There’s a lot going on during your menstrual cycle, and not just when your period arrives- although the week leading up to it can be particularly challenging for some. The fluctuating hormones that control your cycle play a huge role in how you feel both physically and emotionally- and some may feel the symptoms of PMS a lot more intensely than others. So what is actually happening when we feel emotional during our period, and what can we do about it?
Is it normal to feel emotional during your period?
First up- yes, it’s completely normal to feel emotional during your period. But let’s take a look at what causes it: Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS.
What is PMS?
PMS refers to the symptoms that lots of us experience in the days leading up to our period starting, and it’s really common. According to the National Association for Premenstural Syndromes (NAPS) around 30% of women experience PMS, and the severity of it can depend not only on where you are during your cycle, but also your stage in life too. NAPS say,
“PMS appears to begin and increase in severity at times of marked hormonal change:- in puberty ( even before the first period), starting/stopping the oral contraceptive pill, after pregnancy, with pre-eclampsia, postnatal depression, sterilisation or termination.
PMS is no respecter of persons and has no regard for race or economic status.”
Common symptoms of PMS
You probably already know the symptoms quite well, but perhaps you didn’t realise that what you were experiencing was indeed due to PMS. The symptoms can be split into physical and emotional:
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble focusing
- Feeling tearful
Why do I feel emotional during my period?
So now we know the most common symptoms of PMS, what do we know about what actually causes it, and why we feel so emotional during our period? According to the Royal College of Gynaecology, the exact cause isn’t really known, but doctors believe it’s linked to the changes in hormone levels at certain points during your cycle.
Some people are more sensitive to theses changes, which can account for the variations in symptom severity too. There are other factors that could be to blame for feeling emotional during your period too:
Low serotonin levels
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that influences our mood, emotions and sleep. If your serotonin levels are low, it can lead to feelings of depression, low mood and anxiety, which could explain why you feel emotional.
During your period, serotonin levels can drop as a result of hormone shifts that occur during your cycle. Luckily, you can boost serotonin levels by keeping up with a good exercise routine, as this helps to promote endorphins, which raise serotonin levels. Practising mindfulness is also a great idea; yoga and meditation are both great for this.
Sleep affects everything we do, so when we don’t get enough if it, it can have a knock on effect on so many other areas of life. Low levels of serotonin can also be to blame for poor sleep, which in turn can make sleep worse- so it makes sense to fix this before it becomes vicious cycle you can’t get out of.
Prioritise your sleep today. Have a set bedtime and wake up time to help your body find it’s circadian rhythm, and practise good sleep hygiene habits too. That means no screens for at least an hour before you turn in for the night, and reduce the amount of blue light prior to that too. Blue blocking glasses are great, and you can adjust the settings on your phone to bring the blue light down. Why is this important? Because blue light has been found to block the body’s production of melatonin, which is the hormone that induces sleep. No melatonin, no sleep.
Other things you can try include taking a warm bath before bed, making sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep (dark, cool and uncluttered), and cutting down on sugar and alcohol before bed.
Low levels of calcium and/ or vitamin D
Studies such as this one have found that being deficient in vitamin D and calcium could lead to a worsening of PMS symptoms.
According to the NHS, we should all be taking a supplement during the autumn and winter months here in the UK. You can also make sure your diet includes food such as oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals and some mushrooms.
A vitamin D deficiency can lead to feelings of tiredness and weakness, with muscle pain, bone pain and back pain. Read more about the symptoms here, and consider a supplement if you suspect you’re not getting enough vitamin D.
Low levels of B vitamins
B vitamins are also important- read the NHS guidance on the different types and how to ensure you’re getting enough of them here. Studies like this one suggest that PMS symptoms could be lowered simply by eating a varied diet rich in some B vitamins, and although more research is needed to draw firmer conclusions on this, it can’t hurt to eat a balanced diet and keep these levels in check.
Lack of exercise
We already know that exercise can help to boost your serotonin levels, helping to keep you feel energised and lifting your mood. Maintaining a regular exercise schedule might be the last thing you feel like doing when PMS strikes, but trust us on this one.
We made period leggings for a reason- so that you can wake up and kick ass every single day, whether you’re on your period or not. Plus, we know you’ll feel better just for moving, so don’t let your flow stop you.
Again, we’ve touched on this one already- but its worth stressing the point. If your diet is balanced and you’re consuming a variation of foods that are nutritious and healthy, you’re more likely to be able to combat negative emotions.
Eating well keeps our mind and our body healthy, it helps us to maintain strength and positivity, and it nourishes our self-worth too. We’re not saying you can’t eat chocolate when the period cravings strike, but we are saying that you 100% deserve a happy, healthy body that is fuelled with good nutrition and love.
Self-care is not just a buzz word and stress can have such a negative effect on many areas of life, not just your mental well-being. Studies like this one are evidence that stress can affect your period; it can disrupt hormones in your body, and it can leave you unable to sleep, unable to relax and unable to concentrate. All of this can lead to tears, frustration and upset.
Keep your stress levels in check by first of all recognising when things are getting too much. Accept help if it’s offered, and try to check in with yourself regularly to ensure your emotional health is being looked after. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup- it’s ok to put yourself first sometimes.
When to see a doctor
Sometimes the symptoms of PMS can interfere with your normal every day activities, and if this is the case for you, we recommend you make an appointment to see your doctor. There is no shame in this; we’re all different, and we all experience PMS differently too.
If you need help and you’ve already made lifestyle changes that don’t seem to be working, your doctor might be able to suggest alternative treatments that can ease symptoms. PMS is common, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing the things that you enjoy, so if you think that it could be, then please seek support.
What is PMDD?
- Aching joints
- Muscle pain
- Behavioural issues, such as binge eating
- Intense anxiety
- Feelings of anger
- Suicidal thoughts
If you think you have PMDD, please speak to your doctor about treatments that are available to help.
Why do I feel like crying on my period?
The change in hormones during your menstrual cycle can hugely affect your emotions, particularly in the days leading up to your period. Other factors can play a role too, such as how much sleep you get and your current stress levels.
It’s totally normal to feel more emotional during your period and it should settle down in a few days- but speak to your doctor if you feel your emotions are impacting on your daily life.
How can I stop being emotional on my period?
There are lifestyle changes you can make to help ease PMS symptoms. Focus on getting enough sleep and on eating a healthy, balanced diet. Exercise can help too, and try to reduce stress wherever you can. Practising yoga or meditation can help a lot, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it too.
Are you more sensitive on your period?
Lots of us do experience heightened sensitivity on our period, and it usually has a lot to do with fluctuating hormones during our cycle. Right before our period starts, levels of progesterone drop and some doctors believe this is the reason for mood swings or low mood.
However, there are some suggestions that lifestyle changes can help to balance your mood during your period. Speak rot your doctor if you find that PMS is making everyday activities difficult to do.
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