Estrogen and progesterone are the two hormones that dictate our monthly cycle. The week leading up to menstruation the progesterone in our body begins to rise, so progesterone is the hormone responsible for all our pre-period ~feels~. This is because progesterone affects our amygdala, the part of our brain which governs our flight or fight response. And in a way it makes perfect sense that this response would be heightened, because when we menstruate it’s normal to feel a bit more tired because our bodies shedding the uterine lining they have spent a month building up, and that’s no easy task.
With this rise in progesterone, and heightened amygdala reactivity, we will naturally feel more anxious, stressed, and even more depressed before menstruation begins.
Here are five great ways to combat the ocean of emotions that comes as result from heightened progesterone levels.
Try these essential oils.
Essential oils are a great way to reduce stress and improve overall well being. Clary sage, ylang ylang, or lavender essential oils are great for the pre-period blues. Try placing a couple crops in a diffuser, in your bathtub, or directly on your sheets to help you wind down and stay balanced.
Exercise, even if you don’t want to.
Going for a run or heading to a faster paced yoga class (like vinyasa or hatha yoga classes) are a great way to keep your endorphins, or feel good hormones, up. Physical activity not only improves mood, but will also help alleviate any mind cramps or combat any excessive fatigue before your cycle begins.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
Rest, rest, and more rest. If you are not getting enough quality sleep, you may feel even moodier. Just before and during your period it is normal to have difficulties falling or staying asleep, so being more mindful of this will help you create the space and time to really focus on making sure you get enough sleep this week. Also, be sure to avoid stimulants like alcohol and caffeine before your cycle begins, because consuming either of these can keep you up later at night and negatively affect your quality of sleep.
Meditate for at least 15 minutes every day.
Incorporating stress management skills into your day could be a great addition to this week. Meditation is proven to improve stress levels and decrease anxious and depressed feelings. This is because meditation actually decreases amygdala reactivity and provides us the space to become more conscious of our feelings without overreacting to them. If you are feeling a wave of emotions come on, or the stress feels like it is piling up, take a few minutes to sit with your breath and relax.
Eat healthy and balanced meals.
Of course this piece of advice goes for any week of your cycle, but it is especially important this week. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, do your best not to skip any meals to help keep your energy levels up. Skipping a meal could affect your blood sugar levels, and if they are too low, you’ll likely feel moodier. Despite your cravings, do your best not to eat too much sugar (easier said than done, I know from personal experience). But the reason your body is craving sugar is because your progesterone levels are rising and this is likely to make you feel more depressed, sugar acts as a temporary mood booster, but remember sugar during PMS may worsen hormonal breakouts the week of menstruation.
Let’s be honest—most of us rarely drink enough water. Though it may sound like it