This has been a highly requested topic by my friends and readers. And before the boys turn away from this, thinking this is a “ladies problem” and “doesn’t concern me”, please skim through to educate yourselves. I promise that your mystery musing about why sometimes you fail to understand women, would be answered to an extent too!
Menstrual cycle is not the same for everyone, and neither is how the PMS affects everyone. PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome. It is a range of symptoms that one goes through before the period strikes. Its like how you look forward to your trip and feel that energy and high during the weeks leading up to the actual trip! Except there is mental stress leading up to a week of pain/cramps/physical irritating discomfort instead. Every month. And you DON’T look forward to it.
The more annoying symptoms most commonly affect the reproductive age group severely i.e. mid 20s to mid 30s. I don’t know who those lucky females are from the tampon commercials who conquer the world extra hard on their period, and more power to them! But majority of us just sulk and go through crappy moods during this highly unpleasant monthly routine.
The first and most important step to deal with PMS is identifying the pattern and recognising the signs. And knowing that sometimes it lasts for almost 10 days to 2 weeks rather than the usual week leading up to the period. As we grow older and/or have children, many women see a change in the way their hormones act. The symptoms we experience could be a few of those right here. Quickly noticeable and bothersome ones include:
– unusual sleep patterns
– craving unhealthy food
– Breast tenderness
– unreasonable emotional outbursts
– constipation and other gut issues
– skin issues like your customary PMS pimple
Typically, feelings of “what is even the purpose of life?” “what is the purpose of MY life?”, “do I even have anything to look forward to and live for?” “nothing interests me/excites me” are also experienced by some. They are short-lived, unexpected and hit you out of nowhere. I personally experienced a lot of these without any idea initially. I would get weepy and feel hopeless, lost and unhappy without any idea why. And then when the period came, my mood wondrously did a complete flip! Took me a while to realise that it was the PMS: now in Industrial Strength!
If you already suffer from clinical mental conditions such as Depression, Bipolar disorder, Anxiety etc., then the PMS will amplify the conditions to cause depressive phases
Did you know that statistically, depression in women is much more common than in men (article here)? Especially after puberty. Culture and sexual bias along with inequality play a huge role in this skewed indicator; and hormones take it up a notch. In some women, the PMS can hulk-out and manifest as the Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD has been described as PMS on steroids. I personally may have experienced this a few too many times and hence discovered the existence of PMDD in the first place.
In some women, the PMS can hulk-out and manifest as the Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder
If you already suffer from clinical mental conditions such as Depression, Bipolar disorder, Anxiety etc., then the PMS will amplify the conditions to cause depressive phases. Similarly, if your existing mental health is suffering stress and anxiety due to any life situation, that will be amplified too: either mentally or be manifested physically in form of aches and pains. It is no surprise that the PMS tends to pray on any existing stress and unhappiness. If you are strongly excited about and engrossed in something passionate, you may not experience any of these symptoms at all!
I have had a few random cycles go extremely smooth as well, typically when I am travelling. I enjoy travel tremendously, so a few weeks before is the high I ride from planning the whole thing, and then the actual travel, and then the calm post-travel. That all supersedes any PMS negativity at all. How I know this? I keep the log on My Calendar app!
The unhealthy food cravings and lethargy during the PMS, lead to more bad symptoms. We tend to skip workouts because of the hormonal laziness and bloating and also tend to reach for junk food. So if we let the symptoms take our lives over, even for a week or two, it is a slippery slope that we do not want to go down.
A few small things we could do help a lot more than we think.
So, now that we have established a sad pattern, I will share some tips that have been extremely useful:
- Period Log
Maintain a log of your Menstrual Cycle so that you can foresee the bad spell coming and be prepared. Maintaining a period log is the smartest thing all women should be doing to take control of their health. My favourite is this app for Android and this one for Apple. The apps also have provisions to record symptoms, moods, ovulation, any pills/medications that you may be taking.
- Talk to a trusted loved one about this
It is better to give your partner or your house/room mates a heads-up that your mood is acting up and that you may have bouts of extreme emotions. And that you may need help to feel better.
Carefully shop and stalk up on healthy foods and snacks so that you have something to munch on when the craving strikes. The physical lethargy is likely to make you lazy to go shop for junk. So you would just reach for whatever is in your pantry and the healthy snacks will keep the cravings away. Include healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and chia seeds because they are said to nourish the endocrine system.
- Stay hydrated
Consciously drink at least 2.5-3 litres of water. It will protect your skin and help with the bloating. It will continually recharge your body to keep feeling fresh. Detoxing with some lemon/fruit infused in water and staying away from alcohol and caffeine during this time is also effective to cleanse the system and avoid bloating to an extent.
The power of the endorphins that are released after even light workout/simple yoga (like a few poses here), is much more than any hormonal storm. Push yourself to do your workout in some or the other form. The bloating might discourage you from doing it but actually, workouts tend to relive bloating efficiently!
If something in your body hurts to annoy you a little too much and interferes with your mood or performance, do not refrain from taking a pain killer to feel better. You may also need anti-depressants (after consulting with your doctor) if you are suffering from the terrible symptoms of PMDD. It is ok to take medicines when you can’t function physically or mentally.
- Educate yourself
Knowledge is power, so read all the external links in this article to understand your own patterns better. You may relate to a few symptoms and realise that it isn’t all in your head. And first step to manage PMS is by knowing what it consists of.
- Oral Contraceptive Pills
Oral contraceptive pills help regulate the cycle and also control the Mittelschmerz. The pills do come with their own set of side effects, however if you use them to take a break for a couple of cycles, it helps reset the pattern to give some relief from the symptoms of PMS and/or Mittelschmerz.
If you are anything like me with a constant restless Type A personality, then these “episodes” feel like a WASTE of time and energy. But you know what, sometimes just riding it out and taking it absolutely slow and pampering yourself would not be a terrible idea. It is probably a sign to not feel lost and instead to just relax and recharge. An advice I still find hard to follow myself. But my boo* helps me from losing it completely.
*Husband dearest is probably the only one facing the direct brunt of my evil twin persona. But if not for his patience and constant pep talk, I may not be able to get through even a single episode. If you were to ask him, he would say I DO completely lose it. Pfft, semantics. Find you a partner who loves you through your PMS bitchiness. Now, THAT is true love.
Where’s the hygge?
This is by far the hardest topic to find hygge for. There isn’t REALLY one. The discussion just reiterates that learning and acknowledging that this is temporary and will pass, helps a lot to get through. Also, misery honestly loves company, so finding more people who relate, is actually therapeutic and gives some closure. And sometimes an active confrontation rather than passing these issues off as being crazy gives us a sanity check.