A Therapist’s Suggestions for Coping With Mood Swings
Have you ever found yourself sobbing over a seemingly heart-wrenching commercial only to see it a few weeks later and feel significantly less moved? Why isn’t it as dramatic as you remembered, you ask yourself. And then you realize it was probably because the first time you saw the commercial it was a few days before your period. And this means your hormones could have played a role in the way the commercial affected you.
Whether it’s due to PMS or part of your typical cycle, it’s fairly common for women to feel more emotional and tearful around their periods but it can often show up at unexpected times and be frustrating to experience. Situations that might not normally trigger these emotions become lightning rods for increased emotionality. To further complicate matters, you often don’t realize these intense emotions are likely because of the way your hormones are shifting at the time and you make the connection after the fact (when it’s too late to take steps to manage your emotions) which can add to that feeling of frustration. Luckily, there are some helpful tips that you can try to aid you in managing any crying spells or tearfulness you experience during your cycle.
Understand Your Body
Because your hormone levels are shifting before your period, it can contribute to changes in mood that you find yourself experiencing. For example, progesterone levels are dropping right before the start of your period. In addition, serotonin levels in your brain may fluctuate which can contribute to mood changes. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is thought to be linked to mood disorders such as depression.) With these and other changes happening in your body, your mood can definitely be affected. Enter crying spells, irritability, and other strong emotions that you might not typically experience at other points in your cycle.
It’s important to note that, if you have any concerns about whether or not your symptoms are cause for concern, you could benefit from consulting with an experienced health care provider.
Know Your Cycle
Taking the time to establish a pattern of symptoms can be helpful if you’d like to increase your awareness of your emotions right before your period and if you’d like to take steps to manage them. Keeping a record of your symptoms during each cycle can help you establish a pattern of symptoms. For example, if you notice that you are feeling more emotional than usual, record it in the chart or app that you are using to track your cycle. You may also want to note what events or situations triggered those emotions. After recording these symptoms for a few cycles, you can look back and identify any patterns that are present. You might find that you feel more emotional than usual for four days before your period, for example.
Charting your menstrual cycle with Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM) can help you better predict when your period will happen, especially if you tend to have irregular cycles. After learning a Fertility Awareness-Based Method of charting from a certified instructor, you will know how to read your body’s natural bio-signs of when ovulation is taking place. While ovulation can be early or delayed for people with irregular periods, periods will start 14-16 days after ovulation, which will help you predict when the mood changes are likely to start.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Knowing when you tend to experience increased emotionality in your cycle, you can take this information and look ahead in your cycle. You can make a note in your chart, app, or calendar that you will be more likely to feel more tearful or emotional on the days you’ve identified (based on the symptoms above) to remind yourself to prepare for the possibility of feeling this way on those days. This can help to increase your awareness of how you are feeling and can help you recognize that you might be reacting more emotionally than you typically would. It can help to lessen the feeling of being blindsided by crying spells, for example.
While it can be tempting to be critical toward yourself for feeling emotional, beating yourself up over hormonal changes only serves to make you feel worse. Instead, consider treating yourself to an extra dose of self-compassion instead. For example, instead of beating yourself up for being “weak” and crying at the drop of a hat, remind yourself why you are feeling that way (you are experiencing a hormonal shift) and cut yourself some slack.
Be gentle with yourself. While this will likely look different for each person, some examples include consuming uplifting and comedic entertainment (books, magazines, movies, TV shows, podcasts, musics, and so on) instead of emotional ones; taking on less stressful commitments during these days so that you can make time for self-care (taking a bath, doing some light stretching, going for a walk with a friend); or checking in with yourself a few times a day to assess where you are emotionally (e.g. Are you feeling drained? Maybe it’s time to take a break). Treating yourself gently during this time and give yourself permission to take it easy. You’ll be thankful and much less stressed.
Give Yourself Permission to Take Time on Significant Decisions
Another benefit to being aware of when you typically tend to feel more emotional before your period is that you can avoid rushing to make any significant decisions or having significant conversations during this time. Why? If you are feeling prone to tearfulness and crying spells, it can be challenging to avoid basing your decisions on how you are feeling. By making a point to postpone addressing big life topics during this time, you can increase your chances of not making a rash decision. Your future self will thank you! Instead, make a note that you need to make a decision in a week or so and then put it aside for a time when you feel more mentally resilient. (Again, you could refer to your symptoms record to see about when that time might be.)
Whatever your unique cycle is like, charting your cycle with Fertility Awareness-Based Methods is an essential first step to better understanding your symptoms and how to best cope with them.