A Calming Mindfulness Exercise for PMDD
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword these days, but for good reason. Mindfulness is simply the act of being present and experiencing whatever is happening in your mind, body, and surroundings. Such a simple act, if practiced regularly, has been known to reduce anxiety and create a feeling of stability.
As we all know, anxiety is one of the most frustrating and prominent symptoms when it comes to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It's what can make us feel out of control and wired—but completely exhausted at the same time. However, in my own experience, since practicing mindfulness and making an effort to meditate regularly, the anxiety has become an occasional and manageable visitor. Because that's all it is... a visitor.
In this article, I will describe an exercise I came up with after reading various texts and trying out different techniques. Give it a go, and see if you can experience the calming effects, too.
Before we begin, the intention with mindfulness is to NOT try and change how we are feeling
While having a play around with the exercise below, keep in mind that there is no intention to change how we are feeling.
Sometimes we talk ourselves out of negative thinking by responding with thoughts such as "oh, it will get better, there's no need to worry".
While positive self-talk can be great, it's important during this particular exercise to let go of the idea that we need to talk ourselves out of whatever we are feeling or experiencing.
Step 1: make some time and find a quiet spot
Set aside around 5 minutes or more if you can. This can be done every day, but is especially important during times of your menstrual cycle when you feel most affected by PMDD.
Sit comfortably somewhere private and quiet. You can even light a candle or some incense. Take five long and deep breaths, taking extra time with your exhale.
Step 2: feel in to your body
After you've taken your deep slow breaths, feel in to your body.
By this I mean, check in with various parts of your body. How does your back feel while you're sitting down? Are there any sensations in your head? What are they? Do you feel warm or cool?
Just say to yourself quietly or in your mind "my head feels heavy" or "my feet feel cold."
Simply notice and feel these sensations in neither a negative or positive way.
Step 3: recognise your emotions
What is on your mind? How does it make you feel? Common feelings during PMDD could be:
- "I'm feeling so alone."
- "I'm so tired of feeling unappreciated."
- "I am worried that I could lose my job."
- "I just generally feel so wound up."
Say these feelings, worries or emotions quietly to yourself or in your mind. There is no need to put a positive spin on them or tell yourself it will be okay, just acknowledge them.
You may find that as you acknowledge one or two, more emotions come to the surface. Keep on going until you feel like everything you need to recognise has been acknowledged.
Step 4: explore your emotions further
With each emotion or worry, you can dig a little deeper and explore why you may be feeling this way.
For example: "I'm feeling so alone" could become "I'm feeling so alone because my family members don't understand what it's like to have PMDD."
"I'm so tired of feeling unappreciated" could become "I'm so tired of feeling unappreciated because as a child I did my best, but my parents never accepted me for who I was. Now as an adult, my partner is behaving the same way my parents did."
By further understanding each emotion and feeling, you come to a place of acceptance within yourself. There is still no need to positive self talk, it's just about acceptance and understanding.
Feel the calm
It may be instant or it may take some time, but after trying out this exercise you may find that a sense of calm washes over you.
By giving yourself permission to feel and understand yourself more, it creates a better connection and reliance on yourself. And by not attempting to change anything, it allows things to just be as they are without that pressure to try and "fix" everything.
When you practice this PMDD mindfulness exercise often enough, you will find that it becomes second nature to you. You could be walking home one day feeling all fired up, but then automatically go in to this mindfulness mode and experience a softening of whatever it was you were experiencing.