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PMDD Holiday Survival Guide (or any event during your luteal phase)

If you have PMDD, you're probably used to looking ahead at your calendar to see where an event or obligation falls within your cycle.
When do upcoming events fall within your menstrual cycle? You may have already looked, or perhaps you're opening up your cycle app right now thinking, "Oh sh*t...". This may be especially true if you experience symptoms during your luteal phase (the second half of your cycle between ovulation and your bleed). 
Fear not, my dear friend! You're not alone in that. With a plan and some key strategies, it is possible to not only survive but actually enjoy whatever is coming up on your calendar.
If you're feeling at all nervous about how you'll "handle" an upcoming event or obligation, follow these steps to create more safety in your body, and ultimately, within your cycle.

Plan & Cope ahead.

Whenever you're anticipating a stressful situation or recognizing that an event is occurring during a time of your cycle that's "less than ideal", the most important thing is to create a sense of safety.
What creates safety in the nervous system? CHOICE.
If we feel trapped or stuck, it can be activating to our nervous system.
The antidote? Having options. Even if it's small choices or the illusion of choice, having options helps us feel more empowered and less stuck.
As you think about the upcoming event, check in with yourself: What sensations do you feel in your body and where? As you notice those sensations, detect if there is an underlying need or desire. Do you want to move in a certain way, get out of the room, hide, punch, or scream? What comes up?
Keep that intuitive response in mind as you build your toolbox here with me now.
Plan and cope ahead by following these 4 steps to build your own personalized toolbox.

Step 1: Choose your sensory tools.

Think of the needs you detected above. Now think about what senses you're most attuned to and naturally gravitate towards. Is it sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing?
Everyone is different but most of us have one or two preferred senses that we find the most calming. Physically gather these things to bring with you in your purse. Or, mentally imagine how you would access them if you need them.
Here are some ideas for each sense. Try something from this list, or let it spark ideas of what would work best for you.


  • Soft sweater or blanket: Cozy up with something soft, running your hands over it and taking in the texture.
  • Animals: Pet a dog, cat, or even a stuffed animal.
  • Hugs & snuggles: Ask for a hug and make it last a little longer than usual to stimulate oxytocin.
  • Weighted blanket or pillow: Sitting with a weighted blanket, pillow, or even a child on your lap is immediately grounding.
  • Soothing self-touch: Massage your hands or legs, run your fingers gently up and down your arm, or squeeze and release your hands repeatedly.
  • Acupressure rings or fidgets: Keep one in your pocket and take it out whenever you need it.


  • Favorite essential oils: A drop or two on your sleeve or in an essential oil necklace or lava rock bracelet
  • Mindfully take in kitchen smells: Smell the cookies baking or the holiday foods being prepared.
  • Tea or coffee: Take in the aromatics (and the temperature) of a hot cup of tea or coffee.


  • Focus on one object: Let your eyes land on any object in the room. Take a few moments to take in every detail that object to help bring you back to the present moment.
  • Orient to the room: Let your eyes wonder around the room for a couple minutes, noticing any objects, colors, shapes, or sounds. Just observe what's around you without doing anything at all.
  • Look out the window: Do the same thing as the above but look at the window, or step outside if you can. Even just a few minutes can be regulating.


  • Noise-dampening headphones: Noise too much? Dampen the noise but still hear what's going on with earbuds like Loop or similar brands.
  • Binaural beats: Throw in those earbuds and listen to some relaxing binaural beats.
  • Orient to a favorable sound: If you're overstimulated but can't leave the room, tune in to and focus on sound you enjoy for a few moments like the rustling of leaves or your sweet grandma's voice.


  • Mindful eating: Enjoy the holiday food and regulate your nervous system by using all of these senses to enjoy the food being serve.
  • Strong mints or ginger: Tasting something strong or pungent is a sensory experience. Think strong mints, ginger chews, sucking on a lime, or mint gum.

Step 2. Have an escape route.

I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but when we are experiencing symptoms of PMDD or sensory overload, it's natural to feel our nervous system's "flight" response kick in. Our nervous system does this to protect us from the perceived threat.
To me if feels like, "I need to get out of here right now!" If that need for flight comes up in you, follow that need and tend to your nervous system.
This may not look like literally leaving wherever you are. However, there are small ways that you can let your nervous system know that you're listening and that you're safe.
If this tends to be your experience, plan out mini escape routes to protect your feeling of choice and safety. Here are some ideas.
  • Take an extra long bathroom break: While you're in there, let out some big exhales and mindfully wash your hands with warm or cold water. Take in the sensation of the water rushing over your hands and the feeling of the soap.
  • Splash cold water on your face: Reset your nervous system by splashing cold water on your face. If that's not an option, drinking something very cold or using an ice pack on the pack of the neck are great options. Want something more subtle? Hold an ice cube in your hand until it melts.
  • Change of scenery: Change rooms or step outside to give your nervous system to illusion of escape. Simply changing your location can be immediately calming.
  • Go for a walk: Walking provides actual movement away from the perceived threat along with bilateral stimulation, which is regulating to the nervous system.

Step 3. Seek support.

If you're anticipating having a hard time at an event, talk through your needs and this plan with a partner or loved one before hand.
That conversation may look something like this: "I'm a few days from my period and worried about how I'll handle the event tomorrow. This is a time where I easily feel overwhelmed. My plan is to _____. It would be helpful if you would _____. Are you willing to support me in that way?"
This conversation can be simple and brief but makes a world of a difference. It can feel tempting to deal with it alone because we don't want to negatively impact anyone else's enjoyment of an event. However, more often than not, it helps increase feelings of connectedness and enjoyment of the event together.

Step 4. Look for glimmers.

Feeling worried that PMDD symptoms will ruin your holiday, big work meeting or presentation, job interview, vacation, date night, etc.?
When PMDD symptoms are heightened, it can feeling like a black rain cloud dumping shades of grey on everything. 
Using the above strategies isn't about ignoring or brushing aside your symptoms. Rather, they help bring you back to the present moment in order to find a state of more regulation where the symptoms feel more manageable.
What else can you do? Look for glimmers to help find moments of joy, connection, and regulation.
What are glimmers? The polyvagal term refers to small cues or moments when our nervous system feels safe and calm. Glimmers can be anything that helps you feel calm and connecting, even for just a moment.
These micro-moments may be something as simple as noticing the twinkling lights on the tree, the smell of coffee brewing, the giggle of child playing, or a bird out the window. Even looking at a picture of a loved one or favorite memory can provide a glimmer moment.
Use your surroundings for a source of infinite glimmers. If you start looking for them, you may surprise yourself at how many of those micro-moments you can enjoy.
Each glimmer creates small safety cues that add up to a big impact to help your nervous system feel safe.

Write down your plan.

Now that you've read through these 4 steps, jot down some notes on a notepad or in your phone. When we get dysregulated, it's hard to remember what we intended to do, even with the best intentions.
The key to prevent yourself from boiling over while increasing your ability to feel more grounded, is EARLY & OFTEN. This helps you tune in and tend to your nervous system, all day, every day, no matter where you're at in your cycle.

Ready for real relief?

Now that you're well equipped with these strategies, you can build trust in yourself, your body, and your cycle that YOU GOT THIS. And your progress doesn't have to stop there.
Take a moment to imagine NOT having to plan your life around a tumultuous cycle? What would it be like to not check your calendar with that sense fear, dread, or panic? Instead, what it would be like to know that wherever you're at in your cycle, you can handle it? Imagine what would be possible if you felt safe in the fact that could handle any situation, even with less than ideal cycle timing, because you can pull out tools from your personalized toolbox.
And most importantly, you can feel like YOU all cycle long.
That type of relief is possible. It's what we do here all day, every day.
If you're finding that hard to imagine but also exactly what you want and need, let's talk.
Click here to schedule a Strategy Session. During our 1-on-1 chat, we'll talk through what you've tried and I'll provide my two cents on why certain things have worked or not work. Then we'll map out what our personalized work together would look like.
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*All information on this site is general information and education only and is not meant to be personal medical advice or a substitute for a medical evaluation.

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