Anyone who’s ever experienced PMS knows that there are some bad moods that simply cannot be blamed on the mind alone. Hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, have a major impact on how we feel. When these hormones gradually ebb and flow during the menstrual cycle—or even wildly fluctuate during perimenopause or reach lower levels during menopause—so do our moods.
Understanding the root cause can help with solutions in the moment. “It’s incredibly empowering to realize that much of the time we can shift our own mood with lifestyle modifications that we have direct access to,” says functional psychiatrist Ellen Vora, MD.
Below, five expert tips to help. (Even though these mood shifts are common, consult your doctor—maybe a functional psychiatrist—if you’re concerned about changes in your mood or mental health.)
- Become aware. “There is a different vibe to the different phases of the cycle,” says Vora. That is, each phase comes with distinct emotional expressions, energy levels, and sexual desires. Using an app to track your physical and emotional changes throughout your menstrual cycle can help you recognize patterns. Heather Hirsch, MD, likes the Balance app, created by Louise Newson, MD: It’s geared toward the perimenopause and menopause phases, not fertility, as most period-tracking apps are.
- Cycle-sync your workouts and commitments. “In our follicular phase—those first 14 days of the cycle after we start bleeding—we have more energy,” says Vora. “That’s when we might want to do more outgoing activities and intense exercise.” But during the luteal phase (the time between ovulation and the start of menses), she says, we typically feel more tender, so be gentler and more compassionate with yourself during this time. It’s usually not the time for HIIT workouts, especially if you’re irritable, which often happens during the luteal phase. “It’s just going to rev you up more,” says Hirsch. She recommends trying calming exercises—walking, yoga, or Tai Chi—and taking time to relax and journal. And if your irritability is interfering with your work, as many of Hirsch’s patients report, then she recommends working from home temporarily if you’re able to.
- Breathe and shake. “I would love for my patients to meditate 20 minutes, twice a day, but what people realistically latch on to is breathing and shaking,” says Vora. For breathing, she recommends the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. “You inhale to the count of four, hold for seven, and exhale for eight.” And she says you can repeat it as many times as you like and whenever you need it—in the middle of the day when you’re stressed or in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. For shaking, she recommends that her patients listen to shamanic drum music—these rhythms naturally help the brain sync into deeply relaxing theta waves—and shake in whatever way their bodies feel like for a few minutes.
- Use calming herbs. “Anything that’s going to calm the sympathetic nervous system down [is very helpful],” says Hirsch. She finds that ashwagandha supplements and chamomile and lavender teas are personally soothing.
- Try hormone therapies. “There are some patients that come to me during perimenopause and they’re like, ‘I’m meditating, going to yoga, journaling, and doing affirmation walks and nothing is working,’” says Hirsch. This is when she works with them to create an individualized hormone replacement therapy plan with FDA-approved bioidentical hormones—they’re considered the most effective hormone therapy option.
Bonus Tip: Self-Pleasure
We don’t have strong research to support the idea that an orgasm could help uplift your mood. But from experience, we think it’s worth a try.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the experts and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.