Totally a thing. You’re not imagining it!
Monthly cycles are a part of life for most of us. And even though they are natural, predictable (mostly), and just part of being a woman… they can really take a toll. Physically and mentally.
We know about PMS (premenstrual syndrome), mood changes that can happen during your period, and that general icky feeling at this time of month. (Ummm, yeah maybe we’re a little too acquainted with those things!) The mood dips is what I really want to address. Specifically: period anxiety.
“Is period anxiety a thing?” you might find yourself asking as you notice yourself feeling on-edge, nervous for no apparent reason, or like you’re in a heightened state of awareness. The answer is yes. You may have noticed yourself freaking out over your career path (Am I on track? Am I doomed to fail? Is my boss mad at me?) just to get your period later that day. Or consider this situation: ruminating all night, losing sleep, and waking up feeling like you’ve already lost the day. Then, boom! Your period starts.
But why does your period cause anxiety? And what can you do about it?
Is period anxiety a thing?
Period anxiety is totally a thing. It can definitely take a toll on you emotionally and have you getting stuck on certain anxiety-fuelled thoughts like wondering if you’re a bad mom or if you’re passing your anxiety onto your kids. What’s at play here?
First things first, hormones play a starring role.
Your menstrual cycle is a delicate dance of hormone fluctuations, and as your period approaches (especially the week prior), levels of estrogen and progesterone start to shift. These hormonal changes can impact your brain chemistry, specifically the neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotions, like serotonin. When this is out of whack, it can lead to heightened anxiety.
But hormones aren’t the sole culprits (Ughh… so many crappy moving parts here.) There’s also the emotional baggage that comes with menstruation. Society, unfortunately, has a way of stigmatizing periods. From a young age, we’re bombarded with negative messages about periods which bring on shame, body image issues, embarrassment and low self-esteem. And you wonder why you’re feeling extra anxious during this time? Yeah, makes sense!
Now, there’s also the fact that our mental and physical selves are connected. When you’re not feeling great physically, your emotions can take a hit. Physical discomfort, like cramps and fatigue, can totally exacerbate our emotional state. Dealing with pain and feeling physically drained can make us more susceptible to feeling anxious or overwhelmed. It’s like adding fuel to the anxiety fire.
We’re not all alike. Some women experience really bad emotional symptoms and period anxiety whereas other women barely have any. And our symptoms certainly shift as well! One thing to pay attention to though, is the severity of how you’re hit emotionally during these days. And that brings me to my next point…
What is PMDD?
If the anxiety (or other mood issues) you deal with during your period are really strong or even unbearable, consider the fact that you *could* be dealing with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). PMDD is when women experience mood disturbances during their menstrual cycle that are beyond that typical emotional dips that can happen during this time of month.
This is a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects a small percentage of menstruating individuals. It’s characterized by intense emotional and physical symptoms that occur in the days or weeks leading up to menstruation. These symptoms can include severe mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and physical discomfort. PMDD significantly impacts daily functioning and overall well-being, often requiring medical intervention such as medication, therapy, or lifestyle changes for effective management.
Remember, you are the expert of your story and your experiences. If you think something is worth looking into, it probably is. Advocate for yourself and push to get the right answers, diagnosis, and tools that will make your life easier.
How to soothe period anxiety
We’re taught to self-sacrifice and just deal with things but that really shouldn’t be the case. I say this all the time: you deserve your own love, energy, and attention. You deserve to feel like yourself even on days when you’re a little low. When you’re on your period and anxiety is really doing a number of you, make self-care happen. I know, I know. That can sound annoying but there’s truth to it. And I also say this all the time: let it be easy and simple.
Assess how your cycle is affecting you right now. Is it intolerable? Just fine? A bit anxiety inducing at times but otherwise ok? The more you tune into what your body is telling you, the better able you’ll be to know which type of self-care is most likely to help.
Remember that self-care isn’t about pampering yourself, it’s about tending to your individual needs. If this is a struggle, here are some ways you could do that:
- Look inwards. It can’t all be about the kids all the time, always. So carve out some time and space for you to get really honest about your needs and which ones aren’t being met. Our needs fit five categories: mental, physical, social, spiritual and environmental. When you read that, which one(s) do you think are lacking?
- Adjust your calendar. If you know that your period, or the week before, tends to hit you really hard (either now or always), plan for it as much as possible! Seriously, your future self will thank you so much. Sure, it’s not like you can just not go to work, but you can meal prep, stock up on feel-good foods for your soul, take care of harder projects in advance, or enlist help! Give some thought to how you can reduce the load.
- Plan a friend date. Ok, sometimes your partner and kids just don’t get it. (And soooometimes during your period, it might feel like they are making things worse!) So plan a friend date. Friends see you and they get it. We all have the need to connect with others so pick something (be it gentle yoga, a quiet dinner, or even just running Saturday morning errands together) and give yourself that lift!
Period anxiety is definitely a thing! Now you know why. Hopefully, you’re feeling validated, seen, and like your experiences are normal. Being a woman is super freaking hard! It just is. If you need support to get through this time, I have a team of therapists trained to guide you through your specific needs. Reach out! And always know that you are worthy of your own support—especially when you’re down!
And of course, I have a resource for that! Do you already have a copy of my self-care workbook for moms? This is a freebie tool that will help you get clear on areas where you need to give back to yourself, goal setting, and roadblocks that might be getting in the way of properly caring for yourself. Check it out here.