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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPRM chapter.

Dealing with a loved one’s PMS is not always an easy task. Urban Dictionary defines the detrimental phenomena as: “A powerful spell that women are put under about once every month, which gives them the strength of an ox, the stability of a Window’s OS, and the scream of a banshee. Basically, men’s worst nightmare.” Exaggeration? Probably not. I’ve suffered my share of monthly death; so have an estimated 85% of women in the United States. People around me have also suffered my monthly death, may they rest in peace. Getting up with an aching, breaking back, and revolting cramps is not the way to start any day, or carry on through it for that matter. It takes heaps of will to get from one corner of the room to the other, and more than a little strength of mind to deal with stern professors and insensitive due dates.

But as we all (should have) learned in Sex Ed, although seemingly chaotic, this is just the regular process of hormonal changes a woman’s body goes through when it’s preparing for reproduction. In a nutshell, during the menstrual cycle, a whole array of different hormones (the chemical messengers in our body who order around changes, such as estrogen) are produced to get the body ready for baby making. It is because of these chemical changes in our body that  we are left with the physical changes that destroy us. That being said, menstruation should be a beautiful thing that reminds us of the wonders of reproduction!…right? No.

After you’ve been beaten, stabbed, and trodden down on for 1-2 weeks prior The Period (#ofgreatdepression), PMS quietly sneaks away once bleeding, the fun part, begins. Of course this all very much varies from woman to woman, and how long PMS is suffered after bleeding seems to depend on how highly the heavens think of you.

However, to say the changes in our bodies are limited to bloating, nauseating cramps is a massive misconception. One of the greatest symptoms (and it should be stated it IS just a symptom and not the definition of it) of PMS is probably its most characteristic: mood swings – or in some severe cases, personality disorders.

Mood swings are known as that thing that makes us howl in the cold dark night. They are what turn an innocent bystander into traumatized, begging preys. They are all the confusion and stress that make us question our existence in this world and then force us to cry during Harry Potter marathons or old Friends reruns. So if they’re so commonplace, why write about them? Well, to some degree PMS merely consists of some basic symptoms such as those stated at the U.S. Department of Health’s webpage:

• Acne

• Swollen or tender breasts

• Feeling tired

• Trouble sleeping

• Upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea

• Headache or backache

• Appetite changes or food cravings

• Joint or muscle pain

• Trouble with concentration or memory

• Tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells; nxiety or depression

However, it is the last point that can become a serious problem to a lot of women, mainly depending on the kind of medical history that surrounds them, and acknowledging this is necessary.

Roughly 10 % of all women suffer from PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. The disorder is sort of like PMS on speed, encompassing all the previously mentioned symptoms and inflaming them. Most of the symptoms, though, are completely neurochemical and involve the suffering of panic attacks, frequent crying, feelings of despair, and even contemplations of suicide – basically little things that can completely paralyze your day to day. What this means, essentially, is that every month, one has to go through the craziness of deadlines, work, college, the future, while breaking down periodically for inexplicable and all reason.

In the scope of things, it may not seem like such a foreign problem; we all have our crying days and we all crumble down, but suffering from severe emotional activity on such a periodic basis can turn a seemingly normal process of the human body into a crippling psychiatric problem in the long run. “It definitely makes things harder than they should be,” says Yadira Peña, a third year industrial engineering student who suffers from the disorder. “That whole emotional battle can get very exhausting when it happens every time someone is just being careless or funny.”

The symptoms also provide an obstacle during class times. “Lack of sleep and oversleeping is the worst (because of the depression). I miss out on my classes, and even interacting with my friends.” She currently takes medication to stabilize the chemical imbalances while seeking treatment from professionals. “I find ways to deal with it. This way I can work with myself on the inside so I can do all the things I’ve set out to do in my life, and not let some silly mood swings ruin that.” Women who suffer from this range from all ages, but are more likely to have histories of depression or anxiety disorders. Needless to say, college is a pretty optimal environment for discovering either.

