I always hated the big fuss people made over PMS. I never had it myself, and sometimes I wondered if these women weren’t just bitchy and sad in general, and looking for an excuse to let it all hang out once a month. Besides, didn’t they know that this did not look good for our gender? How was I going to scale the heights of engineering if all the men I worked with were waiting for me to go crazy once a month?
Then I got older. And I thought that maybe I noticed a little difference. But I tried to write it off to other things, important things that would throw anybody off. Like only getting a small fry when I clearly ordered a large.
Finally, as I’ve gone all peri-menopausal, I’ve had to admit that fluctuations in estrogen are having an effect on me. (Before everyone who has known me writes in to remind me that it’s not like I’ve always been sunshine and roses, I’ll admit to my long history of unpleasant behavior. But it’s qualitatively different now.) In the past, only those I loved a whole lot got to experience my less admirable qualities. Now, I find myself feeling furious at the nice lady singing to her baby in the checkout line.
For a while I was wondering if the stress of homeschooling was putting me over the edge. Other times, I tried making a mental list of all of the ways that Jeff has failed me as a husband. Surprisingly, that didn’t make me feel better. In the end I had to conclude that it was me. My body is changing and it’s drag. Especially for the boys, who need me to be a peaceful, gentle teacher.
Guess what Dr. Ratey, whose book I have been reviewing for a week, suggests for all of this hormonal instability. That’s right, exercise. I won’t bore you anymore with a long list of neurotransmitters and other mood-stabalizing brain chemicals that are effected by exercise in ways that smooth out your hormones. (After my sister called me out as a poser several posts back, I’m trying to be more careful.)
Instead, I’ll say that the doctor lists lots of impressive studies that were published in lots of fancy journals that all say that post-menopausal women who exercise have fewer instances of heart disease, breast cancer and stroke than those who don’t exercise. (These diseases are almost unheard of in pre-menopausal women because of estrogen.) Exercise also increases brain volume and seems to fights against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
His recommendation for pre-menstrual, post-menopausal, and any other woman experiencing hormonal fluctuations? At least four days a week of activity that will get your pulse up to 60-65 percent of your maximum heart rate. And you need to keep it up there for an hour. That’s less intense than his recommendations for other diseases and disorders.
That’s right, I’ve got a list these days. But don’t worry. You’re not on it.