A Therapist Gives 3 Tips To Help You Deal With Extreme PMS
Research explains how you can make your monthly PMS phase a little bit easier.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | March 7, 2023
Many women seek therapy to talk about their struggles with extreme PMS. They often express themselves by saying:
- "The onset of my cycle every month stresses me out. How do I avoid getting spooked about my own period?"
- "My PMS is getting out of control and it is affecting my relationships. How do I manage my PMS without ignoring my needs?"
- "I feel like I become a different person when I am PMSing. How do I remain myself and ride the storm?"
These statements illustrate how disruptive and distressing severe PMS can be for many women. It's important to acknowledge that PMS is a real and challenging experience for some women and seeking support is a valid and proactive step toward managing its symptoms.
If you experience extreme PMS, it's important to know that you're not alone, and there are strategies you can use to manage your emotions and improve your experience of your cycle. Here are three tips.
1. Understand your cycle
If you're struggling with extreme PMS, the first step in managing it is to track your cycle and become familiar with your symptoms. This means paying attention to changes in your body and your mood as you approach your period. For example, you may notice that a week before your period, you start feeling irritable or anxious, experience headaches or migraines, or have trouble sleeping.
Keeping track of these changes can help you anticipate and manage your symptoms more effectively. You can use a calendar, a period-tracking app, or a symptom-tracking app to keep track of your cycle and symptoms.
In fact, a study published in BMC Public Health suggests that tracking your period on a safe app that respects your privacy can empower women by making them more attuned to their own body and their cycle. Here is what one woman in the study said about using the tracking app:
"You do have the possibility to chart certain emotions. And I used to do that in the beginning. And then I found out that I am in a good mood when ovulating. And that I am in a bad mood the days before the period. I entered that in the beginning until I recognized the rhythm myself, now I don't have to enter it anymore."
Period tracking apps are not for everyone, however. The research also showed that some women found them cumbersome and frustrating. Here's what another participant in the study said about using the app:
"One needs at least fifteen minutes a day to enter everything [into the menstrual app], because one has to read a lot. And then to estimate the severity of one's symptoms, this requires quite a lot of time. It was also strange, because, I mean it is quite intimate. I think it is quite weird that you have to enter that into the internet again. This for sure played a role in stopping it."
2. Practice self-care
Taking care of yourself is essential when managing extreme PMS. Finding activities that you enjoy can help to alleviate your symptoms. For example, try taking a relaxing bath or reading a good book.
You could also try getting a massage or practicing yoga. Yoga holds immense potential as a remedy for PMS symptoms, according to research published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion. The researchers found that just one month of regular yoga significantly reduced premenstrual symptoms, even more than jogging (although jogging also showed benefits).
Exercise is another great way to care for yourself and reduce the intensity of your PMS symptoms. You don't have to engage in strenuous activities to benefit from exercise; even a short walk can help you feel better.
A small word of caution for anyone who equates self-care with letting yourself go. While taking a small step back and doing things you love is great for relieving PMS, binging on shows, eating unhealthy food and being sedentary for the duration of your cycle will not help (unless you have a condition that demands it). Self-care entails being gentle and still taking accountability for your health.
3. Manage stress
Stress can be a significant contributor to the intensity of PMS symptoms, according to research. One participant in the aforementioned study reported the following to the interviewer:
"I will never forget the day when it [menstruation] was eighteen days late according to what the app told me. It wasn't the fault of the app but the fault of my body … because also we had exams and the stress."
Therefore, it's essential to find ways to manage your stress levels. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga into your routine can be helpful in reducing stress levels.
You may also want to consider talking to a therapist or counselor to develop effective coping mechanisms. It's crucial to ensure you get enough sleep each night, as a lack of sleep can increase stress levels and worsen your PMS symptoms.
Every woman's experience with PMS is different, so it's important to take the time to understand your own body and needs. Don't be afraid to experiment with different strategies until you find what works best for you.