You know the pattern: You’re feeling productive, positive, and on top of the world, and then wham! That time of month hits and all of a sudden you find yourself watching a cheesy ’80s movie on a Friday night and making your way through an entire box of tissues and a pint of ice cream. What gives? According to Tracy Gaudet, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in North Carolina and author of the hit book Consciously Female: How to Listen to Your Body and Your Soul for a Lifetime of Healthier Living, it’s completely natural to feel more vulnerable when PMS-ing. From ovulation to the start of your period, Gaudet says, “coping mechanisms weaken, emotions run deeper, and there’s a greater need to turn inward.” But in spite of these mental hindrances—not to mention the bloating, cramping, and other annoying physical symptoms—Gaudet says there is a silver lining: “The veil between the conscious and the unconscious becomes thinner, and you gain a greater insight into your true thoughts and problems.”
Wondering why you haven’t seen the light yet? Gaudet says that many women spend most of their lives disconnected from their bodies and souls, ignoring their emotional needs and natural rhythms. “The concept of being consciously female is really just about tuning in, becoming more aware of how you’re feeling, and making choices on that basis,” she says, adding that “the more balanced and proactive you are every day of the month, the less screaming and crying will happen premenstruation.” In order to become proactive instead of reactive, Gaudet recommends embracing the feelings of introversion that accompany PMS instead of ignoring them—for example, forgetting that party (or not staying as long as you normally would), giving yourself ample time to be centered and prepared for work-related functions where you need to be “on,” and opting for more nurturing exercise (think yoga or dance) over more strenuous workouts.
In giving your unconscious a greater voice, Gaudet also emphasizes the importance of journaling. “We’re so plugged into our TVs, our computers, and our cell phones that our energy is usually focused everywhere but internally, making it difficult to cultivate consciousness,” she says. “Allowing even 15 minutes, once a day, to reflect and write on a blank piece of paper can do wonders. It’s not about reading what you wrote later, assessing, or documenting anything—it’s just the process of off-loading and creating a mind-body connection.” To get started, ask yourself questions about what fears you may not be addressing and think about fond memories or favorite pastimes you haven’t touched on in a while. Soon, you’ll gain greater clarity and perhaps even a little clairvoyance, too—at least when it comes to your own life (opening a fortune-telling business is not suggested).