How to overcome that feeling of ‘Too many brain tabs open!’

That week before your period can be such a challenging time, especially if you have an important deadline or competition to achieve. This isn’t always the case, but other events occurring in life can make this much harder.

The week before my period I sometimes describe as having too many tabs open in my brain, I can’t work out what to prioritise, how to accomplish anything and end up feeling like I am not achieving anything. Although it would be great to prevent this feeling, when significant life events happen (e.g. moving house, loss of family member, job interview, major competition, exam…) it can be hard to prevent symptoms. For me these symptoms usually are feeling overwhelmed, agitated, loss of motivation, tired and generally I feel like I can’t be bothered!

Most of the time I am aware of managing these different events to prevent it affecting my menstrual-related symptoms, but sometimes its not possible. I like the bucket analogy; if one extra thing gets added to the bucket that I hadn’t expected, it can cause the contents to spill over. Well sometimes that happens, those events I hadn’t prepared for can tip me over and my symptoms feel so much worse.

Over time I have become aware of this and I would like to share some top tips on how I manage these situations.

Step 1

First of all you need to know your symptoms caused by the menstrual cycle, as I have mentioned above I know my symptoms of lacking motivation, feeling overwhelmed, agitated and tired. This is my indicator that I am out of balance with managing everything. If I experience these symptoms I check my handy app to see where in my menstrual cycle I am to work out if its related to my menstrual cycle. Week before my period, hell yes this is all mounting up together. It may take a while to work out your symptoms, this was definitely not something I achieved in 1 day or 1 menstrual cycle it has taken time to become aware of myself.

Step 2

Once I have checked in with myself and symptoms I am experiencing I can put things in place to help manage this. So, here is what I do the week before my period when my symptoms are much worse:

  • Make a list, I need to get some things out of my head.
  • Plan what I am going to do each day, this is with work and deadlines but also the simple things, when is best to do a food shop, walk the dogs, do some exercise, call a friend. Even those simple things written down help clear my head.
  • Sometimes I plan all these details in for the whole week if I am particularly struggling
  • Within my plan I include things that will help me manage the symptoms, otherwise everything that makes me feel better normally gets dropped due to low motivation. For me this in walking dogs, going for a run, yoga (tight hips makes me feel more stressed) and climbing. I write down when I am going to do these in the week, sometimes I arrange to do it with other people as getting out of the door can be such a challenge when I am tired and cant be bothered – committing to meet a friend for a run ensures I do it and guess what, once I get going I feel a million times better. I also make sure not to over commit, I plan in 15mins of yoga for my hips, the thought of doing an hour can feel overwhelming and result in doing nothing and feeling worse for not achieving or stretching!
  • Plan in my meals and make a list to go food shopping – if I don’t do this I go for the easy quick options which will be lacking fruit and vegetables, the things which will help reduce my symptoms. Therefore, I plan out my meals and when I do a food shop for the week I only buy what is on the list. This also helps me with any food cravings (add some dark choc to the list just in case!!)
  • My last priority is sleep – if I have poor sleep this week everything feels much harder. Therefore, bed by 10pm is a must for me. For some people setting an alarm at 9pm help with this if you generally find yourself going to bed later than planned.

A key factor for me is to be aware of myself and also be kind. Being kind to yourself is important, give yourself a break but also think about how yo

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Dr Natalie Brown

Hey! I am Natalie, a research associate exploring all things menstrual cycle and sport related, whether that is Olympic performance or factors affecting participation in physical activity. When I am not talking about the menstrual cycle, I love climbing and being active outside. I have a background in physiology and research related to hormonal responses in athletes (male and female), combined with my own personal experience in sport, I am passionate to share information on the menstrual cycle with you.

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