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PMT: How to manage your emotions in leadership

Sarah Macarthur-King

Being a leader has its challenges.

We are called upon to be consistent and professional, which for some of us, can seem almost impossible when ‘that time of the month’ kicks in. Last time I checked, ‘psycho’ is not a leadership quality. Thanks Mother Nature…

I’ve noticed in the last six months, a pattern of madness that grips me in my business. This pattern takes the form of about three weeks of genius, of creativity, of social spontaneity, of gratitude and excitement; followed by a week of frustration, doubt, lethargy, procrastination and analysis-paralysis.

During this short period, everything seems to go wrong, my mind cannot seem to solve problems logically and I literally feel like a pressure cooker about to explode. I analyse what I am doing wrong and why nothing ‘feels right’. I feel doubt in everything and procrastinate. My husband looks at me with a cocked eyebrow when I start rambling, trying to solve this mysterious problem. Then, my period will show up and everything changes. It feels like a fresh day in spring, the fog in my mind lifts and all is well in the world again.

I noticed this pattern after a few months of having a few bad weeks where my creativity just got smashed. I’d try and fight it and think there was something wrong with me and think that action was the solution. I’d grind myself to a state of exhaustion and fall down in a messy heap of emotion and frustration. Then I’d take some time off, get my period, then feel much better.

After experiencing two unattractive mini emotional meltdowns that I originally attributed to working too hard, I decided to pay particular attention to this cycle and conduct a human experiment on myself. The results are not surprising, but are noteworthy enough to share with other women who can relate.

The first thing I noticed is this; this cycle is definitely linked to my hormones. No brainer, right? Secondly, I’m in sync with the moon. No joke. That crazy week is the same week as the full moon. Next, it’s very challenging for me to differentiate between the fear and self doubt I experience when exploring unchartered territory and the self doubt and inner chatter that comes with a drop in progesterone and estrogen.

When I’m experiencing fear and self doubt without PMS, my head is clear, and although I feel anxious, I feel more close to excitement. I’m comfortable around anyone and thrive with the challenge. This contrasts with the fear and self doubt I feel with PMS where my thoughts tend to circle the drain, I catastrophise and find the problems in everything. I want to avoid everyone and hide and I don’t make any progress.

The important thing I have realised is that although I feel like the only way out is to escape or make a decision, that actually, the opposite true. I have to let it go and notice that nothing has changed externally. The only thing that has changed is the way I am perceiving my environment or problem (which isn’t actually a problem…the way my brain is trying to process the problem is the problem!).

Eight ways to negotiate the PMT rollercoaster

After conducting this experiment, I have become pretty good at detecting that very first thread of negativity that creeps along, signaling it’s that time again.

For those of you out there that can relate, here are eight tips I use to successfully negotiate this monthly ride.

1. Become mindful and notice how you are thinking and behaving.

Noticing the pattern is the most important part to compensating for the negative thoughts and behavior.

2. Don’t make any critical decisions.

If they are that critical, waiting a week won’t hurt. If you do have to though, enlist someone you trust to run it by for a sanity check.

3. Go easy on yourself and don’t push yourself hard to get out of the state.

Accept it and let it be. It’ll be over in a few days.

4. Talk about it

Communicate to your nearest and dearest when you experience a particular emotion, “I’m not angry at you, I’m just grumpy”.

5. When trying to solve complex problems, just let them go for a few days.

Let your unconscious mind work on them until you feel in a more productive state to conquer them.

6. Acknowledge that you’re not really stressed.

You just have PMS and it will all be better in a few days.

7. Acknowledge that the world has not changed on the outside.

Your perception is what has changed. It will revert to a more positive perception in a few days. Let it go.

8. If all else fails

Watch movies, get some quality time with your peeps and eat chocolate!

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Sarah Macarthur-King

Sarah Macarthur-King is an Executive Coach and Founding Director of Invictus Coaching Solutions. 20 years of working in male dominated organisations, such as the British Army, Australian Defence Force and Work Health and Safety focused industries have provide her with the experience and knowledge to assist corporate women or female business leaders maximise their leadership presence. More about the Author

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