Which Came First, Stress or PMS?

That time of the month. Our monthly friend. A visit from Aunt Flo. The lady in red. No matter what we call it, menstruation is a potential source of monthly stress for almost half a woman's life. Menstruation is often accompanied by discomfort. PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, can cause additional physical discomforts and emotional symptoms such as irritability, sadness, depression, anger, or exaggerated emotions of any kind.

Serious cases of PMS can be treated medically. If you get just a little emotional, a little bloated, a little achy, or gain a few pounds every month before or during menstruation, the best thing to do is step up your stress management efforts in a few specific ways that emphasize self-care.

You might notice that many of these steps are basic stress management strategies you can do at any time to help relieve stress, but if you've been forgetting, this is the time to reinstate your good habits:

  • Be sure to drink those eight glasses of water to combat bloating.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed early.

  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, and saturated fat.

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You need the fiber and you'll feel more balanced.

  • Drink extra milk and eat more yogurt. Studies show that calcium may be among the most effective treatments for the symptoms of PMS.

  • Take it easy. If you really don't feel like staying out late or pushing yourself, don't.

  • Relieve cramps by curling up in bed with a heating pad, a cup of herbal tea, and a really good book.

  • If you don't like taking pain relievers or prefer a more natural treatment for the discomfort of PMS and menstruation, try evening primrose oil, dong quai, blessed thistle, kelp, raspberry leaf tea, or Siberian ginseng. (If you are taking other medications, check with your doctor to make sure these herbs won't cause adverse interactions.)

  • Soak in a warm bath.

  • Take ibuprofen (like in Advil or Motrin), which can help relieve cramps.

  • Meditate, focusing on relaxing and warming your abdominal area.

  • Get a massage.

  • Research woman's history. What a good time to celebrate being a woman!

  • One week after your period is over, do a monthly breast exam. Report any suspicious lumps, thickening, or changes to your doctor.

And don't forget that yearly pelvic exam! One of the best ways to stay healthy is to catch health problems early, when they can be treated much more easily.

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