PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome
The dreaded few days before menstruation.
Sneaky little b@st&*d. As I mentioned in a previous post, I use the Fertility Awareness Method for birth control. In addition to being a birth control option, FAM also allows me to know my body in a deeper way. This includes knowing almost exactly when I ovulate and when I am going to start my period. It makes sense that since I know when I am going to start my period, I should know when PMS symptoms might kick in, right? WRONG. Without fail, every month my symptoms sneak up on me like a lioness stalking its prey. It's not until I am deep into my emotional spiral that I look at my chart and think "Ohhhh! So that explains that…"
Every woman's PMS symptoms are different. Some of us experience more physical symptoms like a headache, upset stomach, backache, and acne. While others experience more mental symptoms like mood swings, trouble with concentration and memory, anxiety, and depression. My symptoms all seem to fall into the later category.
In my experience, this time of my the month is LITERALLY THE WORST. I feel and act totally out of control of my own emotions. It's like some needy 3-year-old posts up in my soul and decides to run the show for a couple of days. This is usually accompanied by feelings of "the world caving in around me", anxiety over nothing, temper tantrums, tears and occasional flying objects. God bless, Mansal's soul.
As far as I know, PMS has been rearing its ugly head since the beginning of time (or so I thought). And unfortunately, women have been using it as an excuse to act out for just as long. It wasn't until I decided to see a naturopathic doctor, that I learned most symptoms of PMS are NOT actually things that we "just have to deal with" every month, but actually symptoms of hormonal imbalance. MIND BLOWN. My doctor completely destroyed my cultural belief that "this just the way women are and we just have to deal with it."
So you're saying we no longer get to use the excuse that we're just PMS'ing? That's right, ladies. (Sorry not sorry) What this also means is that there is a cure! Treatment of PMS is more than just popping a Midol to mask the symptoms. There are actual holistic options to balancing hormones. This can be done in a number of ways, but a more holistic approach includes diet changes and occasional supplementation. My personal experience includes seed cycling to balance out estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that balance our cycle) after coming off the hormonal birth control pill. I am still struggling to balance out those nasty anxiety symptoms.
Now that we know PMS can be treated and "cured", I'd love to share with you a few ways that I stay in flow, get shit done and manage my current PMS struggles. Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional or naturopathic doctor. I highly recommend consulting a doctor should you decide to tackle PMS. Check out Dr.Merritt or my friend, Dr.Lauryn Lax.
Oh, and before I forget, we should probably address flow.
The "normal" definition, pulled from Wikipedia:
"In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity"
My definition for the purpose of this blog post:
"Being and staying in flow during PMS is more than just managing or just getting by. I am talking about flourishing during the week prior to your period. Not losing your shit. Maintaining your normal day to day and slaying the game with little to no interruption by your hormones."
Meditation and Journaling
I maintain a pretty consistent early morning meditation and journaling practice. This includes 20 minutes of meditation paired with 5-10 minutes of train of thought journaling, a 3 point gratitude practice, and a note from my inner mentor (an idea I pulled from Tara Mohr’s book “Playing Big”). I like to use the time during my luteal phase (the time after ovulation and before menstruation), to get introspective. I often take more time to myself to just do girly things and even have a good cry if I feel the need too. If you don't have a regular journaling or meditation practice, the week before your period is a good time to step up your game. Try 5-10 minutes of meditation to start and remember there are no rules when it comes to journaling, simply use the paper as an outlet to get those emotions out of your gut and into the world.
Diet and Supplements
Again, remember I am not a doctor, but I do fully believe in personalized health care and taking your health into your own hands (with the guidance of trained professionals). Aside from seed cycling, I have added a few supplements to my diet to treat and balance my hormones.
Ah, this Peruvian supplement sent from the gods. Maca is said to balance hormones naturally without mimicking estrogen, increase stamina and increase libido in men and women! While I've never experienced them myself, I've had friends experience various side effects from taking maca, so pay attention and listen to your body. I use Wild Foods maca powder and Natural Life Labs capsule maca, depending on how lazy I am feeling that day.
Since I began the fertility awareness method, my online support group has ranted, raved and praised the almighty magnesium. Whether you're dealing with cramps, sleeplessness, headaches, mood swings, anxiety or upset stomach - magnesium pretty much covers it all. Do your research, not all magnesium is created equally. Most pill forms do not contain high enough dosages to get the most out of magnesium. Because it is so hard to find magnesium with high enough dosages, I take it in a powder form. You can use a capsule machine to make your own, but again I am lazy and throw back the powder with water before bed every night. Check out this article for a little more detail.
Aside from the fact that I am lactose intolerant and my gut simply does not like dairy (oh, but how my mouth loves ice cream…), excusing dairy from my diet has helped tremendously in clearing up my pre-menstrual breakouts and upset stomach. Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code, and hormone balance extraordinaire shares her take on a dairy free diet here.
During my luteal phase, or at least the week before my period, I tend to back off on the caffeine and stimulants. I am not a huge coffee drinker, however, I do take caffeine and other stimulants in pill and powder form as a part of my daily nootropics stack. Because stimulants tend to cause increased heart rate and various other symptoms of anxiety, I choose to not use them during the week leading up to my period. The first couple of days are rough, but by the end, my body is thanking me. It's an added bonus that by the time I start using stimulants again, my tolerance has gone down and their effects are greater.
On top of mindfulness and diet changes, I think one of the most effective and supportive things you can do for yourself during PMS is to just be kind. Personally, when I am in a spiral of emotions it is hard to dig myself out. (Props to my partner for always being there to hug and talk me off the cliff.) I have found that the best thing I can do is to be patient and kind. Beating yourself up over a reaction or outburst of emotion is simply feeding the flame and continuing the cycle. When you find yourself in a fit of rage or emotion, try (and I mean try, because I know it's hard AF) to take a step back and ask yourself what you need in that moment. Try treating yourself as you would treat your best friend after a hard breakup. "Charity starts at home", right? Listen to what your body and soul need so that you can show up for yourself, slay the day and be the boss babe that you are.
Peace, love & coconut oil