Understanding Cycle-Related Anxiety for More Peaceful Periods

Essential Takeaways

  • PMS affects up to 80% of women of reproductive age.
  • Hormones control and regulate our bodies as well as our mental health.
  • Due to hormonal fluctuations, PMS interrupts and upsets that balance, often triggering symptoms like increased anxiety.
  • When a woman’s body feels stressed, it chooses survival over fertility.

If you find anxiety rising during your period, you are certainly not alone. We know that PMS affects up to 90% of people with periods, and it's estimated that as many as 3 out of every 4 menstruating women have experienced some form of premenstrual syndrome. That includes experiencing anxiety. Studies also report that 23% of women experience symptoms of anxiety during perimenopause. Additionally, studies show these anxiety symptoms are not necessarily linked to depression.

Read more: Beat The Bloat: 4 Remedies for Menstrual Bloating

Stats aside, Prudence Hall, MD, confirms there’s something going on in our bodies. "Because of differences in brain chemistry and the impact of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, women are already more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorders and even panic attacks," says Hall on MindBodyGreen. "And these can definitely be more pronounced right before and during their periods."

What’s the cause? Hormones. 

Hormones control and regulate our bodies as well as our mental health. Hall, author of Radiant Again & Forever and founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California, says, "Due to hormonal fluctuations, PMS interrupts and upsets that balance, often triggering symptoms like increased anxiety." The erratic rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone can cultivate anxiety issues like tension headaches, palpitations, upset stomachs, and even panic attacks.

To understand how this works, we need to understand how our fertility works.

Let’s break it down:

  • Day three of your cycle: your brain increases conversation with your ovaries.
  • Your ovaries to an egg: "Ready for some ovulation?"
  • Day 14 of your cycle: your luteinizing hormone and body temperature both spike (aka an egg is being released).

But how does this connect to anxiety?

When the egg drops, what’s left behind in the ovary is the corpus luteum: this is what’s responsible for secreting progesterone for about two weeks following ovulation - and it doesn’t discriminate based on whether the egg is fertilized or not. As the corpus luteum makes progesterone and keeps it in balance, it hits our brain with a cool, calm experience and a feeling of connection and appreciation for the world around us. How does it do this? It stimulates GABA receptors, which quiets neuroexcitatory (aka “freak-out”) neurotransmitters.

When a woman’s body feels stressed, it chooses survival over fertility. That means your body walks away from making progesterone in order to make cortisol (this process is known as pregnenolone steal). Things can be fine and dandy in this state until stress becomes chronic and you enter a state of HPA-dysregulation (aka adrenal fatigue). At this point, your body pushes epinephrine and norepinephrine. This basically tells your brain to have a 2007-Britney-esque meltdown while also reducing progesterone, thereby keeping you from calming down.

And yet we women continue to work 40-hour jobs, maintain social lives, and live a fit lifestyle. Who rules the world? (We know.)

It’s important to note that some anxiety may have nothing to do with hormones. Example: if you have severe period pain, you may begin to dread your period, which can morph into anxiety. Also, if you have an anxiety disorder, you’ll most likely find your symptoms feel worse just before and during your period. If that sounds like you, it may make sense to talk to your doctor to see if you can adjust your medication around this time.

Looking for relief? 

The good news: you are not at the mercy of your cycle. Here are some methods to limit or even eliminate cycle-related anxiety:

Consider nixing the pill

The hormonal birth control pill has numerous side effects. The one that comes to mind: depression. Did you know depression is the number one reason women quit the pill? Even clinically, doctors have seen anxiety symptoms occur in participants taking the pill. The hypothesis: the nutrient depletion, inflammation, and microbiome disruption introduced by the pill makes some women feel anxious. If you’re experiencing anxiety while on the pill, be sure to ask your doctor about alternative conception control methods.

Check in with your diet and lifestyle

Are you the kind of gal who slurps cereal for breakfast and downs Diet Coke daily? That may be affecting your cycle. Follow these dietary guidelines for a low-anxiety flow: 

  • Eat a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet 
  • Make sure it’s rich in fruits and vegetables and low in dairy and meat
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine 
  • Get enough sleep every night

Stay Mindful, Stay Moving

Walk, run, cycle, swim — get moving!  Exercise is an all-natural stress buster. For extra stress-busting power, try breathing exercises or meditation. Trouble sitting in silence? Try a meditation app like Headspace or Calm to get in the zone.

Get Your GABA On

GABA is more than just a fun word to say. It’s a calming neurotransmitter that helps support a healthy mood. The supplement helps you crush anxiety and stay on top of your game. Try 250 mg of GABA paired with L-theanine (a calming amino acid).

Try Elix

Our Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal tinctures have certain herbs that work to balance hormones (which therefore help to reduce anxiety) and others that work to reduce anxiety directly.

See how your Cycle Balance formula is personalized for your flow to help regulate your cycle and heal the root causes of menstrual symptoms, including anxiety, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, and more.

Try your own personalized herbal formula - take the free health assessment today


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This article was reviewed by Dr. Jessica Ritch
Dr. Jessica Ritch is a board-certified and fellowship-trained minimally invasive gynecologist who specializes in the management of benign gynecologic conditions such as abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. She completed residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, where she was selected as chief resident and received the prestigious AAGL Outstanding Resident in Minimally Invasive Gynecology award.

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