How stress affects your menstrual cycle
Choma, did you know that stress can affect the regularity of your menstrual cycle? For example, have you ever noticed changes to your period around the time you're writing exams, doing a stressful project at work or going through a tough situation at home? You might get really worried when you miss a period and immediately think that you might be pregnant (specifically if you’re sexually active), but you’d be surprised to know that sometimes it’s just stress. Here's how and why stress affects your menstrual cycle.
Stress and your body
Stress is responsible for a lot of health issues we experience. When you’re stressed you're likely to experience things like stomach aches, headaches, chest pains and difficulty sleeping. Not only can stress affect your health in that sense, it can affect your hormones too. Your menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones (oestrogen and progesterone in particular) and stress can cause an imbalance in these hormones, causing you to miss your period every now and then.
Extreme stress is more likely to cause your periods to stop whereas everyday stress might just make you period irregular. Extreme stress is anything such as losing your job or losing a loved one. Everyday stresses are things like assignments, deadlines or worrying about an upcoming event.
However, not everyone will experience the same effect in the same way. For some women, they might miss their period but for others they might experience longer periods, shorter periods, heavier or lighter periods and perhaps more cramping as an effect of stress.
Why stress affects your period
Choma when you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called ‘cortisol’, which is responsible for helping you deal with the stress - basically trying to help your body cope. However, when more cortisol is released, less of your hormones (the ones responsible for regulating your period) is released. This is why your period is affected.
How to deal with it
If stress is affecting your period and you need to get your regular cycle back then it would be best that you practise healthier ways to deal with stress, such as engaging in physical activities and living a healthy lifestyle. Choma, here are a few things that could help decrease your stress levels:
Eat healthy - a healthy diet can play a huge role in helping to balance your health and hormones. Try to stay away from fast foods and fatty foods. For snacks, try to have nuts, crispy vegetables or dark chocolate instead.
Exercise - exercise is an instant mood booster. That’s because exercising releases “happy” hormones called endorphins. These are the same hormones released during laughing and cuddling with a partner. When you’re feeling stressed try going for a run, doing yoga or boxing (to release that pent-up frustration).
Say no when necessary - when you’re stressed you need time for yourself and you need to set aside time to relax. Don’t be afraid to let others know that you can’t always be available.
Take time out - take a break from what’s stressing you out Choma. Go out with your girls, catch up with your family members or just do something you know you will enjoy,
For more serious stressful situations that are a result of trauma, you might need to talk to a professional counsellor. If you’re stressed out and need advice, send me a message on Ask Choma and we can chat about it. I can also advise you on where to get further help depending on your situation.
You can also send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).
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