My HormonologyThink about how severe your premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is: Is it mild? Moderate? Severe? The answer you give could reveal something key about you, say University of Maine researchers. In their new study, they discovered that women with more intense PMS symptoms are more likely to have higher levels of health anxiety (unfounded worry about your health) and anxiety sensitivity (the fear of having anxiety symptoms—such as an increased heart rate or muscle tension—because of worry it could cause health problems or embarrassment).

The researchers go on to suggest that this heightened state of anxiety may actually contribute to PMS symptoms, making them worse than they would be if you didn’t have the anxiety. It may be because the anxiety makes you hyper-vigilant about every little change in emotion and physical sensation as estrogen plunges—such as irritability, feeling blue, getting dizzy or having a headache. This, in turn, makes you more prone to focusing on them and worrying about them worsening, which, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, then makes them worse.

So, what can you do if you suspect anxiety could be exacerbating physical and emotional symptoms in your premenstrual week? Try exercising, doing yoga and/or meditating on a regular basis. Numerous studies show that these three activities help anxiety-prone individuals enjoy more calm by creating certain changes in the brain.