We’ve all felt stressed at one point or another. From a busy day at work to changes in our personal lives, stress can have a significant impact on our day-to-day activity. Needless to say, stress has many effects on your body. Heart problems and mental health issues are common side effects, to name a few. Stress can even impact your sex drive.
In this article, we’re going to look at how stress can affect your menstrual cycle, and what you can do to mitigate its effects.
How Does Stress Affect Your Cycle?
Both stress and your period are tied to your hormones. Throughout your cycle, your body moves through the natural rise and fall of hormone levels. When you’re stressed, your body’s cortisol levels spike. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol is a hormone that regulates a number of important functions, but is primarily responsible for controlling your stress response.
When your cortisol levels are high, you’re more prone to issues like high blood pressure, weight gain, and irregular periods. Increased cortisol levels can negatively interfere with the regular hormonal balance of your cycle. This can delay your period, increase cycle length, or cause you to miss your periods.
Intense, prolonged periods of stress have been known to cause skipping even a few periods in a row. If you’re stressed but still get your period, the increase in cortisol can sometimes cause you to have longer or more painful periods, and increase other unpleasant symptoms like nausea or bloating. Overall, high levels of stress throw your whole cycle into whack and pour gasoline on an already unfun fire.
What to DoStress and your period don’t mix well. Removing yourself from stressful situations isn’t always an option, however, there are things you can do to mitigate the negative interactions and leave you feeling your best throughout your cycle.
While it may seem pedantic to point this out, the easiest way to reduce the impact of stress on your period is to lower your stress level. Sometimes, stress is unavoidable, or a bigger part of your lifestyle than you care to admit. Stress comes from a variety of sources and it’s not always easy to pinpoint what is causing it. Several types of therapy can be used to manage chronic or acute bouts of stress; moreover, a counselor or therapist can help you understand the root of stress.
While it’s certainly not a substitute for a mental health professional, TikTok also has provided some great tips on anxiety relief that can be great for targeting stress. We laid a few of them out so you don’t have to hunt through your FYP.
Do (Light) Exercises
One of the best ways to target stress is by exercising. Throughout most of your cycle, old reliable methods such as running, weight lifting, or boxing work great for managing stress. However, while on your period exercise can get a little trickier. Moderate movement can help manage cramps and reduce inflammation by improving blood flow to the pelvic area; however, you will probably want to avoid any intense training.
Your body will need extra time to recover from whatever exercise you take on, and you may notice exercises that are usually in your wheelhouse might seem out of reach. Do try things like light cardio. Taking easy walks or going for a leisurely bike ride can get you moving with low stakes. Gentle strength training can also be okay, but don’t go for any PRs. Use light weights, and focus more on your form. If you start feeling worse, don’t push it.
Yoga can also be a great way to get moving during menstruation, despite myths claiming otherwise! Your body will thank you for the endorphins released by exercise, even if it feels like a herculean effort!
Eat Healthy Foods
What you eat is always important. Your mood is intricately tied to gut health and nutrition. If your body doesn’t have what it needs to make you feel good, you’re setting yourself up for a struggle. When you’re on your period, your diet requires extra attention. Eating certain foods during your period can be a great way to keep you calm and energized throughout the day.
Focus on getting in enough B vitamins, as they can help your body regulate your mood and lower anxiety. Healthy fats are also essential. Foods like salmon, nuts and seeds, olive oil, or avocados are full of omega 3 fatty acids that can target period pain but also help prevent mood swings.
Additionally, some people recommend trying different foods through different parts of your cycle. Tailoring your diet to meet the needs of each phase of your cycle can help lift your overall mood outside of just your period.
Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is one of the best ways to lower stress levels. Self-care can be an all-encompassing wellness lifestyle, or it can be a bubble bath here and there. Whatever you feel like doing to care for and uplift yourself is self-care, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
For instance, sex can be a great part of both period and stress relief self-care. Read up on our guide to period sex here to learn more about how to take full advantage of period sex! Additionally, implementing self-care every day can uplift your mood throughout your whole cycle. Drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep are great foundations for a healthy, stress-free self-care routine.
Once you’ve established the baseline, add in more personalized care. Slowing down with a book can take your mind off work stress, or wrapping yourself up in a blanket with your favorite show can be a cozy nightcap to relax after a long day.