If you struggle with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and need a life preserver to stay afloat, you’re not alone. According to WebMD, up to 85 percent of women experience PMS symptoms each month. The struggle can be especially disturbing for moms, because what affects you also affects your family. The good news is that there’s help. Follow these tips to reduce the chances that you’ll end up overboard.
Chart your symptoms for three months. Use a blank calendar page to note the beginning and end of your menstrual cycle and jot down your symptoms prior to and during your period. Do this for three months or longer so you can see your personal pattern emerge and begin to pinpoint your toughest days in advance.
Identify your triggers. If grocery shopping with your kids when you have PMS makes you crazy, don’t do it. If meal time is difficult for you when you are irritable or feeling blue, ask to be excused once a month (and let your hubby make pancakes!). If hosting playgroup stresses you when you have PMS, ask another mother to help you. Though you may feel you’re shirking your responsibilities, it makes more sense to have an alternate plan than it does to set a bad example by having a meltdown in front of your children every month.
Use free coping techniques first. The following remedies are free and easy-to-use when it comes to changing your PMS response each month:
- Stress Reduction: PMS symptoms are exacerbated by stress — and what mom doesn’t have stress? Schedule yourself and your family more lightly when you have PMS and postpone making difficult decisions.
- Exercise: Increasing the amount you exercise when you have PMS is a great way to combat some of the more difficult symptoms such as depression and sadness. Exercise elevates serotonin (a neurotransmitter that allows nerve cells to communicate with one another), which influences a wide range of functions, from movement to mood. Exercise also increases endorphins that positively enhance your frame of mind.
- Sunlight: Lack of sunshine can cause a drop in serotonin. Though too much exposure to the sun can be unhealthy, just minutes a day can help keep serotonin balanced. Get outdoors as often as possible.
- Sleep: Sleep is important all month long, but when you’re premenstrual, you may experience sleep-related challenges such as insomnia or daytime sleepiness. Adequate sleep encourages serotonin production; lack of sleep lowers it. If you have young children, it may be a while before you’re able to master your sleep schedule but it’s a worthy goal!
- Nutrition: Good nutrition is always helpful to the body, but even more so when addressing PMS. Women who have more severe symptoms often are sugar-addicts or don’t eat regular meals, thereby experiencing mood swings triggered by a sudden drop in blood sugar. Focus on eating lean protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. In addition, eat small meals every three to four hours to maintain a constant blood sugar level.
See your doctor if your symptoms persist. If the above tips don’t help, take your symptom chart to your physician and ask for help. Though diagnosing PMS can be tricky, it will be easier for your physician to work with you if he or she has your history and a list of your symptoms. Medication may be an option for you. If so, know that dosages can be set low and some prescriptions can be used on an “as needed” basis.
Remain committed. Though it’s not easy to change your response to PMS each month, it’s possible. It’s important to be gentle with yourself as you work to change your personal PMS response. Kindness, more than anything, has the ability to change you from the inside out.
Mary M. Byers is a popular women’s conference speaker and the author of The S.O.S. for PMS: Practical Help and Relief for Moms (Harvest House, 2008) and Making Work at Home Work (Revell, 2009).
Do you suffer from PMS? Share your experience so we can commiserate together! Or do you have any tricks you swear by? Include those while you're at it!