Whimsically running around beaming with joy, perfectly at peace with no speck of distress whatsoever — the women in period commercials look like they have descended from god’s favorite planet. In reality, it’s highly unlikely to find a woman even remotely close to the like. Case in point: my period cycle includes a good three days of whimpering in pain, followed by intense research to concoct a contingency plan for the coming month. And yet, every month sees the same set of events. The statement rings true for a heck lot of people I know.
I’ll leave out the google stats. It feels like a bit of a stretch, but I once read somewhere that there are people who actually googled if someone has died of period cramps. Honestly, it’s not even a tad bit surprising. There’s the excruciating pain of cramps twisting every bit of the insides of your abdomen. And then there are the spinoffs — sore boobs, skin breakouts, backache, mood swings, and whatnot, altogether making the time of the month utterly horrifying. What makes it even worse is the stigma around menstruation and the tragic need to look and act normal around people. Well, that’s a topic for another day.
Through years of enduring and a handful of heuristic attempts to escape the period dread, I’ve discovered a thing or two that works well for me. Ahead, there’s a list of things (some obvious, some not so) that make my monthly slightly bearable. Read on!
Heating pad to relieve period cramps
I can attest that a heating pad / hot water bag works better than over-the-counter medicine for instant cramp relief. The latter takes at least an hour to kick in. Heating aids come in several forms – hot water bags, electric heating pads, heating patches, etc. I use a simple hot water bag – heat water (more than lukewarm, less than burning hot), fill it up, lie down on the bed, and place it on the prime area of cramping – in my case, under the abdomen. Heat does wonders. It increases blood circulation and relieves muscle spasms too.
The only drawback is that you can’t carry it around everywhere. Some brands like Nua and My Carmesi have introduced self-heating patches which are portable, sleek, and discrete. I tried one from Nua recently, and it was a bummer. The heat it generates is too mild for someone with intense cramps fighting demons. However, it’s likely to work for mild cramps, though — the product reviews say so. Maybe it’s too soon to judge in one use.
Ditch caffeine for hot teas
Many people regard an extra cup of coffee as the perfect cheerleader for bad days. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but coffee makes bad days worse if you are someone who experiences period cramps. No, really! I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but I was starting to become one with 1-2 cups of coffee every day some time ago (while my usual per week intake is 2-3 cups, tops). I distinctly remember experiencing severe cramps in the following cycle. I dug up on the matter to find out that caffeine causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), slowing down circulation, and making cramps outrageous. Sugar with caffeine is even worse, as sugar is notoriously known to cause inflammation. Then there’s lactose (in milk coffee) which worsens symptoms like indigestion and bloating. All the main ingredients of coffee have the opposite effect on your body than what could be called ideal.
I substitute coffee and sugary drinks with hot teas whenever I can — think ginger, chamomile, mint, etc. They’re soothing and have a calming effect on both the mind and body. I particularly love chamomile and fenugreek tea on my period. You should try them too!
Cut down on spicy food
Spice is the heart of Indian food, there’s no denying that. I love spicy foods and the sheer pleasure of bragging about my spice tolerance. But now I find them repelling on my period after having suffered multiple times. If you already experience bloating and diarrhea during your period, let me tell you, spicy food is only going to aggravate these conditions. It also conjures a sharp pain and burning sensation that wreaks havoc on your normal functioning. Spicy foods are a big NO for down days. In fact, it’s better to part ways with spicy food a week ahead of your cycle to subdue PMS symptoms.
Tackle the period mood
My period self is not the usual me. She’s cranky, sleep-deprived, extra emotional, and hates people. The wave of emotions menstruation puts us through is hilarious and sad at the same time. To tackle delicate moods, I like indulging in a bunch of activities that, over time, have transformed into my period routine. Hot showers are the first. Not to mention, they’re refreshing and help reduce cramps. Next, I resort to dim lights and comedy movies. Even the slightest triggering makes me cry, and the internet confirms it’s safe to blame the hormones. So I actively avoid talking to people and strictly stick to indispensable interactions. Stand-up comedies and sitcoms are a great distraction (Brooklyn 99 fans, unite!). Some days, I muster up some patience and indulge in quote-unquote self-care sessions that involve sheet masks, loofahs, nail paints, and the like.
It’s a lot more manageable when you call in sick from work though it’s not always feasible. Period cramps are a nightmare, quite literally. They keep you up and rob you of your precious sleep. When I’m at home, I try to squeeze in some hours and sleep in short windows during the day whenever the cramps subside to meet my daily sleep hours.
Just being okay with staying lazy and relaxing is the trick to sanity. Looking healthy is not the goal; being healthy is.
How do you deal with period woes? Do let me know in the comments.