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6 tips to reduce the severity of your PMS symptoms

Woman hiding under her bed covers with devil horns drawn behind herYou’ve effectively screamed at every single member of your beloved family, and you’ve spent the last week parenting through gritted teeth.

You feel so highly strung and filled with rage that you want to punch a wall!

And today, it all came crashing down. You picked a fight with your husband over a wet towel he left on the bathroom floor. You threatened your six-year-old with the waste disposal of his favourite toys if he didn’t pick them up immediately. You made a fool of yourself at work, because you started crying over the photocopier that got jammed.

And now, you and your three-year-old are huddled together on the dining room floor, crying your eyes out.

Poor Josh got yelled at for tapping his favourite blue spoon on the dining table while you were preparing dinner. “Josh stop tapping on the table please!” Josh stops for a total of three seconds but then resumes tapping.

“Josh PLE-EE SE stop tapping!!” Mummy clenches her teeth, and takes a deep breath. This time the silence lasts a total of six seconds. The tapping starts over again, and Mum snaps! “Now that’s ENOUGH!!” Mum stomps over to Josh, snatches the spoon from his pudgy little hands, and throws it across the room. As it slides across the dining room floor Josh’s upper lip trembles, and within seconds of the spoon coming to a halt he breaks out into an almighty cry and has a breakdown. Mummy feels horrible and has a breakdown too! Now both are left huddled on the dining room floor desolate, confused and in desperate need of cuddles.

The above recount of the daily life of a mother with PMS may seem somewhat comical but when that horrible woman is you, and the victims are your innocent children … it’s really not so funny at all.

No one can deny that being a mother is one the most tiring jobs there is. Being the best mum you could possibly be involves you being at your best psychologically and physically, almost all the time. Unfortunately, for many mums this is not always possible.

For two weeks of every month, many mums are tackling symptoms of PMS. In fact, experts have concluded that women who have had children are at a higher risk of severe PMS symptoms then women who have not had children.

Furthermore, the experts says that the more children you have the higher the risk of more severe symptoms. Age is also considered a risk factor, with women older than 30 being at higher risk.

So for most of the month you are superwoman, managing it all with precision but there is a week or two where your mind is not as sharp as it usually is, you’re feeling physically weak, and your emotions are dominating your actions. Your usual responsibilities are overwhelming, and normal tasks seem impossible to accomplish.

Take comfort in the fact that you are not the only mother feeling this way! It is reported that 78 per cent of all women experience at least 4 to 5 PMS symptoms per month.

There are reportedly 150 documented PMS symptoms. They range from mood swings, depression and/or anxiety, breast tenderness, fatigue, memory loss, an inability to concentrate, sense of hopelessness, heightened sense of smell, headache, constipation, bloating, nausea, body aches, nasal congestion, acne, backache, sore throat, cramps and dizziness. The symptoms are vast and varied and present themselves differently in each woman.

Here are 6 helpful tips to help reduce the severity of your PMS symptoms

1. Own it and understand it

Plotting your cycle is critical. Keep a diary, or simply mark ‘day 1’ on a calendar each month. ‘Day 1’ being the first day of your period. Having a rough idea of when you are ovulating, and when your next period is due can help you understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling. Use an ovulation calculator if you’re not sure.

Ovulation generally occurs on day 14 of your cycle. PMS symptoms can start as soon as ovulation ends, so PMS can effectively last the entire two weeks until the onset of your next period.

Knowing the reason why you are feeling so highly strung, exhausted, emotional and/ or irritable can be empowering. It can’t stop what you are feeling but it will be comforting to know that there’s a logical explanation to why it seems like your whole world is falling apart.

2. Cut out the caffeine

I know what you’re thinking … no way! Don’t mess with one of the staples from my diet!

As a busy mother, having a cup of coffee or tea is most likely the only decent break you get all day. It rejuvenates your body and mind, and helps you get back into the daily grind. But it’s important to know that too much caffeine heightens anxiety, worsens mood swings, dehydrates your body, and depletes your stores of vitamin B (which is a critical vitamin in tackling PMS).

Ideally, giving it up altogether would significantly reduce the severity of your PMS. However, this is not easy so a more realistic goal would be to limit it substantially. It is recommended that caffeinated drinks should be limited to just 1-2 per day, in the week or two before your period is due. Substitute with decaffeinated tea/coffee.

