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How your menstrual cycle affects your mental health

Author: Emma Libner

Maybe you know the feeling? You feel like you've cracked the code to all of life's challenges one day only to find yourself deep in the Toffifee box with tears in your eyes the next. If you do, you are far from alone. In fact, changes in mood are very closely related to changes in your menstrual cycle.

The good news is that once you understand the interplay between your period and mood swings, you'll be better able to deal with the emotional roller coaster ride.

The effect of your hormones on your mood

To understand the link between our cycle and mood, it is essential to take a closer look at the hormones that control the menstrual cycle. Behind the scenes, a complex dance unfolds between your hormones. In short, the hormone estrogen dominates in the first half of your monthly cycle (this hormone is essential for you to ovulate!), while it is the hormone progesterone (also called the 'pregnancy hormone') that is the star in the last half of your menstrual cycle .

Both hormones have in common that they do not only influence your fertility and reproduction. The hormones also affect the control tower - the brain - where they influence everything from your sex drive and sleep pattern to your general mood and so-called cravings . When the craving for chocolate sets in and you feel like crying over a video of cute baby animals at exactly the same time every month, it could easily be due to the composition of your hormones.

The effect of hormones on mood is very individual and is experienced differently from person to person. Where, for example, some experience increased creativity and inner peace in the period leading up to their period, others associate the same period with anxiety and irritability. There is therefore no right or wrong. The essential thing is to get to know your own cycle in order to better predict and meet your unique needs.

You can read more about the four phases of the cycle in the article here .

Understand the connection between menstruation and stress

Many of us - regardless of whether we menstruate or not - are used to driving at a high pace in our daily lives. However, if you have a menstrual cycle, it is not unusual to experience an increased sensitivity to stress at certain times of your cycle. Here, things that wouldn't normally be a significant stress factor can suddenly feel more overwhelming than otherwise, because the hormonal composition changes during the short month that an average menstrual cycle typically lasts.

Therefore, it is perhaps not so surprising that it is the women who take up the most space in the various statistics for stress. According to a report produced by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in 2014, more women (25%) than men (17.5%) say they suffer from a high level of stress (read the report here ) .

In other words, a working life that leaves no room for the hormonal peaks and valleys that we experience every month with a menstrual cycle can negatively affect our mental health, because we risk suppressing our natural needs for, among other things, rest and alternative ways of working. And when we suppress how we feel, it can really feel like our hormones have the upper hand.

Tips for dealing with mood swings related to your period

Here are three simple tips to increase mental health for you with a cycle:

Track your cycle and become aware of your patterns: Learn to predict possible mood swings by tracking your cycle. You can use an app for the purpose or write in a cycle diary. When you check in with yourself every day, you not only gain more self-insight, which in itself can be worth its weight in gold. You also get a unique opportunity to proactively adapt your everyday life to your cycle as best you can.

Plan your everyday life in line with your cycle: Increase activities in the high-energy phase around your ovulation and give yourself space to rest when you feel the need. Focus on creating balance and avoid overloading yourself mentally (pro tip: be realistic and try to avoid putting too many appointments on the calendar just because you have lots of energy. The energy may not last until when you actually have to show up for everything planned!).

Share your challenges: Tell your loved ones about your challenges so they can support you. Feeling understood and supported can make all the difference when hormones are raging. Remember, it's okay to ask for help.

In short: Your cycle is a part of you for better or for worse. It can be a huge strength and guide you in everyday life if you get to know it. So the best thing you can do to thrive with it is to understand its nature and embrace your own unique rhythm. You've got this!

NOTE: Do you experience abysmal depression in the second half of your cycle, which negatively affects your everyday life, self-image and relationships? Then we recommend a visit to the doctor. Violent hormonal drops should always be taken seriously, as they can be a sign of a condition called PMDD (read more here ).

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