The Connection Between Periods and Mental Health
Hey friend. I see you there with period cramps and a loud brain. Your cycle perhaps feels more like a chaotic rollercoaster than a circle of life. It’s time to discuss a correlation with cycling that often gets overlooked: the connection between periods and mental health. Many people dismiss cramps as ‘no big deal’ when they can actually be excruciating. It’s time to take an honest look if you overlook negative moods and extra emotions as just your time of the month or something more significant. Hormones impact every part of us, and it’s not unreasonable to make a connection between our periods and mental health.
Just yuck or is it PMS?
Although some people may call it hell week, its proper name when you feel extra spicy is premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is a common condition affecting many people with differing symptoms. Symptoms can include bloating, fatigue, irritability, and mood swings. Those mood swings can be extra tears at jackets left on the floor, to anxiety hopping in the driver’s seat, depression hovering over you, or even intrusive suicidal thoughts. If you aren’t tracking your cycle, this can be stressful and kind of terrifying to feel highjacked mentally.
Suppose you’ve been rushing for most of your previous cycle and haven’t had much downtime to process and breathe. In that case, your luteal and menstrual phases can feel extra harsh compared to the extra dopamine and estrogen racing through your system only two weeks prior.
For some, PMS symptoms can become so severe that they are diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a more severe form of PMS affecting around 1 in 20 menstruating people. Symptoms can include extreme mood swings, severe depression, hallucinations, or suicidal thoughts. This website IAPMD (International Association of PreMenstrual Disorders), is helpful with loads of resources and ways to connect to other people who are also struggling. You aren’t alone. If you feel ‘dramatic’ about it or are ‘making a big deal out of nothing,’ I just want you to imagine what a guy would do in your shoes. (Seek help, figure out a path forward, and relieve the pain).
So it’s a whirlpool mentally, but what are your options? Here are a few tips for managing menstrual-related mental health symptoms:
I know, I know. You hear this a lot. But the self-care I want to mention here is actually taking care of yourself earlier in your cycle. If you are constantly burnt out, taking a bath won’t help. If toxic people surround you and you aren’t setting good boundaries, it makes sense you feel buried in stress, and your period will only amplify the anxiety further. There are also systemic issues that deeply impact our day-to-day, that you can only maintain and do your best within them. Moving your body and completing the stress response cycle can at least cut off the edge of all the emotions and give you a valve to release adrenaline.
Talk to a therapist, cycle coach, or other person.
Talking to a therapist can be incredibly helpful if you’re struggling with severe PMS or PMDD symptoms, and they can provide coping strategies and support. Cycle coaches can help you see long-term patterns and come up with specific help for your health goals!
Consider the food you take in.
Food and what we take in can have more effect than we may like to admit. (Ever had a long day and forgot lunch, it’s 6 pm, and you are ready to take down anyone who looks at you side-eyed? Ensuring you are fueling your body with nourishing foods alongside the chocolate and wine (or whatever your go-to snack on your period is) can help your blood sugars stay level while you bleed the day away.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with periods and mental health differs. If you’re struggling, check out the IAPMD website, or see what small shifts you can make now to help alleviate the weight of it all when it comes time for your next luteal stage.
So next time you feel moody or anxious during your menstrual cycle, remember that it’s not all in your head. Your mental health and period are connected, and prioritizing both is important. If you aren’t sure how to do that, I encourage you to check out our Agenda App to track your period here on Google Play, and here on the Apple Store. Tracking can make it so you aren’t caught off guard every month and can adjust accordingly. Periods may be a pain, but managing your mental health during this time doesn’t have to be.