We all get a little moody sometimes, but period mood swings are definitely one of the major reasons why PMS gets such a bad rap. Crying spells, angry outbursts, anxiety attacks—how do you make them stop? And how do you know if it’s PMS…or something else?
“You’ll know these emotional ups and downs are due to PMS if they start consistently a week to two weeks before your period and stop a day or two after menstruation starts,” says gynecologist Carol Livoti, MD. These mood swings generally happen during the last (luteal) phase of the menstrual cycle, usually days 14-28. And they’ll probably stop as soon as menstruation starts. (If they don’t, you may be suffering from depression or a different problem that you should talk to your doctor about right away!)
Scientists suspect period mood swings happen because of the shift in hormones, in particular the rise and fall of estrogen levels. Add a dash of life stress to that—divorce, job loss, or a tough presentation at school—and the mood swings can be even worse.
So what can you do to minimize the pain and suffering caused by period mood swings? Try a few of these options:
Exercise. No surprise here! Physical activity is great for your body, and it’s been shown to help with bad moods, too, thanks to the feel-good chemicals released from your brain when you get moving.
Eat small, frequent meals. Eating six small meals a day instead of the usual, bigger three can keep your blood sugar level and help with hormonal mood shifts. Work on keeping your carbohydrate intake down, too.
Try calcium supplements. One study showed that supplementing your diet with 500 milligrams of calcium twice a day can lead to significantly less depression and fatigue during your menstrual cycle. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying new supplements!
Manage the stress. While stress doesn’t cause mood swings, it can certainly contribute to them! Take time out to try some relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. You may also benefit from doing some group therapy—or just having a quiet chat with a supportive friend.
Remember the good things! Shifting hormones can actually make some things easier for you. One study suggested that when you have less progesterone in your system (generally around day five or six of your cycle), you’re able to be more thoughtful and empathetic. And when estrogen spikes between days five and thirteen, you’re likely to feel more confident, feminine, and attractive. Embrace it!
Period mood swings don’t have to be debilitating PMS side effects. Be kind to yourself, make a few simple lifestyle changes, and you’ll feel better in no time!