What causes pre-menstrual stress, and how can you make it better?
What’s happening to my boobs?
Where are these aches coming from?
Why am I so upset about my housemate taking the milk?
Chances are that you’ve heard of the term PMS, or PMT, before. Short for “Pre-Menstrual Syndrome” – or “Tension”, whichever feels more appropriate – this is a condition that many women experience up to two weeks before their period.
While the precise cause of PMS is uncertain, it’s generally accepted that it is caused by the hormonal changes taking place in your body at this time. When a new egg is released from your ovaries around 10 – 16 days before your period begins, the balance of hormones in the body can change quite drastically. This change comes with a range of potential side-effects that include (but are not limited to) the following:
- mood swings
- feeling unusually irritable, emotional or tired
- finding it hard to concentrate
- upset stomach (including constipation or diarrhoea)
- bloating, pain or tenderness in your breasts, muscles or stomach
- trouble sleeping
- nausea (feeling sick)
- feelings of depression and/or anxiety
- increased intensity of other long-term illnesses, such as asthma or migraines
Sounds pretty rubbish, right?
PMS affects everyone differently, and can vary in intensity from month to month, just as with period pain. Many people will not experience any of these symptoms at any point during their cycle (hooray!).
However, if you do recognise some of these symptoms, there are some simple lifestyle changes that can help control the effect they have on your day: – because let’s face it, no-one wants to find themselves shouting at the microwave because it’s burnt your lunch (yes, guilty.)
This doesn’t mean a drastic change in your meal plan, but staying hydrated and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can ensure your body is at its peak to fight any physical symptoms coming your way. It probably goes without saying, but quitting smoking, or making an effort to cut down, will help a lot as well.
Whilst getting physical may be the last thing on your mind when muscle cramps hit, gentle stretching has been proven to not only help with aches and pains but can improve your mood and ease stress. It will help you sleep better too – which leads onto my next point…
There’s a lot going on inside your body right now: make sure it gets the time it needs to recuperate and leave you fully charged and ready for the next day. If you’re feeling a bit shaky, it’s okay to take an evening to yourself – bubble baths are practically medicinal, you know.
There also is a rarer form of PMS known as PMDD, which stands for Pre-Menstrual Dysmophic Disorder, when the symptoms of PMS occur with a frequency and severity that has a major effect on your normal routine.
If you are experiencing several of the symptoms we’ve mentioned for prolonged periods of time, and are concerned you may need to seek further treatment, it is worth keeping a diary of how you are feeling to see if there is a correlation with your menstrual cycle.
Whilst this is an uncommon disorder – only a small percentage of women in the UK suffer from PMDD – it is a reminder that PMS is something to be taken seriously, and you should never feel like you are in the wrong or “overreacting” for experiencing these symptoms.
Whether packing a box of painkillers or scheduling in extra downtime, most women evolve their own tactics for dealing with PMS. Even so, don’t be afraid to share how you are feeling with others – with 50% of the population going through a similar experience, I can guarantee you’ll find a helping hand…