From movies, comedy show punchlines, to classroom taunts and workplace chatter, periods and the many symptoms that come with it, have been the butt of the joke for decades.
At some stage in our lives, we’ve probably all heard lines such as these;
“ Oh careful, you don’t want to upset X… she’s on her period”
“ Wow, it’s like Shark Week around here”
“You’re being so irrational/ emotional”
And our personal “favourite”:
“Why are you complaining, doesn’t this happen to you every month?!”
While most of this is said in jest, for some of us, the effects our menstrual cycle can have a serious impact on our mental health.
Unfortunately, the topics of both Mental Health and Menstruation are still very much taboo today.
To mark this year’s World Mental Health Day, we thought we would open up the conversation, challenge the stigma and try to make sense of that messy relationship between our menstrual cycle and our mental health.
PMS is an understudied and largely misunderstood experience. It’s too often humorously generalized despite the unique occurrence it is for each person. Everyone experiences PMS differently. For some, it’s a minor inconvenience and for others, it can be a living hell.
Periods come with a constellation of symptoms, with 90% of women reporting experiences with some or all of the following; bloating, cramping, cravings and mood swings every single month.
Feeling down or out of sorts isn't exclusive to our period, but for some women, these symptoms can certainly worsen at particular stages during their menstrual cycle.
In many cases, hormones are to blame.
The menstrual cycle can make for a minefield of emotions caused by hormonal changes.
Hormones fluctuate every single day of your cycle.
This hormonal rollercoaster can affect neurotransmitters in your brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are associated with mood regulation. Low levels of estrogen have a knock-on effect on the levels of serotonin which affects our mood.
In some severe cases, this can lead to a disorder called PMDD.
According to Mind.Org, PMDD can be defined as “a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can cause many emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or two before you start your period”.
It affects approximately 5% of the menstruating population today and has recently been recognised as a mental health disorder.
Those dealing with PMDD can experience a multitude of mental symptoms such as severe depression, irritability, and other mood disturbances which can hugely disrupt their daily lives.
The good news is that there are ways to help manage or alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS, PMDD and our menstrual cycle hormones.
Supporting Your Mental Health
Reach Out For Help
As some wise Queen once said, “A problem shared is a problem halved”.
If you feel any abnormal changes to your mood or wellbeing, talk to a GP, friend, family member, co-worker or external support and share the load.
Feed Your Brain With Supplements
Repeat after us: Your. Brain. Is. Beautiful!
A healthy brain is a happy brain so make sure to feed yours with the following key vitamins:
- Essential Fatty Acids: Helps fight memory loss and depression
- Magnesium & Calcium: Manages stress levels in the body
- Vitamin B12: Vital for our nervous system health
- Vitamin D: Key for nervous and immune systems
Get Up And Get Moving
Get out the spandex, crank out the tunes… it’s time to get active.
Exercise is one of the best ways to get feel-good endorphins pumping around your body.
With just 30 minutes every single day, you could help reduce stress, improve your self-confidence and increase your relaxation levels.
Now just try to tell us that doesn’t sound great!….
Challenge Negative Thinking
Ru Paul, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Happiness is an inside job.
When you start to feel a negative thought approach, stop and evaluate its’ accuracy.
Think about how you would respond if a friend spoke about herself in this way. Chances are you would offer a great rebuttal to challenge this negative thinking. Apply this same logic to your thought process.
And, before you leave...
Remember to never allow anybody to dismiss your hormones as "just hormones" and don't be afraid to ask for help. Treat your mind with the care you would give your body.
If you enjoyed this post and are hungry for more, why not check out similar posts:
- 5 Self-Care Ideas to Improve your Period
- Exhausted? How To Battle Burnout With These 7 Simple Lifestyle Habits
- Skin vs. Menstrual Cycle: A Modern Day Tale of Fear, Loathing & Hormones