Treat Yourself Well: Self-Compassion, PMS, and PMDD

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller April 5, 2013

Imagine: your child, or a child you’re caring for, wants to eat nothing but candy all day long, What do you do? Do you put them down and  tell them they’re lazy, irresponsible, and weak? Or do you offer them support by explaining that too much candy is unhealthy; provide healthy alternatives; and help them proactively make better choices? Of course, you would always try to do the latter, supporting a vulnerable person in need of healthy guidance. In the same way, you can support yourself through the trying symptoms of PMS and PMDD, by treating yourself with respect and care.

For instance, now imagine: you’ve just done something you wish you hadn’t done. Maybe it’s related to food, or relationships, or family, or work. How do you treat yourself? Do you put yourself down? Do you berate yourself and make yourself feel terrible? Or do you treat yourself with kindness and compassion?

Self-compassion means treating yourself charitably, just as you would always try to do for anyone you care for. Instead of berating yourself for gaining a few pounds, not getting that promotion, or having relationship troubles, you can verbally encourage yourself, realizing that no one is perfect, and all you can do is do the best you can. You can remind yourself that everyone has ups and downs in life, not to mention strengths and weaknesses.

Self-compassion is not self-indulgence. It’s more than pampering yourself, or taking yourself shopping when you’re upset, or treating yourself to sweet or rich foods after a hard day. And, contrary to what many of us have been taught, treating yourself well does not mean treating others poorly. 

Self-Compassion, Depression, and Anxiety

Have you noticed—women tend to be a lot harder on themselves than they are on others? And when you’re in the midst of a full-blown PMS or PMDD episode, it’s all too easy to fall into those self-denigrating emotional and mental patterns, where you verbally beat yourself up and put yourself down. At times like these, it can feel like you’re your own worst enemy, and certainly your own harshest critic. In fact, this kind of negative self-talk is often what is really behind self-destructive behaviors, and many cases of depression and anxiety.

But we do have the choice to be kind, supportive and compassionate—to ourselves! The irony is, women who tend to treat others with kindness and compassion often seem to treat themselves poorly and with less self-compassion. Put another way, women are taught, and tend to behave as if, they have to make a choice: to treat others well, you have to treat yourself badly, and if you treat yourself well—well, you’re just being selfish. Fortunately, new research is showing us that this is just plain false.

According to Dr. Neff, most of her patients confuse self-compassion with being or seeming self-centered. In fact, true self-compassion actually leads to greater feelings of compassion and concern for others.In other words, more kindness you show yourself, the more kindness you’ll have available for others.

A 2011 New York Times article reported on this emerging psychological field, which has been pioneered by the University of Texas professor Dr. Kristin Neff. Dr Neff has found that those who practice kindness and compassion toward themselves feel happier, more optimistic and tend to experience lower levels of anxiety and depression. That’s great news for all women, but may be especially big news for women who suffer from PMS and PMDD symptoms. When premenstrual hormones are raging, negative patterns and self-criticism tend to kick in. While you may have spent the whole month being kind and polite to others, during those few days or weeks before your period you may find yourself lashing out, being short, and sometimes just plain unpleasant to friends, family, and co-workers—and, importantly, yourself.

Learning Self-Compassion

Self-compassion doesn’t always come naturally, but you can learn how to treat yourself well, improving your own health, and your relationships, in the process:

  • Practice patience, kindness and understanding toward yourself in the face of difficulties and challenges. This actually requires practice. When you’re suffering, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and try to support yourself rather than beat yourself up. Just talking to yourself positively and encouragingly is a good first step. Don’t worry if it feels awkward or silly at first: eventually it will start to feel natural.
  • Try to see, and realize, that others share your trials and difficulties. Too often, we think we’re alone and that no one can understand what we are going through Chances are, our problems are similar to those of people around us.
  • Practice simply observing painful thoughts and feelings without comment or self-criticism, almost as if from a distance. If you can avoid getting completely caught up in them, you may be able to get some perspective and clarity about what is going on.

Practicing self-compassion leads to more, not less, kindness to others. It definitely doesn’t mean that you’re indulging yourself. In fact, it’s really just the opposite; by treating yourself with kindness, you’re more likely to treat those around with compassion, as well. And in the process, you’ll be lowering your stress level, and counteracting one of the most painful aspects of the emotional symptoms of PMDD and PMS.

 

 

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About The PMS Comfort Blog

The PMS Comfort Blog is our informal way of keeping you up to date on women’s health issues that we think are important; timely; underappreciated; useful; or just interesting. And, we’ll admit, sometimes we can’t resist poking some good-natured fun at the way the mainstream media portrays health, natural health, and women’s health issues. As always, we’d love to hear from you and are interested in knowing what you think and feel about these or other topics. Leave a comment for us, we’ll always respond. And, if there’s a women’s health topic that’s of interest to you, or that you find confusing, let us know! We want this blog to be helpful to you.

 

Dr. Daniel Heller is the primary author of this blog, the developer of our PMS Natural Relief Programs, and the founder of www.pmscomfort.com. He is a holistic naturopathic doctor in Northern California with over 16 years experience helping thousands of women recover from PMS, PMDD, as well as helping women, children, and families find natural answers to all manner of health challenges.

 

PMS Comfort is here to support you with detailed, practical knowledge presented in a balanced manner you can trust. We are committed to educating, informing, and empowering womenregarding PMS, PMDD, and women’s health, and to providing natural relief for premenstrual symptoms.

 

 

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