Dealing with anxiety in the days leading up to menstruation is natural for several individuals. The degree to which someone feels the effects will differ, though. Here are a few likely reasons for having pre-period anxiety and some tips for managing it:
Anxiety Before Period
Why anxiety might crop up before a period:
1. Natural hormonal changes
In general, a woman’s body undergoes a lot of hormonal developments throughout the menstrual cycle. To prepare for pregnancy, your body will spike hormone production. If an egg isn’t implanted, those hormone levels decline again.
As these hormones oscillate, the neurotransmitters in the gut and brain will fluctuate as well. These neurotransmitters (namely dopamine and serotonin) help regulate mood, so it’s not abnormal to experience irregular emotions or anxiety during this time of the month.
2. You’re anticipating the changes
Few individuals might also get anxious over the anticipation of their period and the developments that it brings. Periods can be physically inconvenient, uncomfortable, or painful, so it’s natural to dread (or worry) what’s coming.
If an individual is fixated on building muscle or losing weight, the fear of becoming puffy or bloated during their period can be stressful. These changes are organic, though, and part of the normal human cycle. It’s essential to recognize them and normalize them, so they don’t impair our mental health.
The pain and bloat won’t last forever, but recognizing that they may happen every month is an important part of setting realistic expectations.
[Read: Why Do Women Have Periods]
3. You may have an underlying condition.
A small percentage of women (about three to eight percent) experience PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). This condition occurs about 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation and is characterized by a considerable increase in mood disturbances .
Though PMDD symptoms feel like full-blown depression or anxiety, they tend to disappear after the period ends. Symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder could include trouble focusing, intense mood swings, fatigue and extreme tiredness, physical pain, extreme appetite changes, trouble sleeping, and irritability.
Those who are inclined to anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, or social anxiety, may experience PME (premenstrual exacerbation).
The two are identical and can be hard to figure out. Still, anyone who already has a past mood disorder is more likely to fall into the premenstrual exacerbation category.
How to manage period and pre-period anxiety.
If your period symptoms interfere with your quality of life, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional or physician. If the symptoms are comparatively mild, though, there are a few ways to help manage this anxiety both before and during menstruation:
1. Understand the natural cycle
Researching the hormonal changes that are happening in your body, or speaking to individuals who experience identical symptoms, can help normalize and make sense of what’s happening to you during the period .
Recognizing that these developments will not last forever and can be dealt with, both mentally and physically, helps give a sense of control over the condition.
2. Acknowledge anxiety without judgment
When negative thoughts come into their heads, several individuals try to repress them. When that happens, instead of making them vanish, those feelings will develop and come back with a vengeance. To keep this from happening, write them down or speak your feelings out loud.
Don’t judge the thoughts; just recognize them, so they no longer have authority over you. Then, work on getting out of the head and back into the body. One way we recommend grounding yourself is by shuffling your feet on the floor until you feel the contact between the soles of the feet and the surface you’re standing on.
3. Practice deep belly breathing
Deep breathing exercises help activate the rest-and-digest function of the brain (aka PNS parasympathetic nervous system.) Follow these steps to lessen anxiety through the breath:
- Breathe in through the nose, filling your belly so that it expands outward.
- Breathe out, expelling all the air.
- Repeat at least three times.
When performing this breathwork, our mind can’t focus on anything (including anxious thoughts) except for the organic process of inhaling and exhaling.
4. Show yourself compassion
Individuals with anxious natures tend to live in more punitive mindsets and continuously judge themselves. Studies suggest that showing compassion to ourselves is crucial not only for our sanity and well-being but also for performance—notably for individuals with type-A personalities.
A few ways to show kindness to yourself are by going for a walk, making tea, or taking a magnesium supplement (magnesium diminishes when we’re anxious and can interfere with quality sleep.)
5. Stop looking out for anxiety symptoms
If anxiety is going to occur, it’s essential to have the tools to help deal with it. However, looking out for symptoms of panic or anxiety to prepare may only create trouble. Try not to plan for the worst—worrying does not solve problems; problem-solving does.
Sleep. If your busy life is messing with sleep habits, it may be time to prioritize consistency. Getting adequate sleep is essential, but it’s not the only thing. Try to develop a recurring sleep schedule in which you wake up and go to sleep at the same time daily — including weekends.
Diet. Eat carbs. Eating a diet plentiful in complex carbs — think starchy veggies and whole grains — can minimize anxiety-inducing food cravings and moodiness during PMS. You may also want to consume foods high in calcium, such as milk and yogurt.
Vitamins. Research has found that both vitamin B-6 and calcium can reduce the psychological and physical symptoms of PMS. Learn more about supplements and vitamins for PMS.
Aerobic exercise. Studies show that those who get regular exercise throughout the month have less severe PMS symptoms. Regular exercisers are less likely than the average population to have behavior and mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, and trouble concentrating. Exercise may also minimize painful physical symptoms .
Slight anxiety in the week or two before your period is absolutely normal. But if the symptoms are harming your life, there are things you can try for relief. Start by making a few lifestyle changes. If those don’t seem to cut it, don’t hesitate to talk to your gynecologist or healthcare provider.