Premenstrual syndrome is a common phenomenon of menstruating women, affecting nearly half of all women. About 3% to 8% of women will develop the most severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. No one knows the exact reason why some women get PMS and others do not, but it is believed to be related to an individual response to the high estrogen and progesterone levels in the second half of the menstrual cycle.
Common premenstrual symptoms include physical bloating, anxiety, depression, cramps and headache—all symptoms that can lead to difficulties in concentration, irritability, and difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships during those weeks. Stress seems to be one of the major triggers to getting PMS symptoms in susceptible women.
Sources of Stress
Stress can happen in any part of our lives. We can have money troubles, clashes at work, relationship difficulties or just an imbalance between work and play that can affect our levels of stress. Traffic jams, hating our jobs, being too busy, the kids, the house, the spouse, can all be sources of stress, even when we are generally happy with our lives.
When we don’t spend enough time in leisure activities or try to stuff too much into our day, we can suffer from increased stress. Stress is more than just a mental phenomenon.
It results in physical changes in our bodies, particularly from increased levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol from the adrenal glands. This triggers a constant state of “fight or flight” in which we are edgy, tense, and ready to flee or fight our imagined enemies.
Study On Stress And PMS
At least one study revealed that women who felt excessive amounts of stress during the two weeks prior to the menstrual period suffered from more severe attacks of PMS when compared to women who did not experience stress during those weeks. In other words, they experienced more bloating, cramping pelvic pain, sadness, headaches, crying spells, and other depressive symptoms, typical of PMS.
It is difficult to know which comes first. For example, stress can worsen the perception of PMS symptoms in women who are prone to the condition. The symptoms of PMS, on the other hand, can be stressful so that women who experience them can become more stressed out than women who don’t have strong PMS symptoms.
Ways To Manage Stress
There are many ways women can combat the stress of PMS and its other symptoms. Some of these include the following:
• De-stress your life. Find better ways of coping with family, work, and financial stressors by lessening your workload at work, communicating better with loved ones, and trying to manage your life on the budget you have. These things can make your life less stressful and can bring about bodily changes that influence PMS.
• Try yoga. Yoga is the practice of doing several poses while focusing on posture, balance, and breathing. A half hour or hour of yoga, every few days can help; you feel relaxed and can improve your mood. All these things can diminish your perception of PMS symptoms and can reduce the chemical changes leading to stress.
• Exercise. Just taking a half hour brisk walk, swimming, or taking up jogging or biking can reduce your stress level and therefore your symptoms of PMS. Try taking up an exercise habit at least a half hour per day and you’ll feel that the PMS symptoms are tolerable.
• Biofeedback. This is a more high-tech way of handling stress. It uses variables in your heart rate and respiratory rate, among other things, to train your brain to control them. When your body is exhibiting normal vital signs, you feel better and the subjective feelings of stress are decreased. Improved PMS symptoms naturally follow less stress.
• Meditation. This is a centuries’ old practice of focusing on progressive muscle relaxation and slow breathing techniques that turn your focus inward, causing a reduction in stress and an improvement in PMS symptoms.
Some women need medications, such as SSRIs, complex B vitamins or benzodiazepines to control their PMS symptoms but the vast majority of PMS sufferers can reduce the impact the symptoms have on their lives by practicing healthy lifestyles and the techniques listed above.