Tip #138: How to deal with anxiety on your period.
The Why: Hormones. Raging, raging hormones.
Have you ever suddenly felt incredibly anxious, or more anxious than usual? Suddenly felt low, sad, tired, bloated and irritated for no apparent reason? People ask you what’s wrong but you’re not quite sure. Then, you wake up the next day and it hits you (literally); you’ve begun your period.
I’m sure we’ve all been in the above situation. Periods can be one of the most stressful and hard times of the month, mainly due to the sudden increase in hormones racing around your body, but throw mental health into the mix and it can become a toxic-cocktail of head-skrewery (if Shakespeare could invent words, why can’t I?).
During my period I become increasingly anxious and moody; it can trigger intrusive thoughts, make me question everything I say and do and induce seemingly random panic attacks at the slightest inconvenience (or at the amount of chocolate I’m consuming).
One of the reasons for this is simple; pain. Because of the amount of pain and odd symptoms your body can throw at you during that dreaded time of the month, it can trigger serious health anxiety, and make your body believe it is in serious danger.
Another troubling part of the cycle is that it can be hard to perform at work, at school or in any other activity that involves using your brain. Being on your period can impact your cognitive abilities, and make it hard to think. This can add another layer of anxiety about not getting important things done on time, or feeling you’re getting behind.
So, what can we do to help ourselves and look after our minds whilst bleeding perfously?
Tip One – Perform Some Serious Self-Care
This is the first and cardinal rule of dealing with anxiety; always be prepared for self care. During particularly stressful or low mood times, it’s important and totally valid to take a step back, have a night to yourself, and throw off all other obligations.
If you’re having a bad anxiety day due to your cycle, make sure that you are taking care of yourself; sometimes resting is the best way to keep going. Taking a day off work or a night off socialising to hunker down with things that make you feel good, and that are good for you, can improve your performance when you return.
If you’re too stressed and anxious, but don’t stop to take care of yourself, this can further inhibit your ability to do the things you need to do. Rest today so you can work tomorrow.
You can find a list of my top self-care tips here.
Tip Two – Be Honest
Being honest with how your feeling when on your period can be hard due to the stigma around it, but it can help alliviate some of the anxiety surrounding wanting to cancel plans or wanting to withdraw slightly for a few days.
I’ve begun trying to always be honest with people about my period-self. Now, when I know I can’t make an event due to how I’m feeling inside I say; “I’m really sorry, I’m currently huddled over in the foetal position crying at videos of dogs, so can’t make it out.”
So, to prevent this, when you’re feeling irritable or feel you’re going to snap, be honest with the person and tell them that because of your mood right now you’re not going to be the best company, so you’re going to remove yourself from the situation.
Most of the time people will be understanding because either they’re a woman, so will most likely have experienced a period at some point in their lives before, or because they’re a man, who usually wish to stop talking about periods as quickly as possible, so will accept what you say as gospel.
Tip Three – Thank People In Advance
It can be an impulse to frantically apologise after you’ve said or done something snappish or short because of your period-rage. However, the damage can already be done, not just to them, but to yourself.
When you have anxiety you constantly scrutinise everything you say or do, scanning every memory or conversation for seemingly negative things. But sometimes, when we’re in pain and writhing around with cramps and hormones, we say things we don’t mean and can get very, very irritable. Apologising to people after the fact doesn’t always undo your feelings of being the worst human being in the world after getting angry at someone for not putting their cup in the sink in time.
So, when your annoying montly visitor arrives, thank those around you in advance for their patience and understanding. I always say to my mum; “Thank you for putting up with me, and I’m sorry in advance for everything I say and do during this time.”
This way, people know its not you, really you, it’s just your ovaries talking, thus will be more forgiving if and when you snap.
Tip Four – Mitigate Risks
As has already been mentioned, if when on your period you suffer from ‘period-brain’ and know that you’ve got important deadlines looming around that time of the month, it’s good to plan ahead.
Whether that’s getting work done ahead of time, or asking for an extension, it’s important to mitigate your risks, meaning that when the time comes for that time of the month, you’ll feel far less stressed and anxious.
Knowing yourself and your body allows you to prepare and plan in advance for any situations that may come from having your period.
Tip Five – Research
As has already been mentioned, being on your period can make your body do some very odd things. I sometimes get incredibly painful migranes, my legs can ache, my back can spasm and it can feel as though I’m literally dying (for the first two days at least). This can trigger some seriously bad health anxiety, as your amygdala senses danger due to the pain you’re in, so begins releasing the hormones that trigger a panic attack.
This is why if you’re worried about a new symptom your period is throwing at you, google the symptom with the phrase ‘period’ at the end. This will show you a whole host of other people that have experienced the same symptom whilst on their period, and give you the medical explanation for why this happens. Showing yourself that these scary symptoms are normal and usual will alleviate the anxiety surrounding the unknown, and help quieten the feelings of loneliness that often accompany such bodily changes.
Extra Good Advice From Mariella
A friend of mine has some great ideas on how to combat period-induced anxiety, so I’ve added them in to give you all some extra tools on how to get through these tough times. Mariella takes 10mg of citalopram every morning for anxiety and depression, and says it’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made. She runs her own creative writing blog, Strange Wild Birds, and is also creating a podcast about the gaps in everyone’s sexual education, which you can take part in through a short survey here, or you can follow her on twitter via
- If you’re in a lot of pain, and can handle caffeine, taking paracetamol with a cup of tea or coffee helps the pain medication work faster, giving you near-instant relief.
- Having a hot bath with essential oils like Lavender not only eases the aches and pains, but also the oils will relax you.
- Chamomile tea eases cramps and has relaxing qualities that help you sleep and soothes the mind.
- A hot water bottle against the area can help.
- A good distraction can go a long way; soothing sitcoms or cartoons can help take your mind off the pain, and absorb you enough to stop the negative thoughts.
- Watching something funny, or laughter, can make a huge difference. Nothing snaps me out of anxiety faster than a good giggle.
- Going for a gentle walk can ensure your muscles don’t cramp up, and can help you feel less tense. Listening to a podcast whilst walking also keeps your mind occupied.
- 4-step routine: if you’re sat upright or standing: i. breathe in and imagining you’re growing tall like a tree, ii. breathe out and feel your feet planted on the ground like you’re rooted, again the tree thing, iii. breath in and look into all corners of the room, taking everything inside the room in, iv. breathe out and think of someone who makes you smile.
Being on your period can be terrible. There’s no two ways about it. However, as it comes (usually) once a month, this gives us time to prepare. We know what to expect, and we can put plans in place to deal with it. Following the tips above can help alleviate some of the suffering that comes with the awful duo of being on your period, and having anxiety.