Moods and Hormones: How Simple Awareness Can Save Your Sanity and Improve Your Marriage
In my personal experience, I have found that just being in-tune and aware of how hormones affect my moods has improved my mental health and my relationship with my husband. Many of my clients – women, men, and couples – have found this to be helpful as well.
If hormones wreak havoc on your moods, here's what you need to know...
Women’s Experiences Vary
First of all, it's important to understand that women vary in their sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations.
On one end of the spectrum, some women say they notice no correlation between their menstrual cycle and their moods. Moving down the spectrum, some women experience mild to moderate mood symptoms that can be attributed to PMS. On the other end of the spectrum, many women experience severe symptoms - and if these symptoms cause significant distress or interfere with work, school, or relationships, this could possibly be diagnosed as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).**
For more information on the symptoms associated with PMDD, read here:
**Some women with PMDD experience severe depression and thoughts of suicide.
If you feel hopeless and have thoughts of suicide, call 911 or the
National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255.
Biology tells us that animals are designed to reproduce. If the human species is meant to reproduce, then it makes sense that our bodies and their chemistry are designed to encourage that endeavor.
As women move toward ovulation and become fertile, it makes biological sense that we become more outgoing and gregarious during this phase of our cycle. We become more talkative, creative, productive, and focused. We feel sexier, more confident, and more attuned to the outside world. Our body chemistry boosts our chances of attracting a mate.
It also makes sense that after ovulation, we become more inwardly focused, tired, and less interested in socializing or sex. It's our body's natural way of protecting a possible pregnancy. During this premenstrual phase – also called the luteal phase – fluctuations in hormones can cause difficulties in concentration, productivity, and self-confidence. We have more anxiety, negative thoughts, and irritability and less energy and patience. These negative feelings increase when other life circumstances cause stress and overexertion of physical, mental, and emotional energy.
It’s normal and COMPLETELY NATURAL for women to experience mood symptoms associated with hormonal fluctuations throughout their cycle.
For more information about how hormones can affect women’s moods, health, and behavior,
check out this excellent site:
How Awareness and Acceptance Can Help
Yes, in the modern day, our periods can be mentally, emotionally, and physically inconvenient.
But if we can tune-in to our experience, embrace and honor the natural rhythm of our bodies instead of denying it or fighting against it, then we can learn to ride the emotional waves of our hormonal cycles.
1. Slow down, say no, give in.
Give yourself permission to slow down premenstrually. It’s OK to say no to requests for favors, social invitations, and extra projects that sound exhausting. Give in to your desire to be lazy when possible, find a quiet place to read, make a cup of tea, take a bath, go to bed early.
When my kids were young, I would sometimes retreat to my bedroom alone in the evening and call this my Moon Lodge - borrowing an ancient custom when women would retreat to tents together when their menstrual cycles were in sync with each other and the moon phases. My husband would graciously care for the kids and bring me a cup to tea, allowing me to escape from the sensory overload of bath time or homework.
2. Recognize negative emotions for what they are.
If you feel more cynical, critical of others and yourself, and more pessimistic before your period, begin to recognize these feelings as part of the hormonal dips in your cycle. Realize that your thoughts are being affected by your hormones and be slower to react to them. Find ways to be reflective about your mood rather than take your irritability or anger out on others – or yourself. Remember - just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.
*Note: Acknowledging the link between your hormones and your moods is not an excuse for bad behavior. Instead, I’m suggesting that awareness brings an opportunity to be more realistic about your negative mood and manage your reactions more appropriately. If you have difficulty controlling anger, become mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive, or exhibit self-harming behavior in response to mood, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional or a doctor.
3. Educate your loved ones and reassure them that your negative mood is not their fault.
Educate your spouse or family about the biology of the menstrual cycle and how hormones can affect mood and energy levels. Let your family know where you are in your cycle and offer a gentle "heads up" when you notice a rise in irritability and negative thinking patterns. Remind them not to take it personally and ask for support and understanding. It’s also OK to ask for specific behavior from your family that will help you during this time such as “Can you help around the house more” or “Can you give me some time to myself to recharge” or even “Can you please stop talking for a few minutes because I’m feeling overwhelmed!”
Couples who embrace the ebb and flow of hormones through awareness, communication, and reassurance will develop a more loving, mutually supportive relationship.
4. Empty the bucket.
If you are feeling emotionally sensitive or weepy, it’s OK to let the tears flow sometimes. A good premenstrual cry can be cathartic and rejuvenating. My husband calls this “emptying the bucket.” When stress builds up and you feel overwhelmed, allow yourself to let your guard down and let it out so you can pick yourself back up and move forward with intention. You have to empty the bucket.
How Spouses Can Help
1. Give your wife some time in the Moon Lodge.
Acknowledge that her energy is low and her sensitivity to over-stimulation is high. Offer quiet time and some extra loving care.
2. Understand her hormone cycle and how mood is affected.
This doesn’t mean blaming every negative emotion on her period – that is invalidating and usually infuriating to most women! Rather, be supportive and understanding of her shifting moods. Being sensitive to her feelings and not taking criticism too personally can help you to remain calm and feel less defensive or irritable in return.
3. Offer compassion and love when her bucket overflows.
If she is willing, hold her and give reassurance when she feels sad or overwhelmed. This is an opportunity to show her that she is loved and accepted.
In summary, understanding the biology of the female hormonal cycle and how mood may be affected can help you (and your partner) feel more grounded when hormones fluctuate. Communicating with your loved ones about your experience can ease tensions and develop deeper understanding and connection. Self-care, reducing stress, and “going with the flow” can reduce premenstrual mood symptoms.
Additional Help for Mood Regulation
Things You Can Do on Your Own
Exercise, eat healthy, and get more sleep. Duh! We all know these things improve our physical, mental, and emotional health. Putting them into practice is the trick!
Meditation can calm anxiety, increase positive thoughts, and decrease depression. (There's scientific proof!)
Using an app to chart your cycle and track your symptoms can be helpful. I love the app “Period Tracker” and have recommended it to many clients. It allows you to keep track of moods and other symptoms and write notes throughout the month.
Things to Discuss with Your Doctor
Anti-depressant medications such as Zoloft or Lexapro can help stabilize moods. Some doctors will recommend increasing your dosage premenstrually if a drop in hormones increases negative emotions.*
Some birth control pills help to stabilize moods throughout your menstrual cycle. However, some birth control pills increase symptoms and every woman is affected differently. Yaz is a birth control pill that has been FDA approved to treat PMDD.*
Holistic remedies – do a little research! But remember that holistic remedies are often not FDA approved.*
*Ask your doctor or gynecologist if these options may be right for you.
-Valerie Allen, MEd, LPCC
If you often want to stab your husband or family members in the eye with a fork a few days before your period,
I can help you learn to be aware of your hormonal cycle and manage your emotional reactions.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-317-8113.
*The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any mental health treatment, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require psychological or medical treatment, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist in your area. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician, or mental health professional. This column and its author are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.