I used to be confused and skeptical when I would hear women complain about their PMS symptoms, because I had never really noticed many problems within my cycle. Yes, I would get some mild physical disturbances a week or so before my period (I’m going to call her Dana for this post), but nothing too earth-shattering. However, I will never forget one morning when I walked into my twin sister’s bedroom (before we had to leave for school) and saw her on her hands and knees, attempting to crawl towards the bathroom. I was so confused and could not figure out what was going on. She could barely make out her words and instructed me to go downstairs and get her some Saltine Crackers and Advil—somehow, she had figured out that for whatever reason, Saltine Crackers and Advil was what helped her body cope during this time each month. In this state of physical fragility, her body was in so much pain, and she was experiencing such intense waves of nausea that she could barely talk and literally could not even walk. Even then, to me, it seemed like an isolated and extreme case of PMS. But the older I get, and the more women I come across, the more I realize that I am rather lucky, and that the majority of women in the world truly suffer each and every month.
Image credit unknown
My Dana pain is not exactly nothing, although I admit it is minimal compared to what my sister endures. However, several months ago, I was sound asleep and was gradually, but assertively, awoken by pain. This sensation did not exactly feel like a chainsaw ripping through my tummy and lower tummy area. But it was more like a microscopic animal with sharp fangs slowly and tenaciously eating away at my insides. I think this is a pretty accurate description for what “cramps” actually feels like to a woman. For this cramping episode, I used my go-to remedy for all things related to imbalances within the body—medicinal essential oils. To be clear, I am not talking about the oily oils that claim to be essential oils, that you can find at Whole Foods, or even most health food stores. Oily oils are mostly carrier oils with some fragrance mixed in. I am talking about medicinal oils that have been naturally extracted directly from a plant, through the process of steam distillation. With this process, the bottle of oil literally contains the blood of the plant in its purest form. I have been using Stillpoint Aromatics to purchase my oils for years, and I stand by them. Below I will give a few medicinal essential oils basics for the novice oiler. For now however, I will tell you that in that moment of mini-monster innards chomping, I got up out of bed and applied a liberal amount of both Lavender Fine and Clary Sage. Within seconds of application, my pain subsided, the innards monster fell asleep, and so did this pre-Dana-riddled goddess. I know this kind of antidote may not work for the kind of excruciating circumstances that my sister experiences, but it is well worth a try for some of you.
Left: Clary Sage flower, Right: Lavender flower.
MEDICINAL OILS 101
Here are just a few basic tips about medicinal essential oils. [I took a workshop on medicinal essential oils and am technically certified, but I would not call myself an expert. However, I know more than people who do not know, and am also speaking from several years of personal experience working with medicinal essential oils.]
- Medicinal essential oils are powerful and should be used with care. For instance, certain oils have very “hot” healing properties and can actually burn your skin if you are sensitive. Pepper, Cinnamon Bark, and Oregano (to name a few) are all very “hot” oils and burn my skin to the point where I avoid them all together. However, many people love these oils, so give them a try if you want to, as they have deep and powerful healing effects on the body. But perhaps start off applying a few drops to a test area of your skin to make sure you do not have a negative reaction.
- If you experience any irritation or burning sensations with your medicinal essential oils, do not try to rinse off with water! Water enhances the effects of medicinal essential oils and forces the oil deeper into your skin, so the irritation will actually increase if you add water. Instead, apply a carrier oil (olive oil, almond oil, sesame oil, etc.) to the area and the irritation will dissipate quickly. Similarly, if you want to increase the power of the oil you are using, apply oils to your skin before you go into a shower or bath (leave the oil on your skin for a few minutes so it absorbs a bit first, and then immerse yourself in water), and experience a more intense effect from your oils.
- Keep these oils away from your eyes and in general, any mucous membranes. Even the gentler oils will irritate mucous membranes, so be careful. Pets are also sensitive to these oils, so keep this in mind as well. My cat nephew Xavier does not come near me when I have oil of any kind on my skin.
- Order your oils from a place you feel comfortable with and/or trust. doTERRA is all the rage right now, but I have not found these oils to be effective in terms of symptom relief. This company does a fantastic job of oil mixing and they have come up with delicious smelling oil combinations that are great to use for meditation, for fun, or even for perfume. But I prefer to order my oils from Stillpoint Aromatics for my medicinal essential oil needs.
