How to Self-Treat Period Cramps With Your Mind
Posted byBethany Johnson
If your painful period cramps have you trying to collect yourself each month, you may actually be on to something. Studies show that meditation and breathing exercises may be effective ways to cope with menstrual pain when Aunt Flo’s in town.1
Cramps, as you know, can effect anyone. They’re merciless. The good news though, is that they can be outsmarted by the power of your mind.
First, think for a minute about what, exactly, period cramps are. If you were somewhat awake during biology class, you’ll remember that the painful tightening of the uterus is simply muscle contractions that often respond well to treatment seen applied to athletes or muscle-injured patients. In fact, you have even more options than a sore gym rat. According to the National Institutes of Health, psychological treatments are often an effective route for alleviating your discomfort.2 Shifting your perspective to one of feeling capable and knowledgeable is the first step.
Now that you know you’re dealing with muscles — not a failing organ or mortal injury — you can treat your pain by envisioning those muscles to help relax them. No, really! Here’s how:
- Introduce yoga. You don’t need to be a seasoned yogi to reap the muscle-relaxing benefits of yoga for period cramps.3 Start with the cat, cobra and fish poses, which are especially effective this time of the month.4 Use your mind’s eye to watch the muscle tissue loosen as you hold each pose.
- Progress that relaxation. Progressive relaxation has gained popularity recently because it’s a technique experts use, but anyone can do. Lie flat on your back and close your eyes. Envision the involuntary muscles of your abdomen contracting, and gently squeeze your abdominal muscles, almost as though you’re agreeing with your uterus. Then, relax your abs and will your uterus to follow suit. Repeat. This time, squeeze just a tad harder, and when you relax, try to relax just a little more than the first time. Again. And again, each time, both squeezing harder and relaxing further, in tandem with your uterus. Working together with your body is the perfect way to convince those muscles to chill out and be cool.
- Incorporate music. Weave soothing music into progressive relaxation for period cramps. This doesn’t mean cranking the Yeezy though. It means opting for quiet, gentle tunes to calm your spirit for a change. Choose your favorite acoustic album for maximum repose, and play it before, during and after your calming session.
For more help easing painful periods, the Office on Women’s Health recommends breathing exercises.5 Here are three simple ways to get started.
- Lie down, and place one hand on your mutinous abdominal muscles, and the other on your chest. Slowly, take a deep breath, pulling in as much air as possible. Concentrate on how your tummy puts pressure on your hand as you hold your breath for just a moment. Slowly exhale. Repeat.
- While still lying down, breathe in through your nose as you count to three. Exhale in short bursts through the mouth as you count to 25, assigning each burst a number.
- Use props. Grab a straw or some kid’s bubbles and find a seat. Stay upright for this one, so ensure your line of vision is free from stressful images like heavy traffic, piled up dishes, laundry or action movies. Take a deep breath through your nose, and as you exhale, do it through your straw or blow bubbles. The measured exhalation slows your breathing, lowers your heart rate and even regulates the blood pressure, according to the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.6 Plus, bubbles. Bubbles always help.
You might not realize it, but when you’re in pain, you tend to take short, erratic breaths. Less oxygen tenses the muscles, and tight muscles while you’re bleeding … well, you know. Supercramps. So stop writhing and take back your day. These simple, totally doable exercises will get you started.
1 “Relaxation Techniques for Health | NCCIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed October 31, 2016. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm.
2 “Period Pain: Overview – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2016. Accessed October 31, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072508/.
3 “Modalities.” Harvard University Center for Wellness. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://cw.uhs.harvard.edu/tools/modalities.html.
4 “Effect of Three Yoga Poses (cobra, Cat and Fish Poses) in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed October 31, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21514190.
5 “The Truth about Pain – Women ‘s Health.” Accessed October 31, 2016. https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/assets/docs/the-healthy-woman/pain.pdf.
6 By Allowing More Air to Enter Your Body, You Will. “Breathing Techniques | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/activities/other-relaxation-methods.
- Posted by Bethany Johnson
- On December 16, 2016