Q: Dear Susie. Over the past year I am feeling so much more stressed, impatient, and I'm always exhausted. I'm often cranky to be around. (And it's not much fun from the inside, either.) Could it be my hormones? How can I tell if it is?

A: Wow. You've touched on an important realm. It sounds from your question as though you have some understanding about the powerful influence our hormones have over all sorts or functions of body, mind and "spirit(s)." You didn't mention how old you are and that might come into play as well if you are, say, adolescent...or peri-menopausal...or have a new baby...but any woman of any age may experience a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms associated with cyclical hormonal shifts. The only way to really ascertain if there is something unusual going on hormonally would be to see your OB/GYN and have some blood work done. Some women experience stress symptoms like tension and anxiety, "the blues," irritability or mood and weight fluctuations at various stages of both the menstrual cycle...and the life cycle. Some find they get clumsy, drop things, bump into stuff. (There are all kinds of fun accompaniments to the tune, "I Enjoy Being a Girl!") Some get acne, others find their skin is clearer; some crave certain foods...or avoid others like the plague. Unquestionably, men have their own "guy" issues to deal with, but it's quite a ride we women take through the peaks and valleys of hormonal changes. In many cases, stress comes along for the ride.

If you are by chance in your late 30's or 40's or early 50's, a lot of women throughout peri-menopause (which I believe can span 10 or more years in some cases) notice mood changes, and even physical changes in their flow,etc. As one doctor put it: "Once you hit peri-menopause, all bets are off!" It really does get "different" So you might not be pre-menstrual per se but notice some sensitivities you never did before. But whatever your age: teens, 20's, 30's and on up, my first suggestion would to go talk with your gynecologist or internist and explore what might be happening...or rule that out and see if your depression and stress are coming from somewhere else altogether.

A Few Non-Hormonal Possibilities to Check Out:

-Try reducing caffeine. (It is amazing what even one cup of caffeinated coffee or a diet cola does to me!) Don't forget chocolate...sorry.

-Jot down on a calendar the times of day or days of the week that are better/worse. Look for a pattern.

-Eliminate sugar and flour for 2 weeks and drink plenty of water to flush out your system. For some, sugar can act as a mood-altering drug and some would say it can bring on what a book on this very subject called, "Sugar Blues."

-Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

-Anything going on at home? At work? In a relationship? Worries? Change of some kind? Maybe it is reactive stress to something happening in your world.

-Try asking a good, trusted friend if they have any guess as to what's causing you to feel as you have been. Other people see us quite differently than we see ourselves and sometimes someone who knows us well and cares for us can observe what we cannot see in ourselves.

Remember that we're all just doing the best we can day-to-day in a very demanding world and at a very complex time. Many things are changing. Be gentle with yourself while you go through whatever this is. Have a skilled, compassionate, licensed medical professionals assess any medical issues, or emotional concerns to address or eliminate.Find someone who's a good listener. Then get outdoors, get some exercise, get some rest, and remember, "This, too, shall pass." Take a look at my stress tip, "70 Ways to Feel Really Good...Fast!" www.relaxintuit.com/tips.asp

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Author's Bio: 

Award-winning stress-relief expert Susie Mantell’s exquisitely soothing relaxation audiobook on CD, “Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace,” is clinically approved to soothe layer-after-layer of Stress and Sleeplessness, Depression, Anxiety, Grief, Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, Caregiver Stress, Cancer, Pain, P.T.S.D., Divorce, and Addictive Disease. Featured by The Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC, CBS TV, Town & Country, The American Pain Society Hazelden and Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation, listeners include The Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and The Betty Ford Center. Mantell has facilitated thousands in relieving health-related, work-related, chronic or traumatic stress, customizing stress-reduction for Fortune 500 companies, The Arthritis Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Canyon Ranch Medical, Health & Healing Dept. and The National Conference on Loss. Her multi-sensory, mind-body techniques appear in syndicated media, corporate newsletters, and publications for medical professionals. Susie Mantell's website .