Stress is a natural response of the body, much like a survival mode. However, the problem is that people are experiencing more and more stress, to increasingly more serious levels. In fact, the WHO has classified stress as a health epidemic, and burnout will effectively enter the WHO list of illnesses in 2022.
And if you’ve ever been stressed, you know it can mess with you. You can feel dizzy, nauseous, trembly and shaky, dry mouth, forgetful, and the list goes on. But can stress mess with your period? Find out the connection between stress and periods.
How are stress and periods connected?
They might seem unrelated, since one of them is a psychological affliction that manifests often with physical symptoms, and the other is a mostly physical condition that affects the psychological and emotional part as well. However, stress and periods seem to be more connected than we think.
Shorter or longer cycles
Several studies have found subtle connections - but connections nevertheless – between stress and period length. Some studies show that stress has an impact on cycle length, making menstrual cycles either shorter or longer, especially when stress is associated with irregular sleeping schedules. Another studied linked specifically shorter cycles with high-stress jobs, which may seem contradictory. However, altered cycles seem to be a consequence of stress. The stress response depends from woman to woman, of course, and remember that stress is not an exact condition even to doctors since too many factors affect it, and overall it is a pretty “recent” condition.
Lighter or heavier flows
Just like it can mess with the length of your cycle, stress can mess with the intensity of your flow. High stress can have unpredictable effects on women: it can both make flows lighter or make flows heavier. An extremely light flow is called Hypomenorrhea, and it can happen when the activity of the centres in the brain that stimulate the ovaries during the cycle is suppressed, so hormones like oestrogen and progesterone may be lacking. An extremely heavy flow is called Hypermenorrhoea, and excessive stress can also be a cause for it.
PMS and Dysmenorrhea
But stress and periods are more intertwined than meets the eye. What about pain? If you already suffer from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS), adding stress to the mixture is not great. In fact, job-related stress, and stress in the days leading up to the period seem to be related to menstrual symptoms, especially pain and discomfort. Other study found that if a woman feels stressed, her symptoms might worsen, namely physical pain (cramps, for example) and emotional pain (depression, and others).
In very severe cases – and we’re talking life-threatening cases – stress can cause amenorrhoea, that is, it can make your period stop completely. This is something not so common, and more frequently associated with malnutrition – for example, in anorexic women. Amenorrhoea can be caused by several illnesses and diseases, but it is seldom a “normal” thing to happen. If it does happen, seek medical help immediately.
Can stress and periods be inversely connected as well?
The sad truth is that, yes, it can. Being on your period can be a source of stress. Having PMS can stress you out. Feeling cramps or feeling bloated can prevent you from enjoying an otherwise happy and good situation.
What to do if stress is limiting your life
The first thing to do is to admit that you are not a rock, and that need help to deal with it. Women tend to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders since they grow up with the pressure of being “the rock” of the family. No more of that.
After you’ve sought professional help, there are some things you can do yourself to try and lower your stress levels. If possible, distance yourself from people and situations that might be a stress source. Say goodbye to toxic people in your life! Secondly, try to find your own time to relax, at your pace. Be it one hour a day to read, listen to music, walk, watch tv-series, cook, or whatever your heart and mind need, make sure to give yourself a moment to breathe during the day.
Exercising is an excellent way to combat stress, and so is yoga and meditation. Different things work for different women, so you just need to find yours. And lastly, do not keep it to yourself, and don’t be afraid to be annoying or needy. Talk, open up, let it out. Friends and family are there for you, just as you’ve been there for them so many times.
Take good care. Of yourself. Of your period. Of Mother Earth.