3. Look at your diet

During PMS your body is metabolizing increased amounts of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones circulate through your blood stream, and eventually pass through the liver.

When these increased levels of hormones are no longer needed, the liver breaks them down. The waste products from this process then pass through the kidney, and are then excreted as urine. The presence of these excess hormones in your blood stream places extra pressure on your digestive and endocrine system. Therefore, in the two-week lead-up to the onset of your period it is critical that you are more attentive to what you’re digesting. ‘High stress foods’ must be avoided. These include foods that are highly processed, contain high levels of sugar, artificial additives (including those in diet cola), alcohol, salt and saturated fat. These foods will only put added pressure on your already strained metabolic system. So, as much as you want to eat that whole tub of ice cream, and pig out on pizza. It’s not going to do you any good. In fact, it will only heighten your PMS symptoms.

There is also research to suggest that reducing wheat and dairy intake during the week or two before your period can significantly reduce the severity of PMS symptoms. Some women are more intolerant to gluten and/ or dairy in the lead up to the onset of their period, and they benefit significantly from eliminating it from their diet during this time. So your thinking, what’s left for me to eat? Ensuring that you have a healthy, balanced diet consisting of ‘low-stress foods’ is crucial in tackling PMS. These foods include a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, proteins, seeds, nuts, and natural oils. Despite the fact that you might be craving highly processed food, they especially must be avoided during this time.

4. Exercise

Exercise is very often underestimated as a remedy to PMS. You are so physically exhausted, and the heavy cloud over your mind is not quite motivating you to go and put your runners on. But exercise is instrumental in dealing with PMS naturally.

Exercise helps with blood circulation, and therefore helps with fluid retention. It’s been reported that women who exercise experience less intense lower back pain, and cramps. There are also the all-important psychological effects. Exercise releases endorphins which have a natural calming effect on the mind.

Furthermore, it is an outlet for any ‘flight or fight’ hormones that seem to be regularly triggered during this time. Exercise helps release these excess hormones, otherwise the agitation and tension builds up and you end up letting it out on your children, or partner. Whoever is there on the frontline! But how can you possibly fit exercise into your already packed schedule? There’s only one solution to this, you have to make time for it! You need to prioritise it and incorporate it into your daily schedule.

You do not need to join a gym, or have a formal routine. Take your children for a walk to the park, spend ten minutes doing squats and star jumps with them, create obstacle courses for the children in the back yard, and join them in completing it! There are also specific stretches that can be done to target PMS tension hot spots. These can be done anywhere!!

Get moving, especially in the week or two leading up to your period. Aim for 20-30 minutes each day. Don’t shrug it off! It undeniably will help balance your mental well being, and you are one of most important people in your child’s life so it’s very important that you’re stable.

5. Stress less

Before becoming a mother you could shrug off some responsibilities when ‘that time of the month’ came. You could spoil yourself a little, and give yourself some time out from the daily grind … go to a movie … go for long walks.

It’s not as easy to do that now. But it’s still important that you try and be kinder to yourself during this time. Going to get a massage, pedicure, or long bike ride (whatever it is that helps you unwind!) is not always feasible when you have children and other responsibilities. But you MUST try and factor in time for yourself. Even if it’s simply a long soak in the bath, or going to bed early. Let the washing pile up, and ignore that never ending ‘ to-do list’ during this time.

Seriously, let things slide! Adding stress to your already strained body is only going to heighten the severity of your PMS.

6. Talk about it

Let your husband/ partner know that you are going to be a bit more highly strung this week. Let your children know that mummy is a bit more tired and cranky than normal. And of course, seek advice from your doctor if PMS is severely affecting your quality of life, and your family life.

There are many natural supplements that are available that can help balance out your hormones, or replace severely depleted vitamins and/or minerals that are critical in tackling the physical and psychological symptoms of PMS.

There are also medications available that can help, but remember all medications have side effects and work differently for each woman.


Image credit: hasloo/123RF Stock Photo

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Chadia Sucur

About Chadia Sucur

Chadia Sucur is a mother and high school teacher. Sometimes she dabbles in writing. She takes her role as key distributor of cuddles seriously, and has recently specialised in ...

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