It’s no secret that our hormones affect how we think and feel.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or tearful for no apparent reason, only to get your period the next day you’ll know first hand the impact fluctuating hormones can have on brain chemistry.
This hormone-mental health connection can be tricky. While we might laugh about a little PMS-induced meltdown, for some, hormone imbalances can have a huge impact on behaviour; relationships; and quality of life.
To help you figure out whether the goings on in your head could be related to your hormonal ups and downs, we’ve put together a wee guide about different types of hormonal anxiety, and what you can do about them.
1. You feel super anxious or overwhelmed, and have trouble sleeping the week or two before your period
You may be experiencing lower progesterone levels.
*Relaxed sigh of content*. This is how progesterone should feel. Yet many women are missing out on the soothing benefits of this hormone because they’re simply not making enough of it.
Progesterone has the following amazing benefits:
- Balances the effects of oestrogen;
- Supports sleep & relaxation of the nervous system;
- Keeps the uterine lining in place;
- Boosts metabolism;
- Helps us use fat for energy.
It’s also kind of a big deal when it comes to feeling calm, balanced and relaxed throughout the second half of your cycle.
Alongside anxiety, other signs of low progesterone can be:
- Experiencing sore, swollen breasts before your period;
- Short cycles e.g. 25 days or less, with brown spotting either side of your period;
- Pre-period or mid-cycle breakouts;
- Trouble falling pregnant;
- Low sex drive;
- Sleep issues;
- Your significant other tip-toes around on eggshells the week before your period (ahem, PMS).
If this sounds familiar, here are some tips:
- Cut out the high intensity workouts. We’re talking CrossFit, HIIT, functional fitness etc. Even if you don’t ‘feel’ stressed, that doesn’t mean your body isn’t under stress from these types of exercise. Progesterone (and ovulation) needs a calm, ‘safe’ environment to thrive, and high intensity workouts don’t always provide that.
- Say buh bye to your coffee. We know you love it, but your stress levels and progesterone don't.
- Load up on B6-filled foods. Eggs, turkey or chicken and legumes all contain this nice, ovary-loving nutrient. So does Morning Person.
- Up your zinc. This nutrient also nourishes the ovaries and promotes ovulation and is found in quality red meat, oysters, mussels and pumpkin seeds. All Systems Glow contains high levels of zinc in a highly bioavailable form.
2. You're prone to feeling a little sad and anxious at any time
This may be linked to low oestrogen levels.
Oestrogen has a nice relationship with one of our happy neurotransmitters: serotonin.
When oestrogen is low it can have a knock on effect on this brain chemical making us feel anxious or down.
Oestrogen begins climbing on the first day of your cycle (the day your period arrives) and peaks around ovulation, which is when you are likely to feel the most confident, outgoing and sexy.
With lower levels of oestrogen, this peak might be more of a gentle slope, and you may not feel the full mood-boosting effects of this wonderful hormone.
Again, it’s not you. It’s just your body’s way of telling you that it might need a hand.
Some other signs of low oestrogen are:
- Low sex drive & vaginal dryness;
- Low energy levels;
- Dry skin;
- Very light periods or absent periods altogether;
- Low body weight or body fat levels;
- Night sweats or hot flashes;
If this sounds like you, here are some tips:
- Make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats. Fats make up the building blocks of our hormones, if you are following a fat diet, or aren’t getting enough healthy fats in, you’ll be making low levels of key sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone.
- Being phytoestrogenic, flaxseeds are also great for supporting building oestrogen levels up if they are a little low.
- Maca powder is an adaptogenic herb that, along with supporting stress management, can also be powerful in supporting oestrogen levels and hormone imbalance.
3. You're on hormonal birth control
A hormonal picture you might not have considered, perhaps?
But yes, there’s a reason ‘mood changes’ is listed as a possible side effect on the leaflet that comes inside each pill packet.
Hormonal birth control, such as the oral contraceptive pill, implant, and hormonal IUDs contain synthetic versions of progesterone, called progestins.
Although progestin acts on the uterus in a very similar way to progesterone, it doesn’t come with the same calming, balancing and soothing benefits as the natural version of this hormone that your body produces after ovulation.
For some women, the difference between the natural and synthetic versions of hormones is felt more acutely, and a recent study of over one million women in Denmark found that those on the pill are around 25-30% more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
This information isn’t meant to scare you out of safe sex and contraception. But as with any form of medication, it's important to make sure you are well informed about how it is affecting your body.
If you’ve noticed a pattern between your contraception and your mood, it’s a good idea to talk to a trusted health professional about other birth control options that may work best for your unique body. There are some good non-hormonal methods out there, including the copper IUD.
Looking for extra support? Try Period Pal - every woman's best friend to support a balanced, regular and drama-free cycle.