Several women I know are perfectly fine most of the time, but once a month they experience heightened anxiety, irritability, and other mood changes. When such symptoms occur according to hormone cycles, they are considered the result of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) rather than anxiety disorder.
Yet for those suffering, the anxiety symptoms from PMS can be truly disturbing. My friend Kathy said that when she is in this state, every little thing worries her way beyond its significance. One day, for example, when UPS tried to deliver a package to her house and left it with a neighbor when they found no one home, Kathy felt she needed to retrieve that package immediately when she found out. But the neighbors were not available when Kathy got home, and she had to wait until the next day. “I couldn’t sleep all night,” she said, “knowing that my package was in the hands of the neighbors.”
The next morning, Kathy was able to laugh at herself. She realized her worries were irrational, but more than that, she knew she was more susceptible to them because of her hormonal changes. This enabled her to finally put them aside and get on with her day.
Keeping a mood diary can help us to discover changes in our anxiety cycles, and that information may help us deal with them better. In addition to hormones, there are many factors in our lives that might increase or decrease our feelings of anxiety. Such factors include menstrual cycles, the foods we eat, sleep and work habits, exercise (or lack thereof), amount of sunlight, and interactions with family and friends.
There are things we can control in our lives, and things we can’t. We can stop eating foods that increase our anxiety, and add more exercise to our routines if that helps. But even when we can’t change a pattern of anxiety, the increased knowledge of its causes can help us handle it better.