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WHY DO WE Get Moody During PMS?

Why Do We Get Moody During PMS?
Ah, PMS emotions. You know what we’re talking about — premenstrual syndrome. The sudden onset of tears over your withered plant (because hello, that’s your child), red-hot rage at the slightest of inconveniences, and an overall general sense of blah and lowness. For most of us, moodiness and the blues go hand-in-hand with PMS, and during those weeks leading up to our period, we consider it a win that we only cried twice in one day. But listen, while we definitely think that emotions are okay — despite what society tries to tell us — we can’t help but wonder why it happens once a month. Why are our lives disrupted, our moods out of whack, and our relationships teetering on the edge?
We know that we can’t be the only ones wondering. In fact, a whopping 75% of menstruating people (that’s 3 out of 4!) experience mild to moderate PMS — fatigue, anxiety, irritability, lack of energy, sadness, and more. PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is associated with much more severe symptoms, and affects 1 in 4 people. Why, then, are we all walking around as ticking time bombs for 2 weeks out of the month? What exactly is going on in our bodies, and how can we help manage and control what’s going on? Researchers aren’t exactly sure, but they do have some ideas. Here’s what they think.

Your hormones are running the show

All throughout your cycle, your hormones fluctuate — but in the two weeks before your period, they take you for a wild ride, especially estrogen. Estrogen rises and then suddenly drops right before your period, causing your serotonin levels to dip. Since serotonin is the neurotransmitter that stabilizes your mood, you’ll start to feel less in control of emotions and your state of mind. Factor in that estrogen dominance is known to be linked to mood swings, irritability, and anxiety, and it all starts to make sense that rising levels wreak havoc on your moods. So, if you’ve ever fantasized about taking a sledgehammer to your neighbor’s door when they’re too loud, know that your fluctuating hormones could be to blame.
At the same time, your progesterone is sky-high leading up to your period, which might be the reason you feel blue. Progesterone dominance is known for low moods, depression, and anxiety, so as it rises, you’ll notice more crying spells and depression. But then it suddenly drops right before your period — another wild fluctuation that happens in a short amount of time. Essentially, you’re on a hormonal roller coaster.

Your happy chemicals are running on empty

Our bodies are essentially one interconnected puzzle — and when one thing changes in the body, there’s bound to be a domino effect. The same goes for your hormones and mental health. When your estrogen drops, it triggers a drop in serotonin, that neurotransmitter responsible for stabilizing your mood and keeping you cool, calm, and collected. At the same time, your gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine also drop when your period arrives. Since GABA is an amino acid that also acts as a neurotransmitter and produces a calm effect, and dopamine is known as the “feel good” hormone, a dip in these means that it’s much harder to keep your mood up, your anxiety low, and a pleasant smile on your face during your never-ending Zoom calls.

Here’s what to do about it

So now what? We know what’s happening, but how are we to get through the psychological symptoms of PMS? The thing is, it might all come down to management. While we’d love (and, frankly, sometimes feel as though we deserve) to hulk out on anyone that irritates us in the weeks leading up to the start of our cycle, the truth is we just can’t. So here are some ways to manage:

1. Exercise

If you’re rolling your eyes because exercise is the exact opposite of what you’d like to do when the effects of PMS hit, hear us out. Working out can actually put you in a good mood. That’s because when you work out, you increase and release the happy chemicals in your brain — dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin— which, in turn, combat your low mood and the irritability caused by your PMS hormone fluctuation. But we’re not saying you need to go full blown bootcamp to feel better — just try out a gentle yoga flow.

2. Try Supplements

While there are no magic pills to help with PMS, there are some supplements that may support your body as it goes through hormonal changes. Vitamin B-6 is just one of those — it regulates serotonin (we need all the help we can get!) and norepinephrine, a chemical that acts as a stress-relieving hormone and neurotransmitter. And, in some studies, B6 has been shown to alleviate some emotional PMS symptoms.

3. Breathing Exercises/Meditation

Meditation and breathing exercises are great for everyday life, but when it comes to PMS symptoms, they somehow become even more necessary. When stress and anxiety are heightened by PMS, taking a quiet moment to yourself to clear your mind and focus on your breath can relax your body and mind, making your stress and irritability more manageable. In fact, studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation have even helped to improve PMS symptoms. Now go ahead — deep breath in, deep breathe out.

We can all agree that PMS isn’t a joke. If it were, we’d all have our own special on Comedy Central. But it isn’t. And we don’t. Because PMS means our bodies are going through serious changes that bring about psychological and physiological changes.
And yet, we handle it (mostly) with grace. And definitely deserve a reward for it. So the next time someone says jokingly, “It must be that time of the month again,” feel free to profusely ignore them — and then treat yourself to something you love.