We’ve all been there. You succumb to a random crying jag on your otherwise cheery run. Or you snap at your significant other for being the no-biggie, usual-bit late. When your mood’s doing more swinging than the major leagues, you might be wondering what’s up.
“We all have mood swings at times, whether triggered by something real or perceived,” says Lauren Rigney, a Manhattan-based mental health counselor and coach.
Life’s usual mix of ups and downs can bring on a bout of irritability or heightened reactivity. And if that isn’t enough, Aunt Flo’s visitation schedule and the resulting flux in hormones can have an added impact on mood for us gals.
So how do we know if our pendulum of feelings is related to typical stress, our cycles, or a mood disorder we may need pro help navigating? And if our mood swings are affecting our lives, how can we have more control over this carnival ride?
This assessment is for informational purposes only. It’s not meant for diagnosing yourself or others with a mood disorder. If you suspect you need help with mood swings or other mental health issues, consult a mental health professional.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t track your mood, it’s going to be really hard to pinpoint the cause. Plus, tracking how you feel can also help your therapist look for patterns to see if there is a mental health cause behind those mood swings.
To track both menstrual and mental changes side by side, use a prediction-based app.
Clue is a period tracker, but you can also track things like emotions, energy level, pain, and cravings.
Based on your data, Clue will give you a three-day forecast of how you might be feeling. That way you can be prepared for things that could set you off or just get a heads up on when to stock up on lavender bath bombs. You can even share certain info with a partner if that’s helpful to you.
Eve by Glow is another period tracker, and it offers up emojis for PMS monitoring. It’s simple and fun, and it will even cheer on your sexual adventures if you log them — and not assume that you’re doing it with a dude.
In regards to your emotions, the app will remind you when your feelings might be more intense and that even if they’re all over the place, they still matter.
RealifeChange acts as a mood tracker that doubles as an on-the-fly life coach. Plug in how you’re feeling at any given moment and you’ll get actionable help for decision-making and reducing stress and anxiety.
This type of tracking can be helpful when you feel like your emotions are in charge.
Daylio is a mood tracker and mini mobile diary. Using just a few taps, you can log your moods, like when you’re feeling “fugly,” and your current activities.
You can then view a monthly chart of mood fluxes to determine if you’re experiencing frequent or extreme highs and lows. It can also alert you to certain triggers.
As you go about tracking your cycle or your emotions, remember that occasional mood swings are normal. We all experience highs and lows, regardless of gender, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
One hour you might be laughing with your coworker, and the next you might be irrationally mad at your roomie for eating the leftovers you were looking forward to snarfing at the end of a long day.
But if mood swings and reactivity are leaving you feeling wrecked, it’s time to talk to someone.
“Mood swings, whatever the cause, can have negative effects on your life,” Rigney says. “Talking through this with a professional can help you recognize when it happens, why it happens, and what strategies to use so you can work through it in a more productive way.”
Jennifer Chesak is a Nashville-based freelance book editor and writing instructor. She’s also an adventure travel, fitness, and health writer for several national publications. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill and is working on her first fiction novel, set in her native state of North Dakota.