Stress is a real pain in the ass. It has plenty of negative effects and is all around not good.
Effects on your body:
+ muscle tension/pain
+ chest pain
+ change in libido
+ upset stomach
+ sleep issues
Effects on your mood:
+ lack of motivation/focus
+ feeling overwhelmed
Effects on your behavior:
+ eating too much/not enough
+ drug/alcohol use
+ social withdrawal
+ exercising less
But how can it mess with your menstrual cycle?
I can see from that list a whole host of ways it can interfere.
If you’re in a rut of chronic stress or have recently experienced a very stressful event (think the loss of a job or loved one), your hormones can be suppressed, which can cause your period to be delayed or stop altogether.
When you’re stressed your body secretes the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which can suppress estrogen and progesterone production, which we know are necessary for a healthy cycle.
Your body reacts to stress and being in a state of “fight or flight” by sending signals to your body saying "now is not a good time to get pregnant."
I’ve seen it before in my own cycle. In a time of stress, my body will delay ovulation until things have calmed down a bit.
And if you’re trying to conceive, stress could be playing a role in your difficulty getting pregnant. Because if your body is sending around the “not a good time to get pregnant” signal that’s no bueno.
Your PMS symptoms can also be exacerbated by stress. Think acne, irritability, fatigue and so on. Yay.
Being stressed is not another thing to stress about, there are easy things you can do to help de-stress.
The three main things I found that help reduce stress are diet, exercise and sleep.
If things aren’t going great we can find ourselves reaching for comfort foods that might not be nourishing our bodies how they need to be. Plan out your meals before you go shopping. What are some nutritious recipes that get you excited about cooking and eating them? Some people find meal prepping before the start of the week makes eating healthier easier. And if you have a busy life being able to grab your lunch quickly from the fridge on your way out the door is going to help a lot.
Exercise can be the last thing on our minds when we’re stressed. “I don’t have time for that!” But there are plenty of easy ways to fit a little movement into our days. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, go for walks even if it’s just 10 minutes. Some people find attending a workout class works better than having to come up with a workout routine on their own.
And along that same line can we talk about yoga for a second? Not only is it exercise but it does so much more for the mind as well. Plus you can pop on a video from YouTube and do a quick 15-minute routine in your living room. I also like doing a few yoga stretches before bed or even in bed. Just this morning I did about five minutes of stretching to prolong the whole getting out of bed thing.
And when you find yourself restless at night, unable to sleep but exhausted, it might be worth looking into a natural sleep aid to help get you back on track with sleeping. You can try melatonin or something like Bach Rescue Sleep Liquid Melts (not sponsored, Michael loves them).
A few other things that can help you de-stress and sleep better: meditation and journaling before bed (as well as those yoga stretches). I can’t begin to talk about how beneficial meditation and journaling has been for me. I can tell a huge difference between when I’m consistently doing both and when I’m not.
Neither of them have to be fancy. Find a meditation app like Headspace or currently I’ve been enjoying meditating to the music on the Calm app. And just grab an old notebook and write down what you’re feeling, what happened that day and anything that comes to mind. Get it out of your head and onto paper, and I promise you’ll feel so much better after.
Some people like to work through things on their own (hello that’s me), but consider opening up to a friend because you’d be surprised how many people are stressed or anxious and it can help to have someone to just talk to about it.
In the end listen to your body. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, when you need to take a break, step back and breathe. And it’s so important to make self-care a focus. Give yourself ten minutes a day of “me” time and maybe a bit more time on the weekend to focus on yourself.
Stress is a pain and you can definitely stress more about being stressed, which can spiral out of control. Just being conscious of it, and willing to take the time work through it goes a long way.
What are some of your ways you deal with stress? Beyond the things I talked about today I also enjoy running, being out in nature, bubble baths, deep cleaning my apartment and having at home spa dates with myself.