Our bodies work in cycles. We sleep and wake based on the circadian rhythm and the cyclical production of melatonin. Our digestion, breathing, and hormone productions follow a cycle.
Related: Respect Mother Nature's Cycle: Week 1, Menstruation
Nowhere is the rhythm of life more evident than in the patterns created by women's hormones each month. I've found that listening to my body makes my cycle easier and more enjoyable.
Over the past couple weeks, I've written about the rest time of menstruation, the building energy of pre-ovulation, and the excitement of ovulation. This week I present thoughts on pre-menstrual time, which is the second half of the luteal phase. It's the turning inward part of the month.
As we approach menstruation, our estrogen and progesterone are high. The hormones have been stimulating the endometrium to thicken in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
If no fertilized egg takes up residence in the uterine lining, the hormone levels will begin to drop and the top layers of endometrium will shed next week. This week, progesterone should be high.
Progesterone is the body's natural anxiety treatment. With high progesterone levels, we feel calm. Any tendencies toward anxiety are lessened.
When progesterone drops just before bleeding begins, we can experience pre-menstrual symptoms. The drop in progesterone can cause mood swings and uncomfortable physical symptoms.
Many suggest that it's an imbalance in the estrogen-progesterone relationship that causes some women intense difficulty during this time.
We can feel tired, irritable, depressed, weepy, and indecisive. Our brains might not brain as well as they usually do. We may lash out or generally not be our best selves while the hormones are figuring themselves out.
Related: Respecting Mother Nature's Cycle: Week 2, Pre-Ovulation
Each of these symptoms are universally worsened by stress.
If this is a hard time of the month for you, focusing on what your body needs and taking the rest times may be especially important. You may be able to lessen the intensity of your pre-menstrual symptoms by beating it to the punch.
This time is represented by autumn, a turning inward and letting go part of the cycle. Trees bring their energy to their roots and drop their leaves. Animals store up and prepare to hibernate.
We can respect this part of our cycles by turning down the pace and the intensity of our lives. We can say no to something now or next week. We can spend our time with people who make us feel good.
I find that I have more insights and intuitive flashes during the week leading up to my period. I'm kinder to my children and feel less rushed.
When progesterone is high, we break down protein easier. This may result in increased appetite. Feed yourself hearty, healthy, regular meals that feel good. When we don't respect our body's need for more nourishment, we may enter PMS-time with less strength than we need.
The last four days before the bleeding begins can be a doozy. If this time is generally not easy for you, being aware of when you expect it and being mindful of your situation can make a big difference. More food, more calming activates, and generally more self-care can make your body self more caring during the hormonal drops.
During a difficult bit in the hormonal cycle (such as that during PMS), your awareness and acceptance of what is happening in your body can lessen the intensity of its effects.
For example, if you know that the 18th-22nd are going to be the days just before your period, you can schedule around those days. You can approach them with a different mindset.
I like to think: "This is a transition. Transitions are hard, I'm just going to let it be hard." Or, I will remind myself, "These feelings are my body's way of saying, 'I'm sad we don't have a baby.'" And then I remind her that we don't want a baby right now! I will also give myself a break, specifically I'll try not to judge myself for my feelings.
Related: Respect Mother Nature's Cycle: Week 3, Ovulation
Awareness and acceptance of where you are at is healing. It can even lessen PMS symptoms. By turning inward and breathing during this time of possible stress, we are flowing with mother nature.
Being aware of what your body and your hormones are up to can be the difference between feeling like a victim and being grateful for rhythms and cycles. Mindfulness and acceptance of where you are at in the cycle will help you live more peacefully.