Most people are familiar with PMS; either they, or someone they love, has probably suffered through this monthly roller coaster of emotions and unpleasant symptoms. But when they enter perimenopause, many women feel like premenstrual syndrome wasn’t even a warm-up, and some women who never had to deal with the monthly mood swings are caught totally unprepared – as are their loved ones.

Why Do Women Experience Mood Swings?

During the time leading up to menopause, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body – which used to cycle fairly consistently from month to month – suddenly run amok. These changes directly affect your bodily systems as well as the neurotransmitters in your brain, causing multiple symptoms ranging from hot flashes to intense emotional swings. For many women – and their families – these mood changes can cause incredible stress.

What Are These Mood Swings Like?

For each woman, their experience with the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause is different. Irritability, depression, overly emotional reactions such as random crying, and even outbursts of anger are all possible symptoms of changing hormone levels. For some, it’s like the extreme version of PMS – everything to the max, seemingly with no rules or predictable patterns. One moment, you feel fine, and the next, you find yourself furious or crying for little or no apparent reason. Some common effects of these mood swings include:

  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Sadness or depression
  • Lowered patience level
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Volatile emotions

Strategies for Coping

While you may not be able to completely control the moodiness that comes with approaching menopause, you can do some things to minimize the intensity and impact of your changing emotions.

  1. Getting regular exercise works on multiple levels to combat the ups and downs of menopausal moods. It helps you to lessen stress, frustration and irritability, and also triggers mood-boosting endorphins, which can also help with relieving sadness and depression.
  2. Try yoga, meditation or massage. All of these practices have proven calming and stress-reducing effects that can be especially helpful during the intense emotional highs and lows of perimenopause. They also provide a host of physical benefits to help you feel better.
  3. Get enough sleep. Another common effect of perimenopause is difficulty falling and staying asleep, which only exacerbates the intensity of the mood swings associated with menopause. Try going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding the use of cell phones or tablets at bed time, and getting up on time even if you haven’t slept well in order to create as normal a sleep pattern as possible for your body to follow.
  4. Eat a healthy diet. Limiting your intake of alcohol and caffeine can help many women to sleep better and feel more level during this difficult time. Making sure you get enough calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients is also important. You want your body operating at its best in order to limit the impact of changing hormones. Focusing on healthy eating can also help you to avoid some of the weight gain commonly associated with menopause.

If you find that the negative symptoms of approaching menopause are severely impacting your daily life, don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or gynecologist. There are also a range of prescription treatments that may help you with dealing with mood swings and the other side effects of perimenopause.