PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, affects about 85 percent of menstruating women — so statistically speaking, you probably don't need me to tell you that PMS is just the absolute worst. And if the headaches, cramps, bloating, joint pain, cravings, acne, nausea, increased anxiety and irritability weren't enough to make PMS freaking horrible, the fact that PMS can start a whole two weeks before your period and then stick with you until it has ended can make it nearly unbearable — and make finding effective ways to hack your PMS essential. Since PMS can take such a physical, mental and emotional toll on us, it's important to know how to deal with it.
Fortunately, although there's no real cure for PMS, there are several ways to keep PMS from running your life every month and making you feel completely awful. If you suffer from PMS, just know that you're not alone, and that there are ways to make your PMS symptoms more bearable.
Here are nine PMS hacks that should minimize your symptoms and make your life just a little bit easier. Because if we put our lives on hold every time PMS hit us, we'd basically never get anything done.
1. Put Sleep Before Netflix
This is certainly easier said than done, but when you're PMS-ing, it pays to make getting enough sleep a priority. Obviously, getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night isn't always realistic. But try to save your late-night, binge-watching sessions for when you're not dealing with PMS. You may also want to focus on doing everything you can to get a good night's sleep, since many women report sleep disruption as a PMS symptom.
So get as much sleep as you can when dealing with PMS, because skating by on only a few hours will worsen the anxiety, irritability, and sadness that comes with PMS. It'll also make it harder for you to focus throughout your day.
2. Eat Bananas & Kale
We should all probably be mindful of how we're fueling our bodies, no matter what time of the month it is — but there are certain foods that are particularly beneficial to menstruating women during their PMS window. Lean meats (like turkey, chicken and lean beef) can help with the lethargy often brought on by PMS; fiber-rich, complex carbs such as whole-grain breads and cereals can help keep your blood sugar even, which may help with your mood swings and cravings; and eating lots of fruits and veggies (particularly bananas and green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and romaine lettuce) can help with everything from the sleep disruptions brought on by PMS to the hormonal acne that can crop up right around your period.
3. Get At Least 2 1/2 Hours Of Exercise Every Week
Working out is probably the last thing you're interested in doing when you're feeling crappy, but exercising while you have PMS can improve your mood and, ironically, help fight fatigue. Additionally, exercise should be a regular part of your life throughout the month (not just during your PMS window) if you really want to reap its PMS-hacking benefits.
Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week — and don't feel like you have to work out super hard in order for it to help, either. A brisk walk and some light strength training will suffice — but heavy workouts a few times a week are great, too.
4. Try Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Just as you'd want to be cautious when trying out new medications, checking to make sure that you're not allergic or extra-sensitive to any component of them, you'll want to be cautious about trying out herbal remedies, too — just because something is from the health food store, doesn't mean that you can't be allergic to it. And if you are on a lot of prescription medications, you may want to talk to a doctor about introducing an herbal remedy into your routine. That said, red raspberry leaf tea is definitely worth trying the next time your PMS symptoms flare up.
Red raspberry leaf tea can help with PMS because it works to relax your muscles; it can also help with diarrhea, urination, heavy periods, and vitamin deficiencies. You should be able to find the stuff at your local, organic health food store, but you can also order it online if need be.
5. Have One Drink Instead Of Two
Unfortunately, all the tastiest and most fun foods and drinks can wreck your mood at any time of the month— and they generally tend to worsen PMS symptoms, too. Alcohol can deepen depression, sugar can intensify cravings, salt increases bloating, and excess caffeine can make you irritable. Of course, all of these things are OK in moderation, but keep in mind that if you overdo it, they can make you feel much worse than you already do.
6. Figure Out What Your Go-To Stress Relief Move Is & Do It
Practicing yoga, keeping a journal, meditating, coloring once in a while, getting a massage, taking a bubble bath, napping, and even just talking to your buddies are all great ways to de-stress in general that can also help you fight the emotional effects of PMS. So, figure out what your go-to de-stressing activity should be, and use it like the PMS-crushing weapon that it is.
7. Keep Heating Pads Everywhere
If you have menstrual cramps and you haven't invested in a good heating pad yet, you need to go buy one, like, right now. I can tell you from personal experience it will be the best 20 bucks you'll ever spend. For me, heating pads work so well to soothe the misery of menstrual cramps that if I had to choose between my ibuprofen and my heating pad, I'd choose my heating pad with zero hesitation. Seriously, a good heating pad will change your life.
Also, you may want to keep a couple of disposable, stick-on heating pads in your purse and/or your desk at work. If cramps are a regular part of your menstrual cycle, you already know you can't be going home sick every time they hit you at work — but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be as comfortable as possible, either.
8. Take Folic Acid, Magnesium, Vitamin E & Vitamin B6
Again, just like with medications, you should be cautious with supplements. In fact, if you're on any prescription drugs, it's not a bad idea to talk to your doctor about supplements before you start taking any, because some over-the-counter supplements can interfere with certain prescription drugs. That said, supplements are also a natural, relatively inexpensive way to combat your PMS symptoms. Keep them where they're readily accessible to you, and don't forget to take them daily. Folic acid, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6 are all suggested for easing cramps.
9. Take Your Pain-Relievers Before Your PMS Pain Hits
Just because ibuprofen and aspirin are over-the-counter drugs, that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch your dosage. Never take more pills than suggested on the label — but don't wait until your headaches, cramps, or joint pain are super rough before you pop your pain relievers, either. Ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen are all recommended by doctors to help cope with PMS and period-related pain; I personally use ibuprofen when I am trying to ward off cramps.
Of course, painkillers marketed specifically for use during your period are fine, too — but keep in mind that a lot of period-specific OTC drugs also typically have caffeine in them, so if you've already had a lot of caffeine during the day or you're about to go to bed, you may just want to stick to ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin.
Unfortunately, PMS is a natural part of life, and there's no getting rid of it — but these PMS hacks should definitely make your menstrual cycle a much smoother ride.