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Picture Yourself PMS-Free
by Laurel Kallenbach

Visualization and positive thinking are beneficial tools for everybody - from a cancer patient who pictures his immune system attacking cancer cells to an athlete who rehearses her winning performance in her mind. The power of this mind/body technique is real. In fact, a study from the University of California, Davis, Medical Center suggests that patients controlled the amount of blood they lost during surgery by doing a pre-surgical visualization in which they directed blood away from their incision.

Belleruth Naparstek, author of Staying Well with Guided Imagery (Warner Books, 1994), calls visualization "directed daydreaming, a way of using the imagination to help mind and body heal." She notes that conjuring sensory impressions - sights, sounds, smells, tastes or feelings - can have a physiological or emotional effect, such as causing a perception of pain to diminish or a feeling of depression to lift.

SOS for PMS Stress
"When we learn to manage stress and free ourselves from chronic unhappiness, we alter our physiology in favor of health," writes Alice Domar, Ph.D., in her book, Healing Mind, Healthy Woman (Delta, 1996). Domar, who heads the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Harvard University, believes that mind/body methods including visualization teach you to release stress to help the reproductive system.

In a 1990 study, Domar and her colleagues found that women with severe PMS who practiced relaxation showed a 58 percent improvement in both physical and emotional PMS symptoms, compared to those women that didn't practice. For five months, these women listened to relaxation tapes once or twice a day. "When you use relaxation techniques over several weeks, you tend to get the greatest reduction of PMS symptoms," says Domar. "If you do relaxation only while you're premenstrual and feeling cruddy, you may feel better temporarily, but not the rest of the day. However, if you practice relaxation for a month or so, you're more likely to have fewer symptoms throughout your period."

Six Types of Visualization
In Staying Well with Guided Imagery, Naparstek suggests various approaches to deal with PMS or other health problems. Here are some great examples of imagery to practice:

  1. Feeling-state imagery: Summon a better mood by imagining your favorite place or a happy memory. If PMS has you feeling irritable or depressed, you'll feel cheerier from practicing good thoughts.
  2. End-state imagery: Imagine yourself the way you want to be but aren't yet, such as free of PMS. See yourself having a month without headaches, cramps or mood swings and how great you will feel.
  3. Physiological (or cellular) imagery: Picture your uterus, ovaries and hormones functioning in an optimal, balanced fashion so you'll feel well. Imagine each cell in your body doing its task perfectly.
  4. Energetic imagery: Think of your body as a system of unimpeded electromagnetic energy or life force. If you suffer from cramps or abdominal bloating, picture healthy energy flowing easily throughout your pelvis, making it feel alive and well.
  5. Psychological imagery: Engage in imagery that helps you process your feelings or shift your attitudes. Instead of associating your period with pain and discomfort, concentrate on it as a natural time for internal cleansing. Rehearse your response to pain: Instead of becoming frustrated, allow yourself to relax.
  6. Spiritual imagery: Think of yourself in connection with the divine. Remember that your period is one of your connections with the cycles of nature.

Everyday Tips for Relaxing
Practicing relaxation regularly will help you cope with PMS symptoms more readily as well as providing you with a solid basis for handling daily stresses and pressures. Here are some simple relaxation tips to get you started:

  • Listen daily to a tape recording of a guided visualization. Domar recommends mentally walking along a mountain stream or a beach - whatever leads you to a sense of relaxation and reduction of PMS symptoms.
  • Choose music to offset your mood. Music may elicit powerful, healing imagery. If you feel drained or depressed, listen to something energetic. If you're stressed, pick soft flowing music for relaxation.
  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation, says Domar. Tighten, then relax, muscle groups. Start with forehead, eyes and jaw and move down the body. "Tightening a muscle, then letting it go, teaches you the difference between tension and relaxation," she says.
  • Do daily diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm muscle separates the chest and abdominal cavities. Domar says you should relax your abdomen, place your hand on your belly button, and breathe deeply. If you're doing it right, your hand should rise and fall with each breath. Count down from ten to zero, one number for each breath, she recommends. By the time you reach zero, you'll feel more relaxed. "Half the effect here is physiological and half is distraction," she says. "If you focus on counting, you can't worry about what your mother said this morning or about problems at work."

What To Do When You're in Pain
Here you have a choice: You can either concentrate on alleviating the pain from headaches or cramps, or you can use imagery to distract your mind from it. See which of these ideas works best for you:

  • Touch the area of pain to direct awareness to that place, suggests Naparstek. For instance, place your hands over your abdomen and imagine loving warmth radiating from your palms.
  • Imagine you're an outside observer and watch your pain. Give it a shape, color, then imagine it as it floats out and hangs in front where you can see it. Try to change the pain with your mind.
  • Breathe into the area of pain. Visualize cleansing oxygen moving into the area.
  • Do yoga or take a relaxing walk to reduce the intensity of cramps.
  • Picture yourself in your favorite place or engaged in an activity you love rather than focusing on pain. Distraction is a powerful tool, Domar believes.

"Almost any condition can be made worse by stress; it can also be made better by relaxation," Domar says. "PMS is difficult for a woman because she feels so out of control of her mind and body. Visualization makes her feel better and more in control."

About the Author:

Laurel Kallenbach writes about health, wellness and travel. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Article syndicated from GAIAM:



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