If The Pandemic Has Impacted Your PMS, You Aren’t Alone

Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy and PeopleImages/Baac3nes/Getty

Since the summer, I’ve gotten my period every two to three weeks. I feel it coming in hot and I know it’s not going to be pretty, and it feels as though I have zero control over my body and mind.

It starts with a sharp pain running through my head (something new), I get incredibly constipated, then the next morning I’ll have cramps; something I haven’t had for almost three years because I’ve had an IUD.

But that’s not the worst part of it. I can deal with the physical pain. It’s the mental pain that is unbearable some days. I feel like I’m underwater and everything is going down the shitter and I lose it, then can’t seem to get my composure back.

Walking through the grocery store to see everything has gotten so expensive set me off during my last shopping trip when I had roaring PMS. I got home and my kids asked why I didn’t get everything on the list. I told them there was no way I could spend that kind of money on a bag of cookies or “the good kind of steak” they wanted. Instead, I’d gotten a cheaper cut and thought I’d marinate it to make it taste a little better. I lost it while I was carrying in the bags from the car, and my kids scattered across the house like a school of fish that’s had a rock thrown in the middle of it.

But my kids aren’t the only ones feeling the effects. My boyfriend told me I take all my stress out on him, and he’s beginning to feel like a punching bag.

I have a friend my age who said she’s been out of sorts since last fall and has lost all her motivation to do anything. Oh and also, her periods and mood swings have been the worst ever. “I bled for over a week last month,” she told me the other day when she called me in tears.

If you are feeling the wave of worsening pandemic PMS, you aren’t alone — and no, it’s not your imagination.

First of all, women have been affected by this crisis. We are worrying about money and our families getting sick more than men are, according to KFF.

The article also reports,”Nearly four in ten women (36%) and three in ten men (27%) feel that worry or stress related to coronavirus has had some impact on their mental health. Women, in general, are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression compared to men. For both men and women, social distancing could also add another level of social isolation, depression, and anxiety on top of worrying about the negative consequences of the coronavirus.”

Not only have our moods become more fragile since the pandemic, but our lives have changed more than men’s.

NPR writes, “In September, an eye-popping 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce — four times more than men.”

That means women are staying home with their kids trying to homeschool, and women are the ones responsible for everything happening in those four walls with very few ways to escape and deal since almost all of our outlets are gone. Most of the burden, and most of the changes, have fallen on us.

The stress is heavy, and it’s going to have a huge impact on our hormones, making our periods and PMS symptoms more intense.

NBC News reports that “PMS stress can manifest itself as heightened emotional swings, psychological distress and physical pain.” And the more stress you are experiencing, the more havoc it can wreak on your hormones. In a nutshell, greater stress levels = worse PMS.

Hello, pandemic PMS.

“PMS is influenced by stress hormones and insulin, including your estrogen and progesterone,” NBC News explains. “When anxiety levels rise, your body releases more of those stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, which leads to increased appetite and sugar cravings.”

And yes, this is happening to women everywhere, it seems.

“The constant barrage of fear about this virus and the uncertainty of a global pandemic is, in itself, enough to cause an increase in stress hormones,” Dr. Christiane Northrup, tells NBC News. “[I]t is no wonder that women are suffering from increased PMS.”

No amount of Midol or Lindt chocolate has been able to soothe the PMS I’ve been having this past year, that’s for damn sure.

It’s hard not to reach for the salty snacks and eat Nutella out of the jar when we feel the raging effects of our hormones — we all want, and need, some kind of comfort now.

However, Los Angeles-based holistic nutritionist and women’s health coach Katie Bressack tells NBC grabbing foods high in healthy fats protein may help. “[S]almon, olive oil, avocado — they are really good for brain function, so the more you eat, the more you can think clearly,” she advises.

If you are struggling and wondering why your menstrual cycle feels like it’s trying to kill you, it’s perfectly normal due to the new amount of stress we are under.

I realize that doesn’t help much, but at least you know the culprit. Even if you can do small things each day to manage stress, and try to get some of those stress-busting foods into your body, it can make a difference.

I’m all for trying that, but I’m not giving up french fries or KitKats anytime soon.

I need something more indulgent than an avocado to get me through this mess.