We all know stress is not a good thing…
…but trying to decrease stress is a lot easier said than done. Am I right?
Back when I struggled with my hormones I had a really hard time managing my stress. I struggled with a lot of anxiety, feelings of overwhelm and burn-out. During the two weeks before my monthly flow I felt like a different person. My stress level was high, I was on edge, and my thoughts had a negative bias.
My patience was gone. I wasn’t happy. In fact, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have an effective conversation with anyone. I had to avoid people because I was worried I’d overreact and get into arguments over things that were non-issues.
I’ve been there, done the battle with my stress, and through my own experience (and then coaching others) I learned that stress management is essential to balancing hormones and eliminating period issues.
This article will demonstrate how stress impacts your hormones and your period. Then I’ll give you 6 steps to follow in order to better manage your stress… if you want to get rid of your period pain, listen up!
How stress impacts your hormones
I honestly think that we’ve been desensitized to the amount of stress we’re under on a daily basis and the extent of the negative impact stress has on our health.
I used to be under a ton of stress but I thought it was ‘normal’ until I made time to attend a full-day yoga retreat. That day I did some deep breathing and ate chocolate which put me into a relaxed state. It was only from this relaxed state that I was able to see just how stressed I was! It finally clicked and I understood how my daily stress contributed to my hormone imbalance.
Stress lowers progesterone levels
Stress can impair ovulation. According to the work of Dr. Jerilynn Prior, Canadian menstrual health researcher, you can actually have a regular period and still not have ovulated due to stress. Lack of ovulation completely robs you of the natural progesterone that comes from the corpus luteum. Stress can also impact the quality of ovulation, causing lower levels of progesterone which shortens the luteal phase.
Low levels of progesterone is the cause of many period issues. The body responds to this hormone deficiency with increased cramping, PMS, irregular cycles, and heavy flow. In addition, low progesterone has a whole-body effect. In her research, Dr. Prior found there was a 4% loss of spinal bone density in women with low progesterone levels.
Low progesterone can cause other serious health issues:
-increased breast cancer risk
-sub-fertility and increased risk of miscarriage
-substantial increase in cancer risk
So what can you do to combat the negative effects of stress on your overall health? Follow these 6 steps and you’ll have an ironclad plan to address your stress.
1. Find your motivation
The fact that stress can increase my cancer risk, impact my bone density, and impair my chances of conceiving really hit home with me. I want to ensure I’m fertile when I’m ready to have children and live my life in good health. As a result, I’m motivated to take stress management seriously in a society that sees stress as an unavoidable part of ‘business as usual’.
I encourage you to find your personal motivation for stress management. What feels ‘high stakes’ for you? Maybe your period issues cause your work performance to suffer. Or your PMS strains important relationships with your partner and family. Or, like me, you want to make sure you’ll be able to conceive when the time is right.
My experience working with 100’s of clients over the years proves to me that if the motivation isn’t strong and clear, you’ll have a difficult time with the follow-through. Take some time to get clear on your motivation and you’ll be well on your way to actually reducing your stress.
It’s true that the stress response is triggered by outside factors, but it’s our responsibility to manage our reaction for the sake of our health and well-being. When we focus on the cause of our stress, such as what someone did or the way things played out, it’s no wonder we feel negative emotions of anger, frustration, overwhelm, fear, and sadness. It may be hard to change this behavior, but it’s impossible to change the stressful events; they will always be beyond our control.
Ultimately, we need to respond, rather than react, to stressful situations of all types in order to safeguard our health. This is where your strong motivation comes in as a handy reminder!
Personally, I find it helpful to reflect on what I’m grateful for. My mind can only focus on one thing, and when I’m focused on the object of my gratitude my stress levels drop. This mindset shift has made such a big difference for me and it makes the following steps easier.
3.Acknowledge your menstrual cycle
When you expect that you’ll be able to pump out work at the same pace every day of your cycle, it just sets you up for more stress. However, when you accept your menstrual cycle you’ll understand how it’s natural to go slower, analyze and reflect on your projects during your luteal and menstrual phases.
Even though I run a conscious women’s health business, I find it difficult to accept the lower energy that comes with the later half of my cycle during my workday. I want to be productive, get things done and create resources for you to use at all times! Although I’ve not yet mastered the art of syncing my work tasks with my cycle, just knowing I’ll be lower energy helps me accept the results. In addition, I avoid planning social events and spend way more time at home outside of work hours. This really helps to restore the balance and decrease my stress.
Look at your planner and see when your period is due. Could you schedule some time for self care, or reduce the number of social outings and commitments during this time? Even if you do have to go out, could you plan to go home earlier from the event?
This can be easier said than done and many of my clients need my support with this piece of stress management. But boundaries are a huge needle mover that will really help you to reduce stress. When you have zero boundaries, you constantly have to weigh your options. That’s a lot of stressful thinking that could be avoided with boundaries!
One of my clients works with a small team that doesn’t have much of a wellness initiative. She confessed that she was working through her lunches and had a hard time taking breaks because she felt guilty; everyone else was doing it! I helped her construct stronger boundaries that support her health and reduce stress. Her personal boundaries set the tone at the office and now all her coworkers stop to take lunch together followed by a 10-minute walk. Pretty amazing, right?
Brainstorm and reflect on what boundaries you need to set. Start by staying true to your personal commitments like your bedtime, your workouts and your supplement protocol and see if you need to set some at work or with your social time.
5.Make time to feel good
Choose a feel-good activity that makes your body feel great and supports your health. It doesn’t really matter what it is but it needs to reduce your stress. When you include this activity in your daily routine you may find that you manage the in-the-moment stress better. Some examples could be cardio, dancing, meditation, drawing… whatever brings you joy and makes you feel good in your body.
6.Include unstructured rest
Do you feel like you always need to be productive with your time? You might feel like you want to make the most of life but if you keep it up you’ll burn yourself out. In order to keep my stress down, I find it essential to include time for relaxing with no agenda. Think taking a vacation at a resort in Mexico versus a European sightseeing trip. On the weekend you may just need to take a day to relax at home, take a nap, watch your favorite show, and putter around. Your stress levels may indicate that there isn’t enough unstructured time in your life.
Stress is something we all want to avoid because of the way it makes us feel and behave. Now you know stress also has an alarming effect on your hormones, your disease risk and your period specifically. In addition, we hope that this article raises your awareness of your daily stress and provides you with tools you can use to develop greater stress management.
If you struggle with painful periods and you see how stress could be a big factor for you, book a Period Pain Audit Call with us.
During this complimentary phone call, you’ll discover
- How to get relief from your painful period so you can recover hours of your life
- A simple way to feel in control of your body without going back on the pill
- The secret sauce to completely healing your body naturally
- Plus a whole lot more…
Click here to access our schedule and book your Period Pain Audit today!