your doctor.
Healthy lifestyle changes can help minimise PMS symptoms too. This could mean a regular exercise routine, less junk food, more sleep, and minimising stress where possible.
If you find yourself in a deeper depression, speak to your doctor about this, and the possibility of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), a more serious form of PMS that is thought to affect between 3% and 8% of people with periods.
Are you looking for ways to connect with others while your PMS symptoms are at their worst? Drop into our private Facebook group, or send us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised menstrual care subscription can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and much more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, which is one worry to take off your mind.
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