By Auri Whitaker
I can recall countless experiences filled with pure tension and anxiety that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and thinking, “my period must be on the way”. As a person who has experienced an intense menstrual cycle since the tender age of 9, I am no rookie to the qualms and pressures of having strong premenstrual mood swings. The physical pain can be excruciating; nausea, swollen feet, walking around while feeling every symptom of a heart attack. Even more than this, the emotional pain of going from feeling tense and anxious because of morning traffic to feeling bewildered and depressed by watching Finding Nemo is overwhelming and exhausting.
Here are some tips that have helped me cope and ease the jolt of my swinging mood.
Physical activity can lift moods and decrease symptoms of depression because it helps clear estrogen from the body at the end of its life cycle. It also decreases stress-associated neurotransmitters and increases endorphins. So as tired and unmotivated as you may feel, going to hot yoga or walking around the block during lunch will elevate your mood. If you struggle with cramping during your period, Dr. Epstein suggests working intently to reduce or remove sources of inflammation from your body.
One of these ways would be to monitor your intake of processed foods, gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, soy, and eggs. Now would be a good time to evaluate if your liver is being overburdened by a diet that is filled with foods you could be sensitive to or foods that are delicious but not rewarding to your body. If you’re like most people, your eating style doesn’t cover all your bases. Supplement your diet by increasing your intake of B & C vitamins, particularly vitamins B5, B6 and B12. Your heart needs it. Your muscles want it. Your lymphatic system is begging for it. It takes some discipline, but you’ll likely thank yourself later.
We’ve been taught that moodiness is connected to weakness and hysteria. Women of color especially have been taught to hide and/or apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger, and to smile and bear all things. Julia Holland, author of Moody Bitches, discusses how modern society disrupts our natural state of being. She defines moodiness as an outward operation of tremendous wisdom. “Moodiness- being sensitive, caring deeply, and occasionally being acutely dissatisfied is our natural source of power”. Embracing the moodiness is a step towards us destigmatizing menstruation as reviewed by the inspiring Elad Schulman.
Meditation. Napping. Lounging. Visualization. All of these practices help manage our stress and control the way we view time. Women can take the opportunity to relish in their thoughts or longings rather than allow themselves to be consumed by feelings of frustration or overcome by a series of outbursts. Holland wrote about how women tend to think we can outrun the angst by staying busy. This narrative holds a lot of weight and truth for most women. Stress management is important because when stress is out of control, the immune system and nervous system experience an intense disparity. In The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions, Dr. Esther Sternberg discusses how treating chronic stress can impact everything from our personal relationships to our neural activity. Thus, developing a strategy to cope with stress can also shift your perspective of your menstruation time. It is empowering to go from someone suffering during their period to someone who views their period as an opportunity to relax and release the old. For more tangibly effective stress management techniques, experiment with cannabinoid oils or increase your frequency of orgasm. Both of which have been proven to be effective with managing anxiety and premenstrual symptoms because of their powerful neurochemical influence.
In your continued journey towards balance in mind, body, and spirit, I hope you allow yourself the opportunity to explore your body in order to understand what it needs. Experimenting with natural oils, unique therapies, or new vitamins may illicit real insights into who you are. I’ve found it useful to speak with women in my family about their experiences with moodiness. It has served as a catalyst for concern and care for women’s health in our family. We now work to keep each other updated and informed about what happens to us physically.
This also helps us be better prepared to self-advocate while at the doctor’s office because we speak from a place of empowerment and personal knowledge. This is especially important for Black women who are often mistreated, undermined, and overlooked in medical settings. Being able to feel peace within your body and mind is a dream that some women feel is far off in the distance. Holistic wellness takes some research, willingness to reach out to other women, devoted time to learning to understand yourself, and most importantly, discipline to ensure that you are always receiving the nourishment and peace you deserve. Embrace the challenge now to enjoy the balance later.
This article was originally published on Witted Roots.