How To Deal When Your Period Makes You Emotional

Ad failed to load

I don't know about you, but my period can definitely make me pretty emotional. Ever since I went off hormonal birth control, especially, I feel attuned to the waxing and waning of different moods that comes with each week of my cycle. And although it's not always the most pleasurable thing in the world to feel more introverted and emotional around my period (and I've said more than a few things I regret as a result), I also have to say I've found it useful.

In understanding more and more that my emotional shifts are subject to hormonal changes and other unavoidable physical circumstances, I find I'm more forgiving of myself and others, and less likely to see whatever I'm feeling in the moment — especially when it's negative — as The Absolute Truth. The truth is relative, and subject to change week to week. And in a way, that's kind of comforting.

One of the books that most helped me embrace this perspective is Dr. Julie Holland's Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy, in which she talks about the way women's hormones can affect our moods — and why society is afraid of that. I reached out to Dr. Holland, as well as to Barrie Sueskind, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with young women and anxiety, and Jodi Aman, author of You 1, Anxiety Zero for more tips. Here are their suggestions (plus some of my own) for not just dealing with but potentially taking advantage of the fact that your period can make you emotional.

Ad failed to load

Give Yourself Permission To Be Emotional

This is the first step — and it's also the most important. In our culture, women are discouraged from acting overly emotional, lest we fulfill the stereotype of the "moody bitch" or the woman destabilized by her period. But think about it: why does being emotional inherently make you weak? Couldn't it actually also be a strength to be regularly confronting oneself?

Ad failed to load

"Society looks down on women being emotional, because clear-headed rational decision-making is prized, but our emotions provide important information that cannot always be deduced using pure logic," Sueskind tells Bustle. "Emotions can alert you to pause and reflect before proceeding with a particular course of action, allowing you to make more thoughtful decisions you are likely to feel good about down the line."

Now's your time to embrace and confront the things you may have been too happy to notice the rest of your cycle, when your estrogen and serotonin levels are higher. "It is normal to feel things. This is an opportunity to feel them deeply and then let them out. Scream into your pillow," Dr. Holland suggests. It also helps to give your feelings a name, whether by journaling or talking with friends. The point is, accept the fact that you're feeling emotional, don't bottle it up.

Embrace The Urge To Nest & Clean House

Ad failed to load

Right before your period, your progesterone levels rise, which can result in an instinct to "nest." We see this tendency manifest itself more dramatically in pregnant women, who in their later months of pregnancy have their highest progesterone levels — which often leads them to go into a frenzy of cleaning house and nesting in order to prepare for the baby. Right before and during our periods, we experience a lesser version of this tendency; a desire to perhaps bake, get cozy, and stay in.

"Your uterine lining builds up in case you need a place to put a baby," Dr. Holland explains. "Menstruation is about shedding that possibility and starting over. It's a fresh chance to create the environment you want for yourself, what you'd [theoretically] want a baby to enter into." During this time, Holland says you're more able to make decisions about what needs to stay and go in your life, because you're feeling less accommodating when your estrogen levels are lower. (Dr. Holland likes to call estrogen the "whatever you want honey" hormone.)

Around our periods, hormonal fluctuations also cause our serotonin levels to drop. That's part of why you might feel more depressed and anxious, but it also means your natural obsessive tendencies are awakened — and in manageable form, that can actually be a good thing. "You can see the dirt more easily," metaphorically and literally, Dr. Holland says. "You notice what needs fixing. This includes kicking toxic friends out of your life or getting rid of that slacker boyfriend." Personally, I find it to be an excellent time to organize my closet, and otherwise channel my OCD energy into something productive. ("Red clover tea is excellent for easing the emotions of menstruation," Aman adds.)

Ad failed to load

Get More Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation says that 30 percent of women report a lack of sleep while they're menstruating — which is a problem, because you actually really need more rest when you're on your period. At the point before the menstrual cycle enters its "shedding" phase, levels of estrogen and progesterone lower, causing energy levels to drop with it. (Low estrogen levels may also be responsible for creating more waste products in the body when we ingest carbs, contributing to increased fatigue.)

Ad failed to load

Getting more sleep is "always a good idea," according to Dr. Holland. "If PMS or your period makes you want to take to your bed and take it easy, go ahead. You have my permission. Having a heavy period can help you say 'this is a time out.' You're allowed to take a break from the game." There you have it — doctor's orders.

Be Actively Gentle & Remember This Is Cyclical

We are more sensitive to pain during our periods and more likely to experience feelings of negative body image — so really, this is an excellent time to practice the very important skill that is self-care — an intention that is actually anything but weak and passive.

Ad failed to load

"Go easy on yourself. If your emotions get the best of you around your period, recognize the feelings, but practice mindfulness to avoid giving them more power than they merit," Sueskind advises. "Take some deep breaths and remind yourself that your hormonal fluctuations are making you more sensitive than usual."

