6 Self-Care Habits That Ease PMS Symptoms, According to Gynecologists
The whole point of self care is to look after your own needs—so you feel happier and healthier and function at your best. And really, is there any more crucial time to give yourself some extra TLC than in the days before your period?
About 85% of women say they deal with one or more PMS symptoms, reported a 2016 study, including cramps, fatigue, and bloating as well as fogginess and trouble sleeping. Then there's that general ragey feeling that makes you feel snappish and out of sorts. It sucks.
While there's no cure-all to keep these hormone-induced changes at bay, you can take some in-the-moment steps to ease the fallout and make yourself feel a whole lot better until your flow begins and your hormones go on the upswing again. These 6 hacks will help you get through.
Indulge in protein and fat
PMS exhaustion and irritability might be making you crave donuts hard. But these and other empty-carb sugar bombs just make your symptoms a whole lot worse, causing your energy to spike and then crash and affecting your mood, cognition, and even bloat level. “[PMS week] is often a time when we load up on the carbs, which is actually counter-productive and worsens our bloating," says Nikki Walden, MD, ob-gyn at BodyLogicMD in Dallas.
Instead, swap the pastry for hearty, satisfying meals with lots of protein and good fats—like a veggie omelet, poke bowl, chicken on a bed of greens, or a yogurt and avocado smoothie. Protein plus healthy fats (like omega-3s) will decrease inflammation and reduce muscle cramps, while the whole grains have a good amount of protein and magnesium to relax your body and manage stress levels. “The cleaner you can eat, the better you will feel,” she says.
Have an orgasm (or two, or three)
Sex will take your mind off your bloated belly or foul mood, but there's more to it than that. Touching and being touched by your partner can help calm frazzled nerves, and having an orgasm will flood your brain with oxytocin, the hormone responsible for feelings of comfort and pleasure, explains Alyse Kelly-Jones, MD, ob-gyn at Novant Health Mintview Obstetrics and Gynecology in North Carolina.
Not partnered up at the moment, or have a spouse who is unavailable? PMS relief can come from your vibrator or by giving yourself a hand.
Sweat in your favorite gym class
It might be the last place you want to go, but you’ll be happy after a sweaty workout you know you love. “30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise may help improve mood and overall sense of well-being,” says Dr. Walden, thanks to the release of mood-boosting endorphins.
So even if you're dragging and want to bag yoga or dance class, do your best to get yourself there anyway; think of it as a treat that you know will make you feel better fast. You can still veg out on the couch all evening, just a half-hour later than you planned.
Snack on almonds
These superstar nuts are loaded with magnesium, which can reduce cramping and alleviate tension, says Dr. Walden. Keep a bowl of them at your desk at work to munch on, or go with other magnesium-rich foods such as edamame and leafy greens like spinach and kale. If you're not feeling snacky, popping 400 mg of magnesium citrate during each PMS day can do the trick, adds Dr. Walden.
Add this to a long, hot bath
Heat makes everything feel better, and that goes for PMS-related cramps and tension as well. For even more relief, add Epsom salt to the steamy water. The magnesium in the salt will relax sore muscles and make your body feel happier overall, says Dr. Walden.
Tuck yourself in early
Sleep problems during PMS days are a common complaint. But if there's one time when you should really make an effort not to stay up binging on Netflix, it's during your pre-period days—when hormonal changes are messing with your energy level. A solid 7-8 hours of sleep will help you feel refreshed.
“Sleep is a natural mood restorer; when we get into REM sleep, our body can begin to repair itself to take on the next day,” explains Dr. Kelly-Jones, referring to the sleep stage that's associated with learning and memory. That means repairing PMS-related muscle soreness as well, she says.