7 Ways To Manage PMS Irritability, According To Experts
If you've ever felt personally victimized by your own PMS irritability, you're not alone. While other PMS symptoms like cramps and cravings are largely unseen to everyone else, a volatile mood can be one of the biggest clues to you—and those around you—that you're about to get your period.
The good news is, while mood fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle can't always be avoided, it is possible to prepare for them so you can handle PMS irritability with more ease.
Why do we get irritable when we're PMSing?
For those of us out there who bleed, we certainly know we can get irritable just before our period starts, but why?
As doctor of clinical psychology Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, explains, when these hormones fluctuate, the neurotransmitters in the brain and the gut change as well. "These neurotransmitters (particularly serotonin and dopamine) help regulate mood, so it's not abnormal to experience anxiety or irregular emotions during this time of the month," Neo adds. Here's how to manage.
7 ways to manage premenstrual irritability
Take things slow
If you're starting to feel the effects of PMS irritability cropping up, take it as an invitation to slow down. As triple-board-certified OB/GYN Anna Cabeca, D.O., previously wrote for mindbodygreen, "During every phase, but in the luteal phase especially, you'll want to avoid increasing your cortisol levels," aka the stress hormone.
Whatever stress relief looks like for you, now's the time to do it. "I always recommend adding a good meditative practice, continuing to focus on what you're grateful for, going for a long walk, and scheduling more play and pleasure time," Cabeca adds.
Supplement with the right nutrients
Our bodies can use different nutrients more than others depending on where we are in our cycle, and when you're PMSing, you want to focus on easing tension and inflammation.
Further, according to Neo, magnesium is also a good bet to supplement because it tends to diminish when we're anxious, which may interfere with quality sleep and further make PMS symptoms worse.
Avoid spiking your blood sugar
If you've ever felt the effects of a blood sugar spike, you can imagine it's made even worse when you're already feeling irritable from PMS. And as it turns out, that's actually more likely to happen when you're PMSing.
As Cabeca explains, "Your cells are slightly more insulin resistant during this time, causing an increase in circulating blood sugar. To keep your blood sugar balanced, you'll want to be careful taking in any additional glucose or carbohydrates until the last few days of your cycle—i.e., before your period starts."
In terms of what to eat, she recommends healthy high-quality, free-range, and organic proteins, as well as healthy fats like olive oil and avocado, and lots of dark leafy and microgreens to support the gut microbiota and hormone metabolism.
Practice deep breathing
According to Neo, deep breathing exercises help activate the parasympathetic nervous system (aka the rest-and-digest function of the brain), making them a great option for quick relief from irritability when you're PMSing. Here's how to do it:
- Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly so that it expands outward
- Breathe out, expelling all the air
- Repeat at least 3 times
- When practicing this breathwork, the mind can't focus on anything (including anxious thoughts) except for the natural process of breathing in and breathing out
Try calming acupressure
Like breathwork, acupressure is another simple and natural way to manage PMS irritability. As licensed acupuncturist Paige Bourassa, DACM, L.Ac., RHN, previously wrote for mindbodygreen, gently stroke your third eye, also known as "Yin tang" in ancient Chinese medicine, is incredibly calming, "and a great way to take yourself from 10 to 1 when you're ready to rage."
Here's how to do it:
- Locate the third eye or "Yin tang" point between the eyes on the forehead, right where your third eye is.
- Using your index finger, gently stroke the point for 60 to 90 seconds as if you are petting a small animal.
- Note: This point is energetically sensitive, so be gentle.
Don't be afraid to ask for support
If you don't already talk to your partner (or friends, roommates, etc.) about your cycle, you might want to start. The people in our lives are often at the mercy of our PMS irritability, so it can be helpful to both them and you if you give them a little warning.
Not only will they know that you're more on edge than usual, but they can do their best to make the environment peaceful, calm, and supportive.
As psychology expert Erin Rachel Doppelt, M.A., previously wrote for mindbodygreen, "It might seem strange to involve your partner in such an intimate part of your life, but doing so allows you to maximize your relationship too. It's a way of allowing your partner to understand you—your body, your mood shifts, your priorities, and your spiritual energy—all the more fully so that you can create an even deeper and more meaningful connection."
Talk to your doctor about PMDD
Finally, you should also know that a small percentage of women (about 3 to 8%) experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). As Neo explains, this condition occurs about one to two weeks before menstruation and is characterized by a significant increase in mood disturbances (which go away once menstruation begins), such as:
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation
- Intense mood swings
- Trouble focusing
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue
- Extreme appetite changes
- Physical pain
- Trouble sleeping
As somatic psychologist Holly Richmond, Ph.D., tells mindbodygreen, if PMS irritability is causing you a lot of problems, you'll want to do some digging and talk to your doctor about PMDD.
"I have so many women in my practice who say they've been minimized and gaslit over their PMS irritability and, lo and behold, they have PMDD, which is a really serious condition," Richmond says.
Why am I so irritable before my period?
Many women experience PMS irritability, likely due to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle (estrogen and progesterone), which impact mood. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) could also be at play.
How do you stop PMS irritability?
To stop PMS irritability, supplement with the right nutrients, slow down your busy schedule, minimize stress, and talk to your doctor about premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Why do I feel like I'm going crazy when I'm on my period?
Many women experience mood disturbances before or during their period, but if you feel like it's drastically impacting your mental health, talk to your doctor about premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
The thing about PMS symptoms is they only disappear until your next menstrual cycle is about to begin again. Knowing this, in order to curb premenstrual irritability (or at least manage it), we have to expect it, prepare for it, and when that irritability arises, do what we can to take it easy until the irritability eases up.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.