Raise your hand if you're guilty of falling into the trap of normalizing stress and anxiety 🖐🏻 We certainly have!
Society tends to glamorize being so busy that having time just for yourself isn't normal. Although thankfully, within the last few years, that perception has slowly shifted. Even still, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that if you're not always busy, then what are you even doing with your time?
While it's normal to experience a healthy level of stress from time to time, you shouldn't constantly feel stressed.
Healthy stress includes moments like when you have a big promotion at work coming up and need to spend a few late nights preparing or when you have a second date with someone you've hit it off with.
But, if everything lately seems to get your heart racing and makes you feel stressed (we're talking about several days or weeks that you don't seem to catch a break), then you've dipped into the dangerous territory of chronic stress. When you undergo stressor after stressor, your health, emotionally and physically, can take a toll.
Stress can cause changes in your menstrual cycle, most commonly either delaying your period or sometimes causing you to miss it altogether. An arbitrary, stressful event can cause you to miss your period for a month, but if you don't manage your stress accordingly, your period can disappear for several cycles.
Our bodies are incredible, yet sometimes, we don't give them enough credit. When we're mentally stressed, our body tries to keep us calm and reduce our anxiety levels by holding off on essential hormonal functions. Our body is in fight-or-flight mode, which sends a message to suppress the functioning of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that produces hormones). The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the hormones within the thyroid and adrenal glands and the ovaries.
When stressed, all these hormones that normally work together to keep your body running smoothly get thrown off balance. Sometimes we're not even aware that we're in flight-or-fight mode, because we've just gotten so used to being alert and anxious.
So, what happens when the hormones that manage the proper functioning of your ovaries get off balance? The messages that trigger the production of estrogen are never sent, leading to the ovaries not producing estrogen, which leads to the absence of ovulation. Without ovulation, there is no menstruation.
Your body becomes too overworked to send the right signals to the rest of your other vital hormones while it's too busy trying to reduce stress. While the most common side effects are missed periods or irregular periods, other symptoms such as moodiness, trouble concentrating, fatigue, sleep issues, and so on can also show up.
Shorter moments of stress can delay your period for a few days, but if it continues, it's time to pay attention and start tuning into your body's signals.
Take note of the irregularity of your period during moments of stress and anxiety. Keeping track of your period, mood, anxiety levels, and important events that are going on in your life will help you become more aware of if your body is getting too stressed to function correctly.
While we don't want to ring any alarm bells, having several missed periods can indicate that you need to get to the root cause of your hormones being off balance. We always recommend seeing your gynecologist so that they can run tests to check your hormone levels, but in the meantime, try to incorporate methods into your daily routine to reduce ongoing stress.
What works for some might not work for others, so take the time to explore what helps your body get out of high stress and into a more normal, ongoing state of ease. Once your body starts feeling more at ease, ideally, your hormones' functioning will return to regularity.
Some of our favorite ways to manage stress and minimize symptoms of anxiety include practicing self-care (baths, walks, massages, yoga, and reading), reducing caffeine intake, boundary setting, mindfulness, and breathing exercises. There are many ways to manage your stress; you just have to experiment and find the ones that make you and your body feel at ease.
Remember, your body is always speaking to you; now is the time to listen.