Menstruation. Cycle. Period. Time of the month. However you slice it, for those of you who know all too well about what it feels like to have the universe stop at the first drop understand that this natural reproductive health occurrence is far from a walk in the park. In fact, it has the capacity to trigger constant dread and ‘PMS blues’.
Every month, countless women, nonbinary folks, and transgender men often endure the ‘joys’ that come with the respective, initial reproductive anatomy and physiology. Unfortunately, many individuals battle severe discomfort linked to endometriosis and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). These conditions often induce challenging symptoms—from prolonged irritability to lower back pain—and can disrupt one’s overall functioning year-round.
Take a moment to reflect on your own menstrual experiences. Maybe you’ve felt alone in your anguish—or even self-disgust—as the uterus, once again, sheds its lining and rocks your world in what seems like ‘perfect timing’. Perhaps you’ve combated the following symptoms: debilitating cramps, nausea, irritable bowel, and psychosis—yes…psychosis—with no relief in sight. Maybe you’ve found yourself doubled over in pain, contemplating calling first responders, or dreamt of hibernating in the bathroom for an entire week at minimum.
Whichever one of the above scenarios resonates with you, it’s likely that you’ve been ready to wave the white flag. However, are you obligated to give in so easily?
Ultimately, you may never become ‘besties’ with your period, but you can at least learn how to become a cordial acquaintance or coexist with it. Consider pairing gynecological treatment with self-help coping strategies in order to promote relief.
- Rest and Relaxation: Melt away mental and physical tension by engaging in healthy distractions, such as guided visualization meditations, to imagine yourself being anywhere else but in the bed or on the job and grappling with pain. Practice belly breathing—in through the nose and out through the mouth—to release calming endorphins into the brain.
- Mind over Matter: Recognize your inherent resilience and reframe your thoughts. Begin to practice daily, positive self-talk and acceptance well before your cycle begins. Remember that your thoughts directly influence your emotions and behaviors.
Consider shifting your thoughts from this:
Negative thoughts: “I hate my period! When will this end?”
Acceptance thoughts: “I’m in pain, but I’ve survived this before. I can do it again.”
- Nutrition: Swap the chocolate cake, doughnuts, and pizza for healthy options. Curb processed sugar cravings by enjoying dark chocolate with higher cocoa percentages to keep those endorphins flowing and stress hormone cortisol levels at bay. Consider ditching soda, caffeinated drinks, and juice for water or warm chamomile and ginger teas—minus the sugar, honey, and other sweeteners that increase inflammation. Lastly, remember that making dietary changes isn’t easy. Be kind to yourself. Take baby steps.
- Move a Muscle: Turn to stretching and physical activity in between cycles. Remember to move as much as you can when you’re physically able in order to experience a mood boost—as well as influence pelvic pain intensity, flow heaviness, and cycle duration over time. If you’re interested, consult your primary care physician, find a routine that matches your fitness level, and remember to start slow.
The above mentioned coping skills are by no means cure-alls. You may encounter barriers to application, and, even after trying all of them, you may still struggle monthly from time to time. However, the overall goal is to help you experience endometriosis and PMDD symptoms to a lesser degree.
Finally, it’s not easy to approach these self-help tips alone. That’s where therapeutic support comes in. Confide in a professional who understands and has lived it in order to reclaim your functioning each month. Let’s talk!