After a whirlwind of a road trip in the weeks before and following Thanksgiving, I was anxious to get home and settled so that we could focus on advent and Christmas and enjoy all of our annual traditions. I know myself well enough to be realistic, and I held my plans for our Christmas countdown loosely. But I was still hopeful that we could jump into all the glitter and sugar of the season with both feet!
And sure enough, last week started out just as I’d hoped: we had fun with the simple advent activities I had planned for each day, and our excitement for the countdown to Christmas was infectious.
But as the week went on, my holiday spirit was quickly replaced by a distinctly Grinch-like spirit, and it didn’t seem like normal holiday stress stealing my joy.
By Thursday I found myself frustrated and snapping at everyone. When we came home from our annual Polar Express viewing with friends on Friday and found that the dog had eaten all of our graham cracker houses, it was really the last straw. I wanted to cry…and quit.
I woke up Saturday determined to turn things around but found myself getting frustrated at the way the kids were rolling out their gingerbread dough, dipping their pretzel rods, and pouring on their sprinkles. These can be stressful activities (“Whyyyyyyyyy are you dumping the entire bottle of sprinkles on that tiny pretzel?!”), but the strength of my emotions was just not logical.
And then it hit me.
We’d just spent 3 weeks on the road, and with a little simple math I confirmed my fear: my PMS and my advent plans had collided.
When I was planning my wedding 14 years ago, the gynecologist gave me instructions for using my birth control pills to make sure I wasn’t on my period on our wedding night or honeymoon. I think she forgot to mention that I might need to use this same method to avoid PMSing during the holiday season, and unfortunately, natural family planning doesn’t offer anything in this regard!
If you’ve found yourself struggling with hormones—whether from PMS, perimenopause, pregnancy, or postpartum—this holiday season, let me offer you some free advice (bonus points if you catch the Hamilton reference!):
1. Acknowledge it.
I don’t know why this works, but it consistently makes a difference for me. Acknowledging that I’m struggling and naming my anger, frustration, short-temperedness, or sadness loosens its grip on my emotions and helps me to make better choices. And I don’t mean just acknowledging them to myself. While that’s the first step, it’s not until I say it out loud (or text it to a friend) that it really loses its power.
2. Adjust your plans.
As much as we hate to admit that we can’t do it all, sometimes you just need to adjust your plans to keep from biting everyone’s head off. On Saturday night as I was rolling out the gingerbread dough for a second batch of cookies, I was honest with our 9 year old: “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling frustrated and I don’t want to get frustrated at you when you’ve done nothing wrong, so I just need to do this by myself. You can help on the next batch.”
3. Take a deep breath.
Perhaps the hardest part of corralling our hormones and emotions during the holidays is the frenetic pace that tends to accompany this season. There are things we feel like we need to get done and things that we want to get done, and juggling them both keeps us packed to the gills. That’s why adjusting your plans (see above) and then using the margin that buys you to take a deep breath, eat some chocolate, and reset is so important. If you don’t, it’s likely to continue spinning out of control rather than get better on its own.
4. Make healthy choices.
When I’m tired I crave sugar, and our home is full of sugar right now. But that sugar isn’t just bad for my health and the numbers on the scale; I also know with certainty that the things I eat impact how wildly my hormones spin out of control during that time of month. So when I binge on too many cookies or sweet treats, I’m more likely to snap at or lose patience with my family. This week I’m reminding myself that I really do love the taste of a sliced apple sprinkled with cinnamon as much as a peanut butter blossom. And I’m doing my best to choose the former more often!
With just 8 days until Christmas, the stress alone might be enough to make you snappy. But if you have the added bad luck of dealing with hormones, I hope these tips will help you recapture the joy and focus on the goodness of the holiday season!