There have been days when I am dealing with hormones that I have felt like I just can't do human.
My legs, especially around the knees, are composed of wet sand; and the backs of my thighs ache from varicose veins accumulated over five pregnancies. My heartbeat feels erratic and racing, my chest tight. My brain is full of fog. (Sometimes I think that’s why they call it “gray matter.”) My neck has no interest in holding up my head. And my emotions are so near to the surface that if someone just looks at me funny, I will either burst into tears or become a raging shrew.
I honestly would just like to GO AWAY, get a hotel room, and sit in it – ALL BY MYSELF. I don’t want to have to talk to anyone, to have to be polite and considerate and courteous, to have to think about how to respond, to have to pretend interest, to have to smile. I definitely don’t want to have to referee sibling squabbles or supervise schoolwork. I just want PEACE, and QUIET, and absolutely no responsibility or demands–because I don’t think I can do anything well…
Does any of this sound like familiar territory to you? I know hormones can wallop me pretty severely, and they may not affect others quite so badly. But all of us women have ‘em! And as we get older they seem to get more temperamental, sorry to say. So today I want to just mention a few things I have done to help lessen or alleviate some of their effects.
Helps for Dealing with Hormones
1) Eat the right food. This is something I try to do all the time, not just when I am under the hormonal cloud. I concentrate on lean sources of protein, lotsa cruciferous veggies, and also a fair amount of good fat (which is a great excuse to eat beaucoup olives, mmmm). I avoid sugar as much as possible (although sometimes that York Peppermint Patty is too hard to resist!). I'm also trying to buy more organic fruits and veggies than I used to. Those pesky pesticides can do a number on the chemical systems in our bodies. Recently I've read The Sugar Impact Diet by JJ Virgin; I recommend it for a great eating plan that does not leave you hungry.
2) Eat frequent food on hormonal days. Did you know that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a symptom of PMS? If we are eating right, on normal days we should not be having the sugar lows that will cause shakiness and irritability—but on PMS days, it's still a possibility, at least for me. So I will indulge myself with more healthy snacks on those days. This keeps blood sugar levels more stable, which helps keep ME more stable, lol.
3) Try to get enough sleep. This one can be tricky, because the days before my cycle starts can be insomnia city. It has helped me to work on my sleep habits all month long — getting off the computer/other media at least an hour before I want lights out, not drinking liquids after 6pm or so, having a bedtime routine that tells my body that it's almost time for sleep, etc. More sleep in my bank coming into hormonal time means that I will ride out the bad nights more easily.
4) Exercise regularly. This has been HUGE for me. I sometimes think I exercise now more for the mental benefits than the physical. It definitely helps with overall stress levels all month long, and that means that I'm not arriving to those bad days with an adrenal deficit. I have tried many types of exercise and have settled on three days of burst training on my mini-trampoline, alternated with three days of light weights, each week. I actually hardly ever get all six days in (true confessions here), but striving for that is what keeps me consistent. If I only scheduled three days, then knowing me, I'd end up with only one or two… and feel like a blob…
5) Take supplements. I personally take vitamin D, magnesium, and a B-50 complex. The magnesium has made a major difference in how I feel about things from day-to-day; I am much more relaxed, less uptight, less prone to snap. I am obviously not a doctor, and it is always important for anyone to do their own research, but this is what has helped me.
6) Drink lots of water. Again, I really try to do this all the time. The liver needs help doing its job, which is to keep hormones in balance, among other things. When the body is not getting enough water to flush out all the other nasties, the liver has to work on de-toxifying those and can’t efficiently eliminate the excess hormones. I do know that I always feel more energetic when drinking plenty of water, any time of the month.
7) Pamper myself. Do I need an excuse to do this? Not usually… :-) But on those bad days, I do try to take it easy on myself. Sometimes that means I delete a few things from my to-do list, so that I can squeeze in some breaks (or even a nap! What luxury!) during the day. I try to reduce my expectations for how crazy my life can be that day. Sometimes I just cannot adjust my commitments, and I have to bite the bullet and somehow get through; but most of the time there are things I can reschedule so as to give myself more margin to get over the hormonal hump. (Women working outside the home, chime in here: can you find ways to edit your schedule in the workplace?)
8) Do something fun. I’ve never been able to accurately predict my bad days; but sometimes, when I have woken up and seen the lay of the land, I have scrapped school and used our season passes to the local theme park instead. It’s a distraction, a way to get my mind off myself, a chance to stop looking at the same four walls. Other times I'll call a friend for lunch or read a good book. I'd rather my kids see their mom happy but maybe letting the housework/school slide a little, than irritable but on top of all the chores…
9) Get dressed. OK, I don't always do this. Sometimes staying in the jammies all day is just the way to go. Or maybe sweats. :-) But sometimes it helps to put on makeup and do my hair. Passing by a mirror is so much more pleasant that way! And at least no one else will know just by looking that it’s “that time of the month.” Remember Billy Crystal in Fernando's Hideaway? He used to say, “It’s not important that you FEEL mahvelous, only that you LOOK mahvelous…and YOU LOOK MAHVELOUS.” Sometimes that's my mantra.
10) Choose to think on the truth. This is probably the hardest, but perhaps the most important, thing that I try to do on these days. I cannot let myself go down the path of self-pity. One of my friends calls PMS “poor me syndrome” because often that is one of its worst manifestations. The truth is that it is JUST my hormones causing these feelings; the people around me have not all of a sudden become impossible to live with from one day to the next. They still love me; and I still love them, whether I feel like it or not. I need to just be patient and wait it out; tomorrow (or the next day) everything will look much better. This is what I tell myself morning to night on these days!
11) (Yea, I know the title says 10 — consider this a freebie!) Pray, pray, pray. All day. God understands our struggles; He will help if we ask with right motives. I definitely do not have the strength to get through these days on my own, so I lean on His.
I do feel blessed to be a woman. I would not give up the privilege of being the wife to my husband or the mom to my kids for anything in the world. We have been given these hormones for very good reasons! And learning to handle their effects is part of growing up… and just when we might have it figured out, it's time for them to go the other way, lol! That's what's been happening to me lately: hot flashes, irregular cycles—but that's a topic for another post! :-)
I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas out there for how to deal with hormones; share yours in the comments!