- When you are applying oils, in general, be more liberal than not. It typically takes about ten drops, for five drops to actually absorb into your skin and then into your blood stream. Some oils are very viscous and some are actually thinner than water and come out of the bottle very rapidly. So just test things out and you will get used to each oil and how to use it.
Here are a few oils that I have found to work for specific things. I keep these on hand at all times and use them on the reg, often in place of actual over-the-counter medicines.
Lavender (Fine or Spike will work, but I prefer Fine because Spike has camphor in it and smells a bit stronger): USE FOR ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING. I use for body aches and pains, upset tummy, cramps, and mood uplifting. Lavender also works well with other oils, so I might apply a few other oils and add lavender just to cap things off. I love and trust her so much. She works deeply, quickly, and goes where your body needs her to go.
Orange: Amazing for upset stomach and digestion issues. I have a sensitive stomach but also love to eat junk food. So, I will apply Orange Oil after a meal or any time my tummy is feeling not quite right. Keep in mind, this particular oil actually stings a bit, but I do not usually apply a carrier oil for this one. The stinging is mild and disappears quickly.
Cypress: This one just smells so amazing. It smells like the woods. It smells like the mountains. And this oil is amazing for grounding (if you are too in your head, having bad dreams, feeling out of touch with reality). It is also amazing for aches and pains and is anti-inflammatory, among many other anti’s. It is also great for respiratory issues.
Carrot Seed: This oil is amazing for all things skin-related. It is good for wrinkles, blemishes, marks on the skin, etc. This oil is also a great detoxifier, so apply liberally to your gut and/or liver area after a night of drinking or heavy food consumption.
Speaking of guts, since about 70% of our immune system resides within our guts, keeping this area in balance is so important, especially during flu/cold season. So, when I am feeling like I might be getting sick, I immediately douse my tummy/gut area with all of the oils I have in stock (10 drops of each oil). Most of these oils are immune-boosting, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial (the Stillpoint Aromatics website will tell you all about the healing properties of each oil, under the Chemistry tab of each oil profile), so applying these oils to your gut area will keep your immune system functioning on all cylinders.
This past November, I scraped my wrist as I was ravenously and hastily attempting to open a bag of Ghirardelli Chocolates. It sounds silly, but it was SO painful. From right to left (not sure why I didn’t organize the images left to right?), you can see the inflamed abrasion (bottom right), the bottle of carrot seed oil (bottom middle), and only a few minutes later, my skin is already starting to heal (bottom left), with little to no pain remaining.
With all of these oils, please note that not only do they offer immense physical benefits, but they are also all connected to chakras and emotions as well. So, oils used in the right way at the right time, can offer incredible healing opportunities, both within and without.
My final note about oils is that they work with your body on an individual basis, so learn to communicate with them. Your body knows what it needs and the oils know where to go and what to do, even if you do not. When you can let your natural, earth-bound body communicate directly with the oils from the natural world, and keep your mind and ego out of their way, you will reap the truest and deepest benefits from these amazing babies. Whenever I am feeling off or not well, I will stand in my bathroom and intuitively select an oil. I then open the cap and just inhale, as I ask my body where it wants me to put the oil. Often, I will feel directed towards a particular body part, like my triceps, or my upper rib cage. Pay attention to what part of your body you all of a sudden notice more than any other. That is your body speaking to you, not with words, but with energy and awareness. Trust it, follow it, and douse yourself with ten drops of whatever oil you have just selected, on whatever body part that has just made itself known to you.
Even though I am fortunate enough to experience freedom from overwhelming physical agony each month, I tend to suffer in other ways. What disturbs me most about Dana’s recurring visits, is the emotional depression I experience before her arrival. My body is also quite aligned with the moon, so often times, a full moon matches up almost exactly with the time that Dana is on her way to me. I have found that this just seems to compound my already fragile emotional state. With fragile emotions, I also experience a fair amount of fatigue. So, all together, in general, during the week leading up to my union with Dana and the fullness of Ms. Luna, I experience:
- Emotional sensitivity (often leading to tears)
- Dark dreams
- Lack of motivation
…to name a few. I am normally quite adept at managing my emotions, but the intensity level during this time is often quite debilitating for me.
