Ever wonder why some women get intense premenstrual irritability while other women can coast through their premenstrual week with barely a dent in their mood?
For some, it’s at least partly due to genetics, diet, medications, health conditions and/or stress.
Now a small German study in the journal Women & Health reveals another possible reason for the big difference in pre-period anger among women: After tracking the emotions of 59 women across their monthly cycle, they discovered that women who had the most anxiety and who were prone to ruminating (churning over worries in their mind) experienced the most irritability in their premenstrual week.
This study didn’t examine whether reducing anxiety and rumination could lead to less premenstrual anger. But, it couldn’t hurt to try. I mean, all you have to lose is anxiousness and worry, right?
So, if you want to usher in calm and turn off stressful thoughts–and test if this dials down your pre-period temper–here are 5 study-proven techniques that could help:
1. Shield yourself from anxiety by meditating: Think it takes months, even years, for the calming effects of meditation to kick in? Not so. In a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology volunteers who sat still and focused on their breath for 25 minutes three days in a row were calmer and more relaxed–even in the face of being made to perform a purposely stressful task.
How it works: Three brief bouts of meditation train you to use positive coping mechanisms—such as slow, steady breathing—during tense times, which prevent you from getting anxious, the researchers explain.
2. Tame tension with apples: Whether you prefer eating your apples raw and crunchy or baked into a pie, here’s one good reason to eat more of this sweet fruit: It has the power to reduce anxiety.
How it works: According to the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, apple flesh contains chlorogenic acid—an antioxidant that has an effect on the brain similar to the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, but without the drowsy side effects.
3. Nix negative thoughts by going to bed earlier: If worrisome thoughts pop up over and over—and you just can’t seem to push them away—try heading to bed earlier than you usually do. When you wake up, chances are, you’ll have more positive thoughts and fewer bothersome ones.
How it works: A study from Binghamton University reveals that late bedtimes and getting fewer than the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye can prompt changes in the brain that trigger repetitive unwanted thoughts. An earlier bedtime and longer sleep reverses these changes.
4. Fold away regret: When bad memories or regrets intrude on your thoughts and won’t go away, start folding laundry, washing dishes, drumming to a song or doing another repetitive task that uses your hands.
How it works: A study from the U.K.’s University College London shows that keeping your hands busy slams the brakes on unwanted thoughts of the past by engaging parts of your brain that manage recall.
5. Write away worries: Spending 10 minutes writing a letter to yourself about a stressor that keeps popping up in your mind—and using self-compassion, where you accept and forgive yourself—helps to finally put the issue to rest, halting the recurring thoughts, say Australian researchers.
How it works: This easy technique enables you process the problem in a positive way that makes you feel better about it.
[Photo: Take Back Your Health Conference]