If anything makes an unending flow of blood seem like a small inconvenience, it’s menstrual cramps. Are there two tiny, sadistic lumberjacks sawing away at my uterus like it’s a California Redwood they’re hoping to fell? Or is that just my uterine lining screeching as one last, futile attempt to stay inside my body? (Or maybe it's all just a joke from a universe that despises all humans — especially me?)
What I do know is that there are ways to make periods and cramps slightly less awful.
All of it is personalized and different techniques work better for different people but it’s all worth a shot. While some of these tricks feel a lot more productive and healthy than we might be inclined to do when we could be curled in the fetal position, snarfing Oreos. But they’ll make many feel better. And there’s no better time to take care of ourselves than during that time of the month. Our body is restarting for the month and we might as well make some quality time to spend with ourselves since it’s not like we’ll want to be around anyone else during that time frame. So here are 20 ways for some quality time during that week of despair.
20 Curl Up With A Heating Pad
If you want to collapse on the nearest soft surface, go for it. Why fight the urge? No one’s going to judge you, even if it’s a midday nap. This advice applies to everything, but especially menstrual cramps — nap it off. Even better, find a little heat source to apply to your cramps. Grab whatever’s nearest (I’m definitely not telling you to make a trip to the drug store if you’re in the throws of cramps. I would never tell someone to go outside unless it’s necessary) or prepare for next month by getting a hot water bottle you’ll enjoy later.
19 Snuggle With A Pet
Speaking of heat sources: a hot water bottle or an electric blanket isn’t going to commiserate with you. You know who will, though? You know who won’t tell you to stop complaining, even if you’ve been whining all day? Your pet. Not all pets are as cuddly as others, but almost all will make those rough times a little more bearable.
Look, I can’t stress this enough — your period is over more quickly the more you sleep through it. Maybe it’s tough to fall asleep, but it’s time to borrow a dog or cat (if you don’t have one) and cuddle up.
18 Take A Warm Bath
A warm bubble bath isn’t just a great way to relieve cramping — it’s all about the most self-indulgent and relaxing things you can do for yourself. Plus, how often can you totally relax while also getting cleaner? Sometimes just bathing is quite the undertaking when you’re handling this level of pain. Not enough adults spend time in the tub and I firmly believe the world would be a better place if they did. Break out the scented candles or the rubber ducky toy and play some calming music. That bath will do you and your darn cramps some good.
17 Have A Dance Party, Even If It's Brief (And Solo)
You might not feel like getting up and working up a sweat, but exercise releases endorphins and endorphins will quiet those cramps for a little bit. So why not make exercise fun? If you want a cardio workout that can be done in the darkness of your living room, can be stopped at the moment you feel like giving up, and is super fun: have a solo, menstrual dance party! This is best done in conjunction with a bath afterward, and then a nice nap. Make a day of it and combine some cures for the best alone time.
16 End The Pain With Natural Endorphins
It’s more ambitious than a little at-home dance party and involves putting on pants (and possibly even getting in the car, which is, like, a lot to ask), but if you can manage it, take a trip to the gym and wear yourself out. The sweat will do you good, and you’ll release more endorphins. Of course, it’s not worth pushing yourself if your body is telling you not to workout. The whole point is to help your body through this time, not make it harder. But a little exercise can be a lot more fun than laying around, despising life.
15 Have A Massage (With Essential Oils!)
*Ideally, a free massage*
In a perfect world, we’d all be living with massage therapists who haven’t worked in the business long enough to be sick of giving out free massages and insist they only do that during work hours. If for some reason that’s not your living situation, you’ve still got choices. Save some bucks and go with an amateur who loves you or do it yourself. Or maybe get a professional. Either way, Dr. Axe explains that essential oils that improve circulation—like clary sage and cypress oil—are great. Three little drops of peppermint oil with a warm compress will do wonders. So, combine the old heating-pad trick with some oils for maximum results.
14 Take An Aspirin
It’s best to stay all natural and this isn’t the solution for everyone, but Everyday Health says moderate use of Advil or Aleve can bring relief to really unbearable cramps. These over-the-counter medications can really help with the inflammation and get you from rolling around groaning in bed to some sweet respite in sleep. Follow the directions on the bottle and consult with a doctor before taking anything, of course. Just keep being responsible while seeking out some chemical help with this whole nuisance.
13 Get Some Acupuncture
Unless you’re in the aforementioned dream living situation where you can benefit from totally free acupuncture and massage because your roommate is some kind of generous alternative medicine specialist, don’t try this at home. Even if you're that DIY person, now is not the time. That said, Medical Daily explains how finding a good acupuncturist might be the thing to provide you with relief if nothing else is working. Needles aren’t everyone’s deal but you don’t have to look.
Also, why not try it if it can help you avoid a little pain?
12 Eat Something Green
I’m not saying it’s my preferred way to handle agony, but Everyday Health reminds us that eating healthy will help reduce—and even prevent—cramps. Sure, when you’re face down in a pillow, cursing everyone off, you probably don’t feel like going for the spinach or the kale. You probably want some kind of donut stuffed with something else delicious, or at least a pizza stuffed with cheese crust. Junk food with more junk stuffed inside so that your insides not only feel like garbage, they’re also full of it. Take a deep breath and hang up on the Domino’s delivery person. Treat yourself to a smoothie and cover the taste of all that healthy with some chocolate protein powder. You’ll thank yourself later.
