One day, when my second child was about 15 months old, I woke up in a panic. I was CERTAIN someone was walking around my house, and I strained to listen to them. I considered waking up my husband for help, but I wanted to be sure before I woke him. I never was sure, because no one was there. But I could no longer sleep because of my anxiety.
The next day I got my first postpartum period. And that spike of anxiety was gone… For about 28 days. It came back the night before my next period too. I was on to something! I wanted to see if this is normal and if other women experience the same thing.
It turns out, yes, it’s normal. The good news is that we can reduce it! Experts believe that this sudden wave of anxiety that comes right before our period is due to a sudden drop in estrogen. Once our body realizes we aren’t pregnant, our sex hormones – estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone – drop dramatically. In some women, the hormonal withdrawal could cause anxiety.
Just knowing this is the case has helped me. This month I was taking a bike ride with my family and was suddenly sure my kids were going to go flying out of their bike carrier and fall onto a busy highway. The bridge going over the road was concrete, and there were no holes for them to fly through! I took note of my brain’s craziness and made a note to use a pad that night before bed. Also, guess what! We had a perfectly safe bike ride.
To avoid the anxiety, the best thing you can do is get your hormones balanced so that your estrogen and progesterone ratio is balanced, and the sudden hormone drop won’t affect you as much. Eating and exercising according to your cycle will help with that. In the luteal phase, which is the phase before your period, some of the recommendations line up with suggestions to tame pre-menstrual anxiety.
- Do more gentle exercise like yoga to counteract the anxiety.
- Eat more healthy carbs! The luteal phase is when healthy carbs are recommended, especially in the five days leading up to your period.
- Eat to increase your levels of vitamin B-6, calcium, and magnesium. Some foods that will help include:
- Salmon and other fatty fish
- Chickpeas and other legumes
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
I didn’t realize pre-menstrual anxiety was a real thing until recently. It’s possible I experienced it in the past but never put it together. Knowing that our hormones could cause us some significant anxiety when they drop right before your period can make it a lot easier to handle. And optimizing our cycle by eating and exercising according to your phase will help reduce this symptom, and other PMS symptoms as well!