10 effective tips for PCOS self-careMonday, September 27, 2021
“WHY me?” This is the question that we often ask ourselves whenever we are faced with challenges that seem insurmountable. Medical diagnoses in particular are difficult and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is no different, seeing that many women may develop emotional trauma associated with their symptoms.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels and fail to regularly release eggs (mayoclinic.org). It may seem devastating now, but there are avenues that can be taken to effectively manage PCOS. Your physical well-being must be prioritised but your mental wellness should never be overlooked. With this in mind, the PCOS 1 in 10 JA campaign aims to highlight mental wellness and share self-care tips for struggling “cysters”.
Many women with PCOS share that they feel less sexy and feminine when dealing with certain symptoms such as excessive facial hair and weight gain. Regardless of these insecurities, you can implement certain strategies to ensure that you feel like your best self. It is also important to remember that different strategies will work for different women so if some tips are not as effective as others, do not be disheartened. “There is no one size fits all for everybody. Everyone goes through different experiences. Find what works for you,” recommended Jodi-Ann Brown, customer relations specialist and campaign participant. Regardless of the strategy, always be patient with yourself.
1. Let the power of music feed your soul
Music definitely has the ability to transform our mood and empower us to be our best selves. While it is not a concrete solution to mental health issues associated with PCOS, some songs are so potent that when you hear them you can't help but smile, laugh or even get up and dance! Start your day with upbeat and motivational tunes that scream positivity and use them as an uplifting soundtrack to propel your day. In the future, PCOS 1 in 10 JA hopes to curate playlists of this nature to improve the moods of PCOS warriors.
2. Let's get physical
The COVID-19 pandemic has minimised outdoor activities, but women can still enjoy the mental health benefits that it has to offer while being safe. Taking a walk or jogging has been proven to heighten feelings of happiness. Exercise helps to regulate blood sugar levels by using “glycogen”, a form of glucose. The more this is burned by the body through exercise, the more effective insulin becomes. Activities such as resistance training which incorporates light weights and resistance bands are excellent for muscle development and improving insulin resistance. If available, women with PCOS may also try swimming and other activities which get them moving.
3. A burst of happiness
Why can't every day contain a burst of motivation? News flash! It absolutely can. While the digital divide is still very real in our society, there are still several women with a significant amount of technological access. Women struggling mentally with PCOS should consider downloading motivational apps such as Gratitude, Motivation, Eternal Sunshine and Sprinkle of Jesus, that send inspirational daily quotes. Consider following motivational pages such as We The Urban on Instagram and Twitter, My Self Love Supply and Self Care Visuals on Instagram as well. Sometimes, we just need a reminder to continue putting our best foot forward.
4. Journal creatively
Some women may prefer writing rather than verbalising their thoughts, and that's okay! Journaling is the perfect outlet to detail the pain (mental or physical) resulting from PCOS. Write creatively by making journal entries that contain affirmations and inspirational quotes that you were exposed to that particular day or in the past week. You can revisit these at a later date for a slice of encouragement. Some women may also find that journaling about gratitude can help to improve their perspective when they decide to re-read that entry.
5. Adopt a new level of sexy
When Drake made the song Way 2 sexy on his album Certified Lover Boy, he was talking about you whether or not you want to believe it! Sometimes depression has a strong connection to body dysmorphia, especially when we compare ourselves to other women. We often question why we lack certain features or do not look a specific way. However, we must learn to disassociate ourselves from societal beauty standards and define sexiness for ourselves. It is by no means as simple as it sounds but trying never hurts. If you ever find yourself needing reassurance that you are beautiful in your own right, try putting on some lingerie at home just because you can. Get comfortable with yourself.
6. Yoga and meditation
Sometimes strenuous exercise is not necessarily the perfect fit for everyone. Yoga and meditation have been scientifically proven to help manage stress and anxiety. There are also certain types of yoga that can assist with regulating periods. According to eMedihealth, these poses include but are not limited to Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), Camel Pose (Ustrasana), Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), Garland Pose (Malasana) and Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana). However, one should be mindful that before doing any exercise it is recommended that you consult your doctor to ensure that yoga is truly suitable for you.
As it relates to meditation, women should consider choosing a time of day and a space that is most peaceful or relaxing for them. This can be done on your own or with the guidance of a meditation app such as Headspace. For women with intrusive thoughts, ensure that you centre your thoughts around positivity. Aletha Walters-Benbow, financial advisor and campaign participant commented that “PCOS has affected my mental health. I tend to struggle sometimes with my thoughts. I am a lot more anxious and a little depressed based on the hormone imbalance so it's just learning to centre my thoughts and thinking.” If you start to experience thoughts that become overwhelming, take a step back and try to ground yourself.
7. Meal prep
Dietary adjustments are one of the most difficult changes to adapt when you are diagnosed with PCOS, but meal prepping may help to ease the process. Meal prepping refers to preparing whole meals or dishes ahead of time/schedule (Healthline.com). Meal prepping can also reduce the stress related to confusion about what you will have to prepare or buy on a particular day to ensure that you stay on track with having a balanced diet. Generally, foods that tend to be healthy for this condition include high fibre foods such as berries, almonds, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Foods that help reduce inflammation like tomatoes, kale, spinach and fatty fish are also recommended (healthline.com)
8. Get enough sleep
Let sleep be an additional medicine for your PCOS. Scientific research affirms that getting the required amount of sleep nightly helps to regulate various hormones including fertility-related hormones. Getting enough sleep may also help to reduce stress and make you feel more energised. Lack of sleep is associated with irritability which will make you feel on edge and out of control. A good night's rest also has the ability to birth feelings of optimism and passion to keep you motivated throughout the day. Try not to overwork yourself and delegate as much as possible.
9. Be mindful of what you read
Access to information has its downsides sometimes if we fail to set boundaries and take social media breaks. There is no denying that it can get overwhelming and toxic at times. For this reason, the campaign strongly suggests reading books about PCOS self-care. Hardcopy versions are preferred in order to facilitate digital breaks, but digital copies are also effective as long as you do not allow incoming notifications to distract you. Bestseller PCOS related books include The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health by Angela Grassi and Stephanie Mattei and A Balanced Approach to PCOS: 16 Weeks of Meal Prep and Recipes for Women Managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. These books should not be used as a replacement for medical consultation but as a complementary activity to already established habits that you should be following to manage your PCOS.
10. Seek support
Sharing our stories has the power to provide us with emotional release. It is for this reason that the campaign strongly believes in facilitating support group sessions. These sessions are online, free and safe spaces. The first session took place on Saturday, September 25 at 7:00 pm with co-facilitators Dr Astrid Bachelor, obstetrician-gynaecologist and Dr Kimberley Sommerville, medical doctor. Although the campaign prides itself on ensuring that they have a zero misinformation policy, support groups are not a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatment. Individual care from medical professionals is strongly advised.
“Find somebody that can help you walk through it whether it's a gynaecologist, doctor, nutritionist or trainer. Find somebody that you are comfortable with that can walk you through the motions,” advised Davida-Mae Chambers, CEO of Vida Communications and campaign participant. Always remember that you are never alone and you will get through the emotions that you are currently feeling.
The mental impact of PCOS is often overlooked but it is important to take care of both mind and body as you undergo your journey to holistic health.
For more information on the campaign and to keep up to date with all activities, check out @PCOS1in10Ja on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.