The culprit behind all this, once again, lies during the prepping for menstruation. Chemicals in the brain, such as Serotonin (the chemical responsible for things like mood and social behavior) go on a rollercoaster of alterations as the body prepares for reproduction. Levels of Serotonin that go too low are usually linked with depression. Ergo, funny business with your hormones causes funny business in your brain which in turn can lead to feelings of extreme sadness and anxiety for an undefined amount of time. For these reasons, women who may feel that they suffer from any of these symptoms often need to consult their doctors for antidepressants such as Zoloft, or proceed to further their treatment seeking therapy and stress management groups.

So without further ado, here are some antidotes to ease the blow of emotional vomit, as well as physical torture:

Exercise to energize– As much of an oxymoron as exercise and period cramps sound, it’s been proven that physical activity actually eases the cramping and lessens heavy flow. As of consequence, studies have shown many women who work out during their period have witnessed drastic lessening of symptoms. Physical activity also eases the mental state (acting as a much needed opium for mood swings). Exercising helps the release of your-friendly-neighborhood-superhero: endorphins- chemicals that react with the brain to “reduce the perception of pain and trigger positive feelings in the body.” If that doesn’t sound like the loveliest, most harmless non-synthetic drug, I don’t know what does.

Noteworthy Examples: yoga, high intensity jogging/walking, Zumba dancing

Diet like a dame– The week before your period is crucial when it comes to diet. Eating foods that are high in salt (sodium chloride) can actually accumulate your fluid retention and worsen swelling, all of which aid in the terror that are bloating and cramps. Also avoid high sugar foods since these may alter cramps and aggravate your mood. Finally, make sure to maintain a regular eating interval (yes, even while juggling that crazy schedule) and snack often. This can tone down the random cravings, nausea, and even lessen cramps while ensuring there are no sudden spikes in your blood sugar.(P.S: Low blood sugar = crazy raging woman on the loose)

Noteworthy Examples: whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, beans (high in iron)

Beware the forbidden liquids (coffee and alcohol)– ‘Tis a real struggle for any college student or proclaimed workaholic, but caffeine can turn an already sensitive digestive system into an exploding bomb. Most importantly, caffeine can highly increase levels of depression, tension, and anxiety. Alcohol is another forbidden liquid in the realm of PMS. Research has shown women are more more likely to turn to alcohol during the premenstrual week than any other week of the cycle due to the changes in hormones and mood. However, this could make the after effects double in seriousness once the bubbly effects wear off and only end up aggravating your mood.

Don’t drink him.

Center your zen– As stated just about everywhere in this article, the most damning culprits in this ordeal are hormones. Best to work around them, then. Look for outlets that help you relax and ONLY relax (leave the multitasking for simpler days). Taking 30 minutes to lie still under the sun and meditate, or listening to your favorite album may do wonders for the mind and the body. Even using the mighty powers of a coloring book may help you feel more centralized and less unbalanced.

Noteworthy Examples: girls night out/in, yoga, good dose of Netflix

Rest is for resuscitation– This may seem pretty obvious, but sleep deprivation is a big no no during the Crimson wave. Getting plenty of rest (as well as plenty of exercise) is essential to recover from bloating and other painful symptoms such as constipation and mood irritability. In addition, women who tend to experience heavy flow can be at risk of lowering their hemoglobin levels causing them to experience more than normal amounts of fatigue and sleepiness.

It all boils down to birth control – Birth control is probably menstruation’s best kept secret. If you’re not a usual birth control user, oral contraceptives may be a good option when suffering from extreme symptoms, since a lot of these tend to block or at least reduce many of the symptoms associated with menstruation. OC’s tend to stabilize the hormones making your monthly crucifix almost unnoticeable when taken the correct way. Doctors recommend Yas or Yazmin for severe premenstrual symptoms, since both are known to be effective against bloating and mood swings. A good list for finding out what birth control is best for you can be found here

There are many other different types of methods to deal with pre period symptoms not listed here, such as taking vitamins and certain kinds of herbal teas (having children is sometimes known to stabilize and reduce a great deal of symptoms but perhaps this is a tad extreme of a solution… ).The important thing, though, is to be aware and fully informed of the various kinds of processes that go on in our bodies as well as the antidotes to dealing with them. Hang in there…only a couple decades ‘till menopause and it’s over..

…at least one pleasant thought comes out from this…


Dealing in the dark arts of words and self induced life crises since 1995. Also, Tina Fey is my spirit animal. 
Her Campus at UPRM