Every woman steps into a place in her life where she asks herself “what could go wrong?” Her anxiety will readily respond “glad you asked...” While we women try to be warriors, not worriers, the science shows that this is less achievable on your period.
If you find anxiety rising during your period, you are certainly not alone. Turns out, PMS affects up to 80% of women of reproductive age, and it's estimated that as many as 3 out of every 4 menstruating women have experienced some form of premenstrual syndrome. That includes experiencing anxiety. Studies report that 23 percent of women experience symptoms of anxiety during perimenopause. Additionally, studies show these anxiety symptoms are not necessarily linked to depression.
Stats aside, Prudence Hall, MD, confirms there’s something going on in your body. "Because of differences in brain chemistry and the impact of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, women are already more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorders and even panic attacks," says Hall on MindBodyGreen. "And these can definitely be more pronounced right before and during their periods."
What’s to blame? Hormones. That’s because hormones control and regulate our bodies as well as our mental health. Hall, the author of the upcoming book Radiant Again & Forever and founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California, says "due to hormonal fluctuations, PMS interrupts and upsets that balance, often triggering symptoms like increased anxiety." The erratic rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone can cultivate anxiety issues like tension headaches, palpitations, upset stomachs, and even panic attacks.
To understand how this works we need to understand how your fertility works.
Let’s break it down:
- Day three of your period: your brain increases conversation with your ovaries.
- Your ovaries to an egg: “ Ready for some ovulation?”
- Day 14 of your cycle: you spike luteinizing hormone and your body temperature spikes (aka an egg is being released.)
Sounds…. interesting. But how does this connect to anxiety?
When the egg drops, what’s left behind in the ovary is the corpus luteum: this is what’s responsible for secreting progesterone for about two weeks following ovulation - and it doesn’t discriminate based on whether the egg is fertilized or not. As the corpus luteum makes progesterone and keeps it in balance, it hits a woman’s brain with a cool, calm experience and a feeling of connection and appreciation for the world around her. How does it do this? It simulates GABA receptors, which quiets neuroexcitatory (aka freak out) neurotransmitters.
When a woman’s body feels stressed, it chooses survival over fertility. That means your body walks away from making progesterone in order to make cortisol (this process is known as pregnenolone steal). Things can be fine and dandy in this state until stress becomes chronic and you enter a state of HPA-dysregulation (aka adrenal fatigue.) At this point, your body pushes epinephrine and norepinephrine. This basically tells your brain to have a 2007 Britney-esque meltdown while also reducing progesterone keeping you from calming down.
And yet women continue to work 40-hour jobs, maintain social lives, and live a fit lifestyle. Who rules the world? (We know it’s girls.)
It’s important to note some anxiety may have nothing to do with hormones. Example: if you have severe period pain, you may begin to dread your period, which can morph into anxiety. Also, if you have an anxiety disorder, you’ll most likely find your symptoms feel worse just before and during your period. If that sounds like you, it may make sense to talk to your doctor to see if you can adjust your medication around this time.
The good news: you are not at the mercy of your cycle. Here are some methods to limit or even eliminate cycle-related anxiety:
Consider nixing the pill
The hormonal birth control pill has numerous side effects. The one that comes to mind: depression. Did you know depression is the number one reason women quit the pill? Even clinically, doctors have seen anxiety symptoms occur when taking the pill. The hypothesis: the nutrient depletion, inflammation, and microbiome disruption introduced by the pill makes some women feel anxious. Be sure to ask your doctor about alternative conception control methods.
Question: how are your diet and lifestyle?
Are you the kinda gal who slurps cereal for breakfast and downs the occasional Diet Coke? That may be affecting your cycle. Follow these dietary guidelines for a low anxiety flow:
- Eat a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet
- Make sure it’s rich in fruits and vegetables and low in dairy and meat
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Get enough sleep every night
Stay mindful, stay moving
Walk, run, cycle, swim - get moving! Exercise is an all-natural stress buster. For extra stress-busting power, try taking up breathing exercises or meditation. Trouble sitting in silence? Try a meditation app like Headspace or Calm to get in the zone.
Get your GABA on
GABA is more than just a fun word to say (GABA, GABA, GABA - ok, we’re done.) It’s a calming neurotransmitter that helps support a healthy mood. The supplement helps crush anxiety and stay on top of your game. Try 250 mg of GABA paired with L-theanine (aka a calming amino acid.)
Our Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal elixirs have certain herbs that work to balance hormones (which therefore helps to reduce anxiety) and others that work to reduce anxiety directly. Every elixir is personalized to the individual’s flow because not all flows are created equally. Not to mention you’ll also receive a host of benefits that come from regulating your cycle like improved menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, and more.