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How does stress affect your cycle?

Stress aggravates your PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) symptoms - Studies show that the severity of PMS symptoms is worse in menstruators with higher stress levels.

When we get stressed, our bodies produce the stress hormone cortisol - this hormone competes for the receptors in our cells. Too much cortisol impairs progesterone activity, and leads to oestrogen dominance. This oestrogen dominance is what creates many of the familiar PMS symptoms you might be experiencing. As such, I believe that an overlooked yet essential factor in reducing symptoms of PMS is managing stress, yet too many of us are instead advised to take hormonal contraceptives, which only confuse things further by adding even more chemicals into your already complex body chemistry.

So you’ve identified stress as an issue; what can you do about it?

If you've not read The 4 Pillar Plan by Dr Rangan Chatterje already, I highly recommend the book - I often refer back to this as a super useful resource outlining how a holistic approach to health just makes good sense.

Through my work as a coach, I've come to recognise that the most commonly neglected pillar of the four seems to be RELAX. ‘Relax’ in this context is about working with our bodies, not against them, by engaging the rest, digest & heal mode of our nervous system. So many of us see rest as a luxury - but it's essential. If you do not take regular breaks, your body will force stop, likely for much longer and in a much less enjoyable way than if you choose to take regular breaks to recharge.

‘Proper’ rest is not distraction with television or social media, but instead, consciously engaging with a screen-free activity we feel fully present in and engage by. Do you have a hobby or activity you feel completely engrossed in? We can engage the rest, digest and heal mode of our nervous system by finding healthy ways to manage stress, whatever this looks like for you - for me it’s painting - I’m not particularly good at it, but that doesn’t matter - time just moves differently when I’m painting. I’ll put on some relaxing music and forget the world for a little while, feeling completely calm and at ease. Perhaps you find this too, or perhaps it’s a different activity - journaling, puzzling, exercise, connection, time in nature, journaling, listening to music, mindfulness meditation or breathwork - it doesn’t so much matter what the activity is, but how it feels to you.

Below is a link to a breathwork body scan meditation that grants you full permission to take ten minutes to just be.

Another benefit of this is the boost for our hormonal health and feel good chemicals:

  • Dopamine - the reward chemical - self-care, completing tasks, eating nutritious food, quality sleep

  • Oxytocin - the love drug - hugging a loved one, deep conversations, playing with our pets, giving compliments

  • Serotonin - the happy hormone - listening to music, journaling, sun exposure, walking in nature

  • Endorphins - the stress relievers - laughing, exercise, eating chocolate!

...and the good news is, by addressing the four pillars rather than focusing on diet alone, you're more likely to be encouraging production of each of these.

This gives you an insight into the approach I take with clients - recognising that we’re not just what we eat, but also how we move, how we sleep and how we rest. If you’re ready to begin your health and wellbeing journey, identify and work towards your wellness goals, the first step is to book a free, no-commitment call with me here.

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