Let’s be honest, PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) is a b*tch! Every month a little gremlin (the evil variety that has been exposed to water) invades your body and completely takes over – everything! Well, that’s how it made me feel at least. Sound familiar to you?
PMS can start to rear its ugly head up to two weeks before your period even arrives. Symptoms can include tiredness, irritability, mood changes, stress, anxiety and that’s before we get onto the physical symptoms. Sounds fun doesn’t it? But all humour aside, PMS is no joke. It can get serious – really serious – at it’s severest (and speaking from personal experience) it can make you feel near suicidal.
Having dealt with severe PMS for a few years, I decided I needed to take action to gain some control back. Here are some of the tactics I use to make it more manageable and minimise the damage of Hurricane Hormones!
I know, I know, I know… I can hear you all now. Why does every piece of advice start with exercise? Especially at a time when you feel like you have the least energy ever! Because it’s been proven to work. If you make exercise a habit throughout your month (and hey, as habits go, this is probably one of the most beneficial ones to have) it can help reduce or prevent some of the symptoms inflicted on you by PMS. I have found running (read: jogging) at least twice a week has reduced the length of my monthly symptoms from around two weeks to 48-hours. This has made a massive difference. It doesn’t have to be running, any form of exercise will do. The key point here is – exercise triggers endorphins, which act as the body’s natural happy pill. It’s been proven to reduce stress, help with depression and anxiety, boost your self-esteem and improve your sleep, all things which are heightened when PMS attacks. Try it, you might not like it, but you will see results.
PMS can kind of creep up on you. You might notice one day that you’re starting to feel more irritable or snappy than usual. It’s not fun for you, but it’s not fun for the person on the receiving end either. In your defense, it’s not something you can necessarily control, I know I can’t. It helps if you have people around you who can be supportive and most importantly just that little bit extra patient with you even when they’re having their head bitten off. One way to arrive at this is through open communication with your loved ones. Something as simple as, ‘I’m struggling today with my hormones, I appreciate your understanding and support.’ can help in people cutting you a bit of slack. I’m not advocating that you should take this as opportunity to act like an outright cow for the hell of it; but it does give everyone more of a perspective on situations that arise and helps to stop them escalating needlessly. Additionally, don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m not in the right frame of mind to discuss this right now’. This can be helpful if somebody is pushing you on a subject that due to hormones you are struggling to handle well. I appreciate this isn’t something you can necessarily do when at work, but by applying these techniques where you can, will enable you to at least relieve some of the burden.
Reduce some pressure on yourself
As I touched upon above, there are some circumstances where you can’t openly communicate with people as to how you are feeling – it’s difficult to explain your hormonal state to young children or strangers (unless you’re an over-sharer). What you can do however, is look to reduce the pressure on yourself. For example, if I’m feeling highly irritable and not best placed for full-on interaction with my kids, I’ll direct them towards activities that will enable me to breathe for a bit and relax with a coffee*. I rearrange meetings or meet-ups (if I can) for a time when I know I’ll be better placed to handle them. I’ll give myself a pass on the housework or maybe order in take-away, enabling me to bank up energy to expend it on more critical things (like keeping my kids alive).
*Although I’ve said coffee, I feel a moral obligation to point out that caffeine isn’t recommended if you suffer with PMS, neither is alcohol, but then relaxing with a Green Tea doesn’t sound as comforting does it? Have I mentioned healthy eating yet as I know I mentioned take-away? Let’s just take healthy eating as a given. Moving on…
Think and then think some more, before you act
PMS does not equal optimal decision making time. When you’re feeling low, are experiencing mood swings, have no energy and just can’t be bothered; it is probably advisable to avoid making any major life decisions. It’s a bit like the drunken night out effect – where at the time it seems like the most amazing idea to suggest forming a girlband with your mates following (what felt like) the most outstanding karaoke performance EVER – in the morning, in the clear light of day (and after you’ve watched back the video), you realise your judgement was very clouded. The same goes for PMS, no matter how passionate you feel about something, my advice would be think, think some more (probably seek independent advice) and then act. It’s also potentially not the best time to start any meaningful life conversations with your partner… just saying. Thinking before you act will help to ensure you’re not left picking up the pieces when the PMS has passed.
Although unproven, you can take supplements which may help to relieve PMS. NHS Choices recommends Magnesium, Calcium and Vitamin D. Additionally you could try Evening Primrose Oil and Vitamin B6. I take Wassen We Support Monthly Cycle Magnesium-OK
Always seek medical advice before taking any supplements as alongside other medications they may be harmful.
Know when it’s time to call in the experts
If PMS is taking over your life, stopping you from functioning on a daily basis and has you feeling like no matter what you try, it isn’t making it any easier; it’s time to see your GP. When I had had enough, my GP was excellent at advising me of my options. Aside from the old favourite of good diet and exercise, for women suffering from moderate to severe PMS, you may be offered the contraceptive pill/patch or anti-depressants which have been proven to help with symptoms. The key is to be really open and real with your GP about exactly how you are feeling and the impact it is having on your life. They can then advise what might be of most help to you.
Good luck! It would be lovely to know if this helps you at all and it would be great to hear of any coping mechanisms you might use too!