11 Get Some Vitamin-D
Vitamin-D, or the good stuff we get from the sun, can seriously help with your menstrual cramps, according to Medical Daily. If you’re up for some sunbathing, break out the floppy hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. You might even drift off to sleepy land while you’re out there! That sun can really relax you, as long as you’re not in direct light and you take your precautions. Of course, laying out isn’t for everyone and your period doesn’t wait for the snow to thaw. Vitamin-D supplements can help you out during those colder months and hopefully help keep away the really bad cramps.
10 Drink Herbal Tea
Basically, when cramps hit the body, those bedtime remedies become appropriate for any hour. It’s like eating breakfast for dinner, but so much less fun. Instead of waffles for dinner, it’s chamomile tea at lunch. Anything soothing that doesn’t contain dairy or sugar is probably a good idea, although it’s your body, so you know, do what you gotta do. If you prefer sleepy time tea over chamomile, go for that. Warm milk? You might be a young child in the '50s, but whatever makes you feel better.
There’s what’s recommended and then there’s what you know works for you and setting aside that time to let yourself recuperate.
9 For Anyone Who's Not A Tea Drinker
It’s all about moderation, but if you need something a little stronger than herbal tea, Ny Chi Acupuncture says go ahead and reach for it. Scientists don’t totally agree on the physical benefits of a harder beverage during your period or if the beneficial side effects are more "in your own head." Regardless, if your cup of tea isn’t literal tea, well, it’s time to treat yourself. If you’re above age and you’ve cleared your day, why not make your period just a tiny bit fun? No one can blame you and if they do, they probably don’t know what it’s like to feel your uterus imploding.
8 Go Outside For A Little Yoga
Now we’re back to healthy, productive activities. We've veered into the means of coping that are more about fun than any hard empirical evidence of what helps but… we’re back now.
Cardio and weightlifting might feel too strenuous for some. If that’s the case, the Internet is jam-packed with videos of yoga techniques just to alleviate cramps. You’ll still burn some calories, but more importantly, you’ll relax your body. Stress and tension are only going to make your cramps worse, which is really its own downward spiral if you’re trying to manage your pain by just working through it. So stretch it out!
7 Go Swimming
It really comes down to what floats your boat. (Oof, sorry about that. As far as puns go, it barely makes sense.) I’m not recommending you go rowing, just for a light dip. Swimming is a form of exercise and is much less severe or harsh on your body than anything else. Plus, swimming makes you feel weightless, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what bloat feels like. Bloating and cramps are the experience of life as a balloon about to burst. Really even a small amount of exercise can make your period cramps that much less painful, so it comes down to how you prefer to work out.
6 Take The Pill
Granted, if you’re on the pill, you might not even be getting your period. Before you run to your health provider, do a little research. There’s not much of a documented difference in the management of cramps in low to medium dosed estrogen, but since the pill thins out your uterine lining, there’s just less for your body to get rid of, per Young Women's Health. It’s less work, so of course, there’s less of a strain.
While other birth controls may also lighten and potentially stop your period, other forms of birth control (namely non-hormonal IUDs) might amp your cramps up to a level you’ve never dreamed.
5 Stay Hydrated
This is one of those tricks you do in addition to everything else. It’s always important to stay hydrated but especially while you’re on your period. Keep a big water glass next to you at all times, whether it’s while you work on your cramp-relieving yoga or even if it’s just at your bedside. You can work on drinking water while you complain about your cramps to whatever friend will listen to you. Sure, drinking water isn’t exactly an activity but it’s easy enough to do without exerting any effort. So if even drawing a bath sounded like too much effort, you can always just drink water.
Bloating and cramps make me feel like a tiny, sad blue bean with legs and arms. I feel like a giant blob of mush. However, during this blah time, it's important to try and mediate. Even if this time kind of stinks, it’s still time for yourself. You can really utilize it as an opportunity to bond with yourself, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. If you’re more or less incapacitated, why not catch up with yourself and see what’s going on that you normally miss when you’re so busy being not in pain. Plus, cramping is made worse by stress, so you simply need to relax. (Sorry if that’s too much pressure.)
3 Skip The Caffeine And Nap It Off
I’m not happy about it either, but now’s not the time for coffee. I know, I know. It’s always the time for coffee. Well, every time except for now (and like, at night. You should get some sleep). Caffeine will only worsen your symptoms and you know what will also make it worse? Insisting on getting a bunch of stuff done. Lean into this time and use it as a forced spa day. That might not be realistic all the time, but you don’t need to overwork yourself and if you’re on your period, now is the time to start. Your body is already doing enough.
2 If You Feel Like It, Cancel Some Appointments
It’s not always realistic, but if you can — take some time off. Work from home, call in a personal day, make time for yourself. Society has a huge issue with overworking ourselves and it won’t actually make you better or achieve that much more. Sure, employers probably won’t let you play hooky every month but if you need it, then you need it. And if it’s a social engagement or a party you want to cancel? Forget about it — real friends will totally understand. Have a party at home with yourself and a warm bath. Canceling plans has never felt better.
1 Adding Some Herbal Supplements To Your Diet
Hopefully, you can make your cramps less painful by subtracting stressors from your life and not just adding more things to it. That said, you can’t always go at your own pace, so if you need to aid your period pain while also going about daily life, Healthline says herbal supplements are a great start. Cinnamon capsules have been known to lessen pain, nausea, and bleeding while ginger is a known aid in reducing nausea, sometimes compared in efficiency to Ibuprofen. These supplements can all be taken while on the go, although if you can pause your go for some quality time with yourself; that relaxation will do you as much good as any pill in the known world.