You should also remember that you are more prone to stress during your period because of higher cortisol levels. "Progesterone increases cortisol which is a stress hormone and can increase anxiety symptoms," Aman tells Bustle. "If someone is already stressed, this increase of cortisol is more problematic. The more you judge yourself about it, the more cortisol is released, the worse it gets." Be gentle.

If You Can, Take A Mental Health Day

Ad failed to load

On that note, if you're just feeling like utter emotional sh*t, consider working from home, or giving yourself permission to take a mental health day.

"I vote for this anytime you can get away with it. We work too much, too long, too often," Dr. Holland says. "Take a page from France and realize you don't need to be available 24/7. And if you are, then you should be entitled to take off a full 24 now and again. HR and your boss should know by now that downtime makes you more productive, not less." Watch a movie that will give you a good cry, journal, organize your home, bake — just give yourself permission to do whatever feels kindest to yourself.

Note Your Feelings (And Maybe Make A Plan To Act On Them)

Ad failed to load

At the same time you're being gentle with yourself, it is also useful to be proactive about noting your emotions. "Fully feel your feelings first, with no narrative. Drop the story and just feel what's happening in your body, in your heart and soul," Dr. Holland says. "Once that's processed, you can start to see the REAL reason you're feeling this way. And it probably won't have much to do with what's happening now, or with the other person. More likely it has to do with things in your past involving family members. We project our own issues onto other people, so reflect on that."

Often, our periods are accompanied by a sense of restless dissatisfaction as hormonal fluctuations cause our serotonin levels to drop. Dr. Holland suggests that rather than writing ourselves off as "crazy" or "emotional," we should remember that there is a potential wisdom within our hormonal fluctuations. During your period, write down and reflect upon some of the things that were bugging you when you were PMSing — and think about what you can do about them after your period is over.

"Your period is a good time to make a plan, but I'd advising waiting until you're closer to mid-cycle to execute anything that requires confidence, drive, and focus," Dr. Holland says. (The higher levels of estrogen mid-cycle will make things easier.)

Ad failed to load

Get Yourself Off

Orgasm helps with cramps — but it also helps improve your mood. On the first day of your period, when estrogen and testosterone are at their lowest, you might not be feeling yourself, and that's also totally fine. But as your testosterone levels rise a couple days into your cycle, your sex drive may go up with it, giving you a natural head start on feeling aroused. As Bustle's sexual health columnist Emma Kaywin explains, "Because your pelvic area is literally more full at this time in your cycle (of a blood-based substance ... don’t think too much about it) you are more engorged, which is what happens during arousal. So your period basically gives you a head start on getting frisky."

Dr. Holland agrees that this is as healthy a way as any to spend your time. "Orgasm is pleasurable, which is reason enough to go ahead. Recreation is therapeutic."

Ad failed to load

Move Gently

Sometimes your might just not want to move at all — and that's totally legit too (please don't beat yourself up for being lower energy during your period, or really, anytime). But if you can manage it, it is true that exercise helps with mood.

Ad failed to load

"Exercise releases endorphins that help to counteract distressing emotions," Sueskind says. "Hit the gym, go to your favorite workout class or take a long walk." For me, the gym almost always seems out of the question — but a walk almost always feels good. Just don't be violent with yourself about it — the idea isn't to release so many endorphins that you can't possibly feel sad. It's about letting your body move and process emotions in a physical way as well, with gentleness. Dance around in your room, take a walk to your favorite pastry or to the movies. Move in whatever way genuinely brings more self-care into your life.

Congratulate Yourself Simply For Existing

When you think about it, it's pretty amazing you get a period on the regular (or irregular). Take a moment and pat yourself on the back simply for being badass enough to be able to function at all when you're bleeding, your hormone levels are constantly changing, and the patriarchy is making everything an uphill battle.

Ad failed to load

"You are part of a very long line of women who've come before you, who are around you, going through just what you are," Dr. Holland says. "It can be a bonding experience with yourself, with women everywhere, with mother earth. You are part of a sacred ritual that's been shared and continues to be shared with half the planet. And it's what keeps us all alive. Give your period props." And yourself, I might add.

Admit When It's Time To Ask For Help

Ad failed to load

All this said, if you feel your emotions are out of control in a way that's significantly messing with your work, relationships, and overall quality of life every month, you may be suffering from PMDD. If you notice significant symptoms of depression or anxiety around your period, Sueskind says you should consult with your doctor to determine whether a treatment plan might help you feel more stable throughout the month.

But otherwise, if you're just feeling some normal mood fluctuations, remember: there is nothing wrong, weak, or anti-feminist about getting emotional (or asking for support). In fact, it's our ability to weather those fluctuations month after month that's a large part of what makes us so resilient, empathetic, and interesting. Embrace the potential power in it.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

What I Learned About Work-Life Balance After Relapsing From Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Almost two years ago, I woke up in a hotel room, groggy and dehydrated, with my clothes all over the room and my nightstand filled with mini bottles of liquor. I had spent the previous two days drinking all the alcohol in my mini bar. I'm not sure wh…
By Irina Gonzalez

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale