It’s that time of the month again and you can barely get up of bed.
Period turns you into a sloth, and not a cute one. Your eyes are puffy, your skin looks grey, you hair has never seen worst days and you struggle to do anything that requires concentration or any sort of physical movement.
And it doesn’t end there. You can’t sleep because the cramps are too painful, you can’t seem to find a position that eases the pain and when you do it’s always an uncomfortable one that makes sleeping even harder.
And then PMS hits you. You either cry at anything and everything or you shout at it because you feel too much anger towards anything and anyone that’s in your way. Hormones hormones hormones.
Ah girl, I feel you.
Today we’re here to discuss a few remedies I’ve discovered in my years of pain and ruined relationships… But first, let’s start with the basics.
Causes of period pain
Not all women get cramps the same way. Some lucky ones go through this time of the month like it’s nothing, and some less lucky ones are bed bound from the pain.
This can depend on various things like genetics, reaching puberty at a very young age, not doing enough exercise and drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs. The first two things we can’t do anything about unfortunately, but the rest we can work on.
Cramps normally last between 2 or 3 days starting from the first day of period, but some women also get them before the start of their period and these women often have PMS symptoms too.
PMS stands for pre-menstrual syndrome and it’s the acronym used to describe the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that often occur before a woman’s period. They’re also known as PMT (pre-menstrual tension). They can last up to two weeks and tend to slowly fade away when period starts.
PMS symptoms can be extremely debilitating and, in the worst cases, can destroy your life balance and even your relationships.
The symptoms are many and they include: bloating and cramps, headaches and migraines, backache, muscle and joint pain, breast pain, insomnia, nausea, mood swings, anxiety, lack of concentration, confusion, clumsiness, tiredness and fatigue, food cravings or appetite changes, loss of libido and decreased self-esteem.
Most of us are familiar with these symptoms and can somehow deal with them. But there’s also a small percentage of women whose symptoms fall under a slightly different acronym: PMDD.
It stands for pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder and, in short, its symptoms are very similar to those of PMS but more exaggerated and often more psychological than physical.
This includes feeling depressed or hopeless, extremely anxious and angry, not getting any sleep and feeling really down with very low self-esteem. It’s a lot more similar to depression than PMS and it often has to be cured with anti-depressants.
The usual remedies
For those who don’t know, it’s still beneficial to share the usual remedies. These are the first and main things/changes you should be thinking about.
- reduce bloating by eating smaller meals and more frequently, avoiding salty foods
- reduce tiredness, fatigue and headaches by drinking lots and lots of water as it’s easier to be dehydrated during period
- reduce cravings by eating lots and lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains
- reduce psychological effects of PMS by eating calcium-rich foods (like dairy foods – but not chocolate!)
- calm your mood and raise your energy levels by avoiding caffeine, chocolate and alcohol.
I personally can’t stress this enough: don’t drink alcohol prior and during your period. Try and avoid that as much as possible. Being hangover not only makes your cramps 10 times worse, but it gets all the water out of your body and leaves you feeling more tired than ever. And drunk + hormonal is never a good combination!
- Exercise is something that you should be doing every week and not just during your period, as doing it only during your period will make less or no changes to your symptoms. Exercise at least twice a week every week should be your goal. The best workouts in this case are yoga and pilates, as they also reduce the stress levels.
- Medical treatments should be taken lightly and for some of them you have to consult a doctor. These include:
- combined oral contraceptive pill
- oestrogen-only patches and implants
For more information you can visit the NHS page about PMS. If these don’t work well enough for you, then continue reading.
My PMS and my remedies
Because I’m not a doctor, I won’t be talking about PMDD and I’ll only touch on those remedies that I’ve helped me deal with my PMS.
Before I tell you my secrets, I should start by saying that my PMS is on the verge of being PMDD. It has ruined relationships in the past and made it very hard for me to being able to leave the house at all – for work or for fun. It came very close to driving me to actual depression and I like to think I’m the opposite of depression. It gets worse when I’m in a love relationship, as I tend to take every little mistake to the next level and become someone I’m not. My PMS develops especially in being continuously sad, sadness that then turns into crazy anger. In short, I become a monster and I can possibly ruin someone’s life.
