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Menstrual cramps. You’ll never mistake those for a good time, right?

Well, unless you get seriously bad menstrual cramps that require a health care provider’s intervention, you may want to avoid expecting your cramps to be totally horrible.

And for good reason: Anticipating that your menstrual cramp pain will be bad can actually make it worse than it otherwise would have been, according to a 2013 study in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine.

Why?

As the researchers explain, your tendency to think of the worst possible pain scenario (called “pain catastrophizing”) peaks on Day 1 of your cycle—the day your period begins.

And that’s key since fear and anxiety about what kind of discomfort you may experience ratchets up your perception of pain and prompts you to focus more on it. (I have this same problem whenever I go to the dentist. The poor guy practically begs me to take anti-anxiety pills before stepping foot in his office.)

So, what can you do if you experience menstrual cramp anxiety that you suspect is making your period pain worse?

Try writing a list of ways you would ease period discomfort should it arise, such as using a heating pad, taking a painkiller and/or sipping chamomile tea–all proven ways to ease menstrual cramps.

A fear of not being able to control a situation worsens pain catastrophizing. Therefore, doing something that boosts your sense of control can help ease the anxiety that’s intensifying your discomfort.

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