Julie McKay, FCP
Stress and Your Cycle Part 2
Updated: Mar 7
In a previous blog post, I discussed how stress can cause double peaks. However, there are other ways that stress can affect your cycle. As I discussed previously, this stress doesn't have to be bad stress. It can be positive (like planning for a wedding) or negative (like being sick). Both physical and emotional stress can impact your cycle. In addition, stress can be either acute or chronic. But regardless of the type of stress, it can alter your cycle. The effects can be quite varied. Stress can affect different women in different ways. Sometimes, there may be a longer peak-type mucus buildup when stress is present. In other cases, the peak day, which closely corresponds with ovulation, may occur later in the cycle. At times, there may be a dry or limited mucus cycle. Your chart can give insight into your general health. It can show how stress and even other components of your lifestyle such as diet are affecting you.
If stress is affecting your cycle, it is likely to be affecting your health and well-being in other ways as well. But just telling someone to "stress less" or "try not to stress" is not helpful, especially for someone who struggles with anxiety. I've heard this kind of advice from doctors, and while it is well intentioned and true, it doesn't help or give me a concrete way to reduce my stress level. So what are some ways we can reduce stress? Some stress will be inevitable as part of our daily lives, but taking time to recharge and relax is important. Taking time or even scheduling time in your planner or phone calendar for things you enjoy doing can be a good first step. While we might think we're too busy for this sort of thing, taking care of ourselves and our health is important. Whether it's crocheting, reading, getting out into nature, or playing sports, if it helps you relax and recharge it's worth the time investment. Exercise is another fairly obvious strategy to manage stress. It can help decrease the amount of stress hormones in your bloodstream, such as cortisol and adrenaline, and can increase the level of endorphins which can improve your mood and reduce pain. Try to do something you enjoy and start small if you're not in the routine of exercising. Just like it takes time and effort to get into the habit of making observations and charting, it takes time to incorporate other healthy habits like exercise into your life.
Getting good sleep and eating healthy are other key components of managing stress. Again, take it one step at a time if you're looking to eat healthier. You could add in more veggies. I love a salad with a homemade vinaigrette dressing or fresh veggies and hummus as a snack. I've found having a bedtime routine does wonders for improving my sleep quality and helping me stay asleep. Personally, I enjoy taking some time to read a book after I've brushed my teeth and before it's lights out. It helps slow down my mind. To help my body prepare for sleep, I like doing progressive muscle relaxation. Basically you tighten each part of your body one by one starting with your feet and moving up to your head. Then you relax each part of your body one by one starting with your face and moving down to your feet. Doing it multiple times will help especially at the beginning. Doing stretches before bed helps me sleep more comfortably especially during pregnancy, so I don't go to bed with tight muscles.
Finally, a therapist can help you find ways of reducing stress in your life. Therapists can teach stress management techniques as well as help you work through big stressors in your life. This can be especially important if you need support during a difficult season, such as healing after a miscarriage, struggling with postpartum depression, or dealing with infertility. It can be daunting to start therapy, but it is worth it to improve your well-being and ability to deal with stressors. Your practitioner can provide you with a referral for a therapist. Don't hesitate to reach out. We are here for you!