PMS, or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, is the monthly bane of many of our lives. Hormone fluctuations (i.e., the decrease of oestrogen and the increase of progesterone, and the reduction of the neurotransmitter serotonin) before the onset of menstruation can cause the lowered mood, irritability, food cravings, and other symptoms of PMS. Decreased serotonin is linked to feelings of depression and hopelessness, which may account for the feelings of sadness and higher emotional sensitivity during PMS. So, there are real biological reasons for feeling awful just before your period! While there is no real way of preventing these unpleasant symptoms, there are a few ways to enhance your mood and take your mind off of the way you feel.
Mood-enhancers for the PMS blues
It’s no secret that a major symptom of PMS is sadness, and a feeling of mild depression. You can improve your mood in several different ways, depending on what you enjoy, and what you feel you need.
- Dark chocolate: Chocolate cravings during times of PMS have a scientific explanation! Low serotonin during PMS can lead to a lowered mood, and so we crave foods that help our brains produce serotonin. Luckily, dark chocolate happens to be one of these “happy” foods! Just a few blocks of cocoa rich dark chocolate (i.e., kinds containing 75% cocoa solids or more) can have a significant positive effect on your mood.
- Cathartic emotional movies: Sometimes the emotional sensitivity during PMS can lead to an unstoppable urge to cry. Watching emotional movies can channel this hormonal sadness and release it in a positive way. If you start to feel suicidal or especially depressed (or if your PMS makes your existing depression worse) contact someone. In a small percentage of women, PMS depression can be debilitating, and even life-threatening. So, if it feels worse than usual, keep a close eye on it.
- Pamper yourself: When you feel down, doing something a bit special for yourself can help to raise your mood. Have a piping hot mustard bath to ease any aches, paint your toenails, or read your favourite book with a cup of tea or coffee at hand.
Even your favourite snack, or a hug from a loved one, can make all the difference on a bad PMS day. The more aware you are of your moods, and how you feel during the week before your period, the better prepared you can be. Get some supplies, be prepared for a seemingly unexplained dip in your mood, and don’t feel guilty for feeling vulnerable. Before you know it, you will feel just fine! (before the next month, at least)