I started my period when I was 12 and I’m 42 now. Here are some things I’ve learned. I hope it’s helpful to someone. This is just my experience and my point of view, and I know not everyone will be able to follow this advice because of their life situations. If anyone else has any tips I’d love to hear them.
If over-the-counter painkillers are not enough to build your periods pain-free, talk to a doctor- more than one if required in order. When I was young, physicians is saying that period ache was part of being a woman. I wish I’d told them that treating pain is part of being a doctor. It wasn’t until I was 27 that I was prescribed proper ache relief – first of all Mefenamic Acid and now Naproxen( I’m in the UK ). If I take them at the right time, my periods can be almost pain-free. Stress makes tension in the body, which can worsen pain. My period pain is a very sensitive barometer of how emphasized I am, e.g. my pain is always worse if I’m at work rather than at home in bed. The day I move city I had some of the worst period pain of my life, and sometimes if I feel myself getting emphasized about something, I can feel my period pain getting worse at the same time. If you get bad period pain, it might be worth thinking about what you can do to construct your life less stressful or even stress-free. Everyone’s different but here were some of the things I did to reduce my stress: running, meditation, working part-time, working from home, moving to the countryside, having therapy. Prepare for your period. This is an easy way to take some of the hassle out of periods. Devote a drawer or shelf to period paraphernalia and make sure you always have plenty of analgesics, tampons/ sanitary towels, pants, heat pads, chocolate, publications- whatever you need to get through it. If you know your period is due, sleep on a towel for got a couple of nights- having to wash your sheets is going to induce you resent your period even more. If your period is regular and painful, keep your diary as clear as is practicable for the days when you are likely to be in pain. When you’re in pain, you need to take care of yourself. It doesn’t matter that it’s “just” your period, that it happens every month, that some other women’s periods are easy. A body in pain needs care. If you want to cancel social schemes, do it- no remorse, you are in pain. I’ve called in sick to every task I’ve ever had because of period pain and my managers have only ever been sympathetic. I’m in the UK and I know some countries are less tolerant of sick leave, but if your manager wants you to work when you’re in pain( which will probably induce your pain worse) think about whether you want to work for them. If you live with someone and it feels appropriate, ask them to help you: to bring you a hot drink or a hot water bottle or to induce dinner. It’s usually said that pain x resistance= suffering. In other words, the more we resist our ache, the more we suffer. I agree with this because I experience it every month with my period. If I tense up against my pain, get angry with it, hate it, try to push it away, thrash around, scream and shout, it induces the pain much worse. If I’m able to stop resist it and relax my body, the pain mitigates. If I’m able to take it one step further and embrace the ache( so, the opposite of resisting) it mitigates even more. By embracing it I mean that I imagine the pain like a visitor that I’m welcoming and espousing. It voices odd but it’s a well-known method of pain management – it’s just very hard to do. There is still a lot of taboo and privacy around periods, which stimulates having a period infinitely harder. Try being honest with people when you cancel plans/ call in sick and say it’s because of your period, rather than inducing something up. If people hear it enough times from enough people it will stop being taboo and we can all relax a little more instead of having to pretend that periods don’t exist. PMS( mood sways and other symptoms in the week or two before your period) can also be exacerbated by stress. My personal experience is that hormones+ stress= PMS. If you experience bad PMS and you feel your moods are out of control, again it might be worth looking into ways to reduce stress in your life. I used to get extreme PMS, because I was extremely emphasized, and since I constructed the changes listed below I rarely experience PMS, and if I do I can usually pinpoint what’s stressing me. Remember you don’t have to have a high-powered undertaking or seven kids to be stressed- some of us find ordinary living very stressful. Periods are crap but they can teach us a lot about self-care. Every month our period challenges us to take care of ourselves- can we do it? Can we admit that we’re suffering and let ourselves rest? Can we put ourselves first, even for merely a few days? Can we be honest with people and ask for help? Self-care is extremely difficult for some of us, but it’s one of the most important life skills we can learn.