This week has been spent in the lovely land of PMS.
I'm sure you can relate; being sensitive, feeling gross for no apparent reason, and, of course, cramps that make me wonder if maybe I should just cut the thing out. How necessary can it be, right?
I've had a Skyla IUD for the past year and by now I have very short periods (sometimes just a day! Highly recommend these!!), but I still have my share of cramps. Sitting here with my rice heating pad, growling about being a woman, inspired me to write this because while I'm not above taking pain killers I prefer natural ways to fix things, if possible, and I'm sure I'm not alone. :)
So, armed with fifteen years under my belt of trying to function in society while inwardly crying in pain, here are my 10 natural ways to relieve menstrual pain.
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1. Take 7 whole white peppercorns
This is something that my grandma taught me when I was a kid. You simply swallow seven whole white peppercorns with some water, and ta-dah! It even works on stomach-aches and upset stomachs, too!
When I had a copper IUD I had absolutely hellish period pains, and for that level, proper painkillers were needed. But for more "normal" levels, like I have now, this totally does the trick. Plus, it's super cheap! :)
2. Massage your stomach
Massages have a ton of health benefits (learn how to do a Swedish back massage here!), and especially for your stomach! When I was a kid, long before I went to massage school, a girl at summer camp taught me how to move my hand in a circle on my stomach to help with stomach aches. I didn't know why it worked, but it did!
(You're actually massaging your intestines. Do it clockwise for stomach aches and counter-clockwise for loose stomachs. :) )
This YouTube video shows how to massage yourself specifically to relieve menstrual pain. To make it even better, blend a drop or two of lavender essential oil into some oil or lotion! (Keep reading to find out why.)
3. Snuggle up with a rice heating pad
My rice heating pad is one of my favorite cozy things. Mine is tartan-patterned and rectangular, so I can rest it on my shoulders or lower abdomen, wherever it's needed. I had a hot water bottle once, but I find the rice pillows easier and less messy.
Whichever you prefer, letting the heat relax your muscles is a great way to quickly get pain relief. A tip is to have a cup of water in the microwave to prolong its life, but I never bother doing this, truth be told, and it's doing fine. ;)
It might not always feel like something you want to do, but endorphins are always great for pain relief. It also gets the blood pumping through your body which can help with the cramps. If you're not up for a proper workout, do some stretches or this gentle and restorative yoga sequence for cramps and PMS. "Bed workouts" (if you catch my drift) have also shown to make a huge difference in period cramps, and that's certainly more fun than jogging. ;)
5. Try acupuncture
Full disclosure, I haven't tried acupuncture for menstrual pains myself. But I did go weekly for a while when I lived in Ireland to help with my PTSD symptoms (I also went to a therapist and a massage therapist, it was a very holistic approach), and it was incredibly powerful. I was just shaking and crying because it released so many feelings I had repressed.
It will probably not be so dramatic if you go for cramps, haha, but I've tried it and can attest that it certainly has a great effect on your body and mind, so I'm sure it would work great for menstrual pain as well. Groupon usually has a good deal for first-timers if you want to try it out. :)
Photo by Antonika Chanel
6. Use lavender essential oil
Lavender has tons of health benefits, ranging from easing migraines, improving brain function and mental health to treating acne and, most importantly today; helping with menstrual cramps!
In this article I recommend 8 products with lavender, all under $15. Another thing I recently discovered was putting a few drops of lavender oil on lava stone jewelry, like I talk about in my article about how to reduce driving anxiety. Now I always wear either a bracelet or my necklace so I can take a whiff of calming lavender when I need it. :)
7. Drink water
It might sound counteractive, but drinking water can actually help prevent your body from retaining water and becoming all bloaty. The best is to drink warm or hot water because it increases blood flow and can help to relax those cramping muscles as well. I actually sip hot water at my desk throughout the day -- one of my easiest healthy life hacks. You can also eat water-based foods like watermelon, lettuce, and cucumbers.
8. Have a cup of (specific) tea
I love cuddling up in my papasan chair with a book and a cup of tea. Even more so when I'm on my period! Put on some cozy socks, bring a big blanket, heat up a rice heating pad and make a cup of peppermint, chamomile, or cramp bark tea. They can help with those pesky pains. :)
My friend Jody from Every Smidgen Matters highly recommends red raspberry leaf tea! She says it helps for pain that Midol won't touch. Definitely trying this next month!
9. Improve your diet
Our diets can decide so much how we feel. Eating a lot of junk food makes you feel tired and sluggish, while a well-balanced diet can leave you full of energy. It can also affect your periods! A low-fat diet (consisting of healthy fats like avocado) with a lot of vegetables is recommended to keep period pains to a minimum.
I realized just how much power foods have over our bodies when I looked more into my Lyme disease and started testing the effects. Sugar can destroy my energy for the rest of the day, as well as pasta. Even though food is something I'm struggling with at times, it's good to have an extra incentive for going the healthy route. :) (I'd say less menstrual cramps is pretty good incentive as well, am I right?)
Photo by Caroline Attwood
Stress also has major effects on our bodies. Regular meditation and journaling help to keep stress levels down, and a simple breathing exercise can show immediate improvement on your pain. In general it's a good time to relax and practice some self-care. Sometimes -- quite often -- we don't take the time we need for ourselves, so this is the perfect excuse to soak in the bathtub with relaxing music and some candles.
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Hi, I'm Erika!
I know what it's like living with anxiety and depression, but living and living are very different things. I believe in practical tips and methods, and I will use them to help you be the brave, daring, darling individual you are.
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