By now, you likely know that stress can seriously impact your life and your health, including your menstrual cycle. In fact, feeling frazzled often may affect your period, how long it lasts, its regularity, and your symptoms. Most of it comes down to basic biology, meaning that, when you’re stressed, your body is preparing to survive, mindbodygreen explains. In survival mode, you’re likely not thinking about reproducing — thus, the system starts to shut down and work less methodically. Unfortunately, stress’ side effects don’t stop short of your menstrual cycle.
Indeed, Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P., naturopathic and nurse practitioner explains, “When you are stressed and in fight or flight, your body prepares for the possibility that you might not survive for very much longer. Why would you reproduce if you’re not going to be here long enough to birth?” (via mindbodygreen).
Essentially, your hormones respond to your mental state. If you’re feeling worried or like you’re in danger, your body attempts to mitigate the risk of entering a vulnerable state such as pregnancy. Anytime your system feels that something is off or that things are more difficult, it can adjust your natural cycle to seemingly take some of the strain off of your body. So, if your period hasn’t been regular in awhile, it may be time to take a closer look at your stress levels. Plus, heightened PMS symptoms, a change in your flow, or any other irregularities may be traced back to this issue as well.
Stress impacts the pituitary gland
The Queen Bee of the glandular system — the pituitary gland — has a close relationship with stress. When you’re feeling overworked or overwhelmed, this gland bears the brunt of the issue and thus impacts your hormonal system, Everyday Health explains. If the main stressor in your life is currently due to emotional factors such as grief or anxiety, it’s best to implement any mindfulness techniques that work for you. Obviously meditation is helpful, but you can also opt for long nature walks with no electronics, deep-belly breathing or adding soothing nature sounds to your commute. Seeing a therapist or speaking to your doctor may help you find the resources you need as well.
Everyday Health also suggests adding light physical activity into your routine for relief from stress and avoiding alcohol as a way to decrease any period pain you may be experiencing. Adding yoga to your routine, even if it’s just once or twice a week, may also help you feel less stressed and more in touch with your body, which can often impact your cycle for the better. Mindbodygreen recommends trying magnesium supplements that can help your body shift more easily into rest-and-digest mode as well.
Furthermore, tracking your cycle to see how regular you are gives you the ability to notice what activities may be impacting your health. For instance, if a work activity gives you grief and your period comes late that month, it may point you in the direction of what changes to make. Knowledge is power, and tracking your period can give you the knowledge that you need to take care of yourself, your body, and your mental health.
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