WARNING: Long emotional post alert!
We’ve all been in the situation where our partner, sibling or parent has asked “Are you on your period or something?!” When we’ve out of nowhere burst into tears or snapped for no reason.
Well I’m here to enlighten you all on the causes of this menstrual moodiness and how to handle it!
Menstrual mood swings begin about 1-2 weeks before your actual period arrives - around the time of ovulation. At this time your hormones oestrogen and progesterone take a dive - which in turn impacts your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate your mood, sleep and appetite. The drop in Serotonin is strongly linked to feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiety, and anger, as well as sleep disruption and food cravings. Hence the overnight transformation into the lady-hulk or someone who’s just watched the notebook. Menstrual mood swings involve a sudden, unexplained change in mood. You might wake up in a great mood but find yourself becoming angry and irritable an hour or two later for no apparent reason. Whilst this is completely normal, and usually settles with the onset of your period, some TLC and some lifestyle changes - there are two related conditions that it is important to identify! The first is Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is very similar to your regular menstrual moodiness, however the symptoms are more severe. For some, it causes intense mood swings or severe anxiety and depression that interfere with daily life. Whilst approx 75% of women experience menstrual moodiness, only 3-8% have PMDD. The second is known as Premenstrual exacerbation. This refers to when symptoms of an existing condition (ie. anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression) become worse in the weeks or days leading up to your period. If you think you may have either of these conditions, please seek medical advice! Fortunately, the general menstrual moodiness can be managed with a bunch of lifestyle changes and sometimes medication
So here are my top tips for dealing with menstrual moodiness:
1. Track your symptoms - Start keeping track of your menstrual cycle and notice your emotions throughout the different stages. Acknowledging your emotions and confirming/re-affirming that they are actually linked to your menstrual cycle can actually be reassuring and soothing for some people.
2. Stay Active - Physical activity releases hormones called endorphins in your brain, which help to decrease stress and induce happiness or a natural ‘high’. 3. Eat Clean - Eating small frequent meals throughout the day, and avoiding those high fatty/sugary foods will help minimize those sugar fluctuations that often worsen moodiness.
4. Manage your stress - Unmanaged stress can wreck havoc on your mental wellbeing around your period-time. So be sure to practice all those self love techniques, keep a journal, listen to music, practice yoga or meditation - whatever works for you to keep your stress under control.
5. Sleep well - Not enough sleep can be detrimental for your mood. Make sure to try to get approx 7-10 hours sleep in the lead up, and during your period.
6. Supplementation - 1000-1200mg of Calcium supplementation daily in the few weeks prior and during your period has been shown in some studies to significantly decrease the feelings of depression, anxiety and irritability associated with menstruation.
7. Start/stop/change hormonal contraception - the use of hormonal contraception can go one of two ways. Some women find that hormonal contraception helps to improve their menstrual moodiness, whilst others have reported that it has had awful effects on their mental health. So speak to your doctor and make sure you try find the one that works for you. Be sure to notice if it isn’t working and either change medications, or stop it entirely - but always seek medical advice prior to any changes!
8. Medication - If nothing else works, it is important to seek help from a medical professional. There are some medications out there, like antidepressants, that may help improve your symptoms - however these need to be prescribed by a doctor.