I very recently managed to find a way to deal with it without having to take any anti-depressants. These remedies sometimes work and sometimes don’t. They’re not miracles and I still get annoyed very easily and often anxious, but all this also depends on the actual situations your living in your life. If my life is in a calm and steady state, these methods work like miracles. If I’m not stable in my life, then it’s all for nothing (or not enough, at least).
Breathing & Relaxation
I don’t practice meditation, at least not yet. I’ve tried but it doesn’t work for me as I don’t easily switch off and I get bored of it after the first minute. Instead, I practice breathing techniques and relaxation.
Breathing is part of relaxation and it’s not our normal in-out mechanism. It’s diaphragmatic breathing. It’s similar to taking deep breaths but more controlled. It uses the diaphragmatic muscle which separates the chest and the abdomen. Breathing like this translates into your ribs expanding as the lungs are filled with air and the abdominal organs being massaged by the diaphragm muscles. This is used a lot just in or just before a stressful situation i.e. public speaking
Relaxation relies on good breathing techniques and it entails actual physical exercises to release the tension and stress from parts of your body. In case you don’t know, in fact, every emotion takes its toll on different muscles of your body. This is a topic that requires a blog post on its own really, so if you’re interested in knowing more then let me know in the comments below!
This has changed my PMS-borderline-PMDD situation. It consists of natural pills that you can take the whole month or even just on your period only. I take 3 a day during my period, depending on what I have to do, and one or two outside my period (if I remember). If taken continuously, it’s massively more effective, of course!
This helps will all the worst symptoms of PMS, like mood swings and the general ‘who am I/what’s going on’ state. It can be bought easily online or in store at Holland & Barrett, or any other natural shop of your liking.
I’m also aware of St. John’s Wort, which is another natural remedy that is actually often prescribed for depression. I’ve never tried it myself for the simple reason that it’s stronger than a normal natural remedy and I would personally almost categorise it under a medical treatment. If you use the contraceptive pill, also, taking St. John’s wort will make it useless as it interferes with the contraceptive ‘bit’!
This is so important in life in general. I call it contemplation but everyone calls it a different way really, i.e. ‘unwind’.
For me this means going out of the house to sit down in front of nature. Taking it all in and not thinking about anything.
Living in Brighton, I personally go sit on the beach when it’s quiet and I stare at the sea. Or I go to Stanmer Park and sit on the grass or walk through the forest. Or I’ll go to Beachy Head…
The point is I literally seat/walk and watch the nature around me. I contemplate how small I am compared to it and take in all it has to offer me. Completely on my own and at least for a good hour, it helps with the losing touch with reality that PMS often provokes.
This is a bit controversial and maybe a bit weird for some of you. It also only works if you’re in a relationship really…
But having sexual intercourse during period helps reducing the pain and the horrible cramps. Of course the positive effects don’t last for very long, but I mean… It’s worth it whichever way you look at it!
If your partner doesn’t mind, then give this a try and you’ll want to continue for the rest of the day!
Again, this is another one that needs a blog post on its own (comment down below if you’re interested in one!) – but it’s worth mentioning a few essential oils that work in favour of all the ladies and their PMS struggles.
If you know how to use essential oils, then these are some that are used for the most common symptoms. If you don’t know how to use them, don’t just buy them – it requires some kind of knowledge, believe me!
Mood swings – geranium, cardamom, lavender, coriander, angelica, cypress, cedar-wood, linden blossom, helichrysum.
Fatigue – lemon, petitgrain, basil, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus.
Lethargic depression – grapefruit, cypress, rosemary, melissa, helichrysum, peppermint, clary sage, eucalyptus.
Anxious depression – melissa, cedar-wood, lavender, chamomile, bergamot, marjoram, nutmeg, ormenis flower, valerian, lemon, orange.
I hope some of you will find this useful. Comment down below if you have any other tips and recommendations!