In the last column in my series about the inner seasons of the menstrual cycle, we’re going to focus on our inner autumn or our pre-menstrual phase. This is a phase that many, like myself, find challenging – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved or that it doesn’t have its benefits.
Before I get started: I don’t expect you to go from feeling like you’re walking through hell during this phase to feeling like you’re taking the stairway to heaven within a month. The understanding of this phase and how it can serve us takes time and often requires changes, but if it calls to you, stick with it and see whether it helps you have a better experience of endometriosis during this time.
So, your pre-menstrual phase is, of course, the week before your period, when your body is preparing to bleed. There’s a post-ovulation time, usually from around day 16, that then moves into pre-menstrual phase at around day 24/26 (this is just an average). This is the point where you may begin experiencing difficult PMS symptoms, which are a result of the drop in your hormones. Progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are all dropping during this time, and pretty rapidly. The withdrawal from these hormones causes a drop in happy hormones and also can trigger low confidence, tearfulness, anxiety, and sadness. There’s also another hormone at play here, called noradrenaline. This hormone is responsible for you feeling a bit on edge, a bit tense and ready to snap.
While this might all sound very depressing, it can be such a relief to learn. You’re not going crazy, you’re not “unstable,” and it’s not “all in your head” — this is science. This is your body experiencing withdrawal from chemicals that have been majorly high for the past week or so, and now you’re experiencing a bit of a comedown from that.
But this doesn’t mean you have to suffer so intensely every time. Red School and many other hormone experts believe that our period, our menstrual cycle, is our insight into our health. It is a reflection of what’s impacting our well-being: stress, lifestyle, diet. Their work shows that the impact of the way we’ve been living in the previous phases of our cycle will make itself known in this phase and during our period. I have to say, this has been my experience too. If I’ve overdone it, eaten trigger foods, experienced high stress, etc. during my earlier phases, then my pre-menstrual phase is hard, if not impossible.
My PMS used to be so bad that I was suicidal. That was when I hadn’t worked out all my trigger foods, and I was reaching for coffee and sugar. I felt like I was drowning at work, I was under pressure in every area of my life, I was constantly on the go, and I was suffering from depression. The thing with this phase is that because you have less happy hormones pumping around, you’re less energetic and you’re more emotional. So, you naturally become more analytical and critical — you can’t just brush things under the carpet and get on with it as you do in your other phases. I became really overwhelmed by the challenges in my life; it became all too much, and I ended up being floored by my emotions every time.
But we can use this to our advantage. This phase is first and foremost the time to flow with the body rather than against it. You’re not lazy or negative; you have less energy at this phase, so slowing down is a good thing. It doesn’t mean you have to stop working; it could be about adding some meditation into your day or getting to bed earlier. It’s also the phase when we can address problems, rather than try to swallow them. This might mean that you’re a great problem-solver at work, or you can clearly see what’s not serving you in life.
By allowing this phase to happen, you can actually create great changes in how you manage endometriosis. Experience your pre-menstrual phase and notice how you feel. Is your PMS really bad? If so, what has been happening in your life earlier in your cycle? What have you been eating? How are your stress levels?
So yes, there is a science here that means we’re more likely to feel these kinds of emotions, but there are also ways to eat, live, and manage these symptoms to ease this phase and use it to our advantage. Now that I’ve made the changes that were brought to my attention during my autumn phase, my cycle is better than ever.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.