Image credit unknown. Usually by the time Dana arrives, my emotions have leveled out a bit, but not always.
I have only begun to relate my fragile and negative emotional fluctuations to my hormones and cycle in recent years. I recall a few years ago when I was on a family vacation, I was so emotional that I rushed away from the family crowd, slipped into the bathroom and burst into tears. My lovely, beautiful and nurturing aunts swarmed around me in alarm and concern, as they had never really seen me like that before. I was so upset that I could not stay in the house or be around people and I insisted on leaving, to their dismay. In that moment, the only source of comfort I gained was when I thought to check my menstrual calendar (app) to see where I was at in my cycle. It was a week before Dana’s expected arrival, and I had noticed that the month before, around this time, I had experienced a similar outburst. For some reason, this was comforting to me; to know that I was not crazy, or that the thing that set off my tears (I am sure it was boy related, but I can’t even remember) was not actually the source of my anguish. It was bigger than that. It also gave me hope that these rough emotions would eventually pass. Which now brings me to my suggestions about how to cope with these emotions.
Honestly, it is so helpful to keep a track of your cycle, and an app is just easy because most of us have our phones with us at all times. I personally use an app called My Calendar, but you can use whatever app works for you. There are so many.
Once I begin to feel myself dip emotionally—at first, I always feel extreme emotions related to a specific life experience and react in ways that are emotionally more extreme than what I am normally used to. I often feel very hopeless and may often begin to cry in public without meaning to. It tends to feel like a dark cloud is just following me around wherever I go, and no matter what I do, I cannot escape this cloud. However, I have trained myself to step back from the actual experience, once I notice these extreme emotions kick in, and to recognize that this might actually be my hormones rather than any singular experience. From a spiritual/goddess perspective, nothing is so dark that it cannot reach the light, and no experience is so terrible that we cannot find comfort in some way. But in these moments, comfort and relief seem the-opposite-of-attainable.
Once I determine that my hormones and extreme emotions are right on schedule, I relax a bit and simply allow myself to feel lousy. This can be difficult of course, almost like deliberately dunking your head in a bucket of mud. Like, why? Why would I do that? But this is honestly the best way to move through them. Resisting always just feels worse. Distractions can be helpful of course, and for me, I do better when I am around people. My light turns on temporarily and I become a bit more buoyant when I am connecting with others. But at some point, I retire to my HOBBIT NOOK sanctuary and must be alone with myself. And during these times I can easily sink into darkness. Nothing really helps, but I treat it like a wave in the ocean. It may feel like it is crashing over me, rolling me around, unforgivingly. And these waves of emotion can feel so powerful that I often lose sight of the ground below me and the sky above me. Sometimes it seems like I will never breathe fresh air or ever feel happy again. But eventually, the wave always passes and the sea becomes still and beautiful.
These self-care tips are fairly obvious, and I admittedly do not do half of them, because when I feel lousy, I actually do not even have the energy, motivation, or inspiration to be good to myself. But do your best with these and do not beat yourself up if you can’t.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep. Sleep heals all things and the better you sleep, the better you feel
- Use essential medicinal oils liberally (anywhere on your body), as they are high vibrational energetics and can literally bring your vibration up to meet them
- Avoid sugar (I never do this, but I would probably feel better if I did)
- Avoid coffee and caffeine (our bodies are so much more sensitive to these mild toxins during this time, and consuming them while your body is working hard to stay in balance just makes us feel worse)
- Reach out to loving and supportive people, and/or ask for space if you need it—you can’t help that your body is going through this and it is not your fault!
- Try not to buy into your emotions during this time (you are not your full self when your hormones are out of whack, so it is best to not take your emotions at face value)
- Do what makes you feel better in the moment and do not push your body! (I actually avoid doing yoga during this time as I find it tends to stir up my emotions and irritability even more, but that is just me. Yoga might be the only thing that makes you feel better, so just go by feel)
- Take comfort in the fact that this will pass
I leave you with one final, adorable, and relatable cartoon illustrating the wrath of Dana.