My Hormonology

If you’ve ever suddenly erupted in anger during your premenstrual week, you are so not alone. I hear from women all the time about their struggle to contain their irritation on the days leading up to their period. Even I, on occasion during my premenstrual week, have been known to yell, curse and smash a tape gun dispenser to smithereens (to be fair, those contraptions seem specifically designed to tick off any premenstrual gal).

Anyway, today I’m here to tell you two important things:

1. It’s not your fault. Seriously. The reason we get more easily ticked off during our premenstrual days is (surprise, surprise) descending estrogen. When the level of this hormone drops, it upsets the balance of mood-managing brain chemicals. The result: We tend to have less patience and become more emotionally sensitive–a surefire recipe for losing your top whenever unexpected snags or annoying people pop up out of nowhere.

The way I try to explain it to men who want a better understanding of this monthly phenomenon is by suggesting they think back to the last time they quit caffeine, cigarettes, carbs or another mood-affecting substance. As their body went through withdrawal, they were likely a lot more easily irritated, too.

Well, the same process applies to estrogen. We experience a withdrawal-like state every time this hormone descends, resulting in getting more easily irked.

2. There’s an easy way to help cool a hot premenstrual temper. Want a calmer premenstrual week where life’s annoyances don’t get you riled up? Try this: Start your day by sitting still with your back straight and focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale slowly for 20 minutes. If thoughts wander in, don’t judge. Just gently refocus your attention back to your breath.

Believe it or not, the very first time you try this, you’ll be calmer during your day no matter what frustrating thing happens. And you don’t have to take my word for it. That’s the news from researchers out of the University of Kansas, Lawrence. In their 2016 study, they asked two groups of adults to try this easy type of meditation—those who had never done it before and those who practiced regularly for years—then gave both groups tests designed to deliberately provoke frustration.

The result: Feelings of anger were lower, and so were the heart rate, blood pressure and other physical responses to stress in both groups. Turns out, meditation—no matter how long you’ve been doing it—trains your brain and body to react less intensely to stress triggers.

If you’re new to meditation, start with just five minutes, then work your way up to 20. If you have trouble meditating alone, join a meditation class or listen to a guided meditation on Youtube. Give yourself time to get used to it and don’t worry if your thoughts are scattered during the first few attempts. Over time, you’ll naturally train your brain to focus on your breath and it will become easier.

Meditate on a regular basis–optimally daily–and research shows its stress-busting effects will also reduce other premenstrual symptoms, such as the blues, anxiety and aches!

Never miss a Hormonology tip!
Subscribe to the free Hormonology newsletter
and get helpful tips & the latest research in your inbox:
Let’s do this, sign me up!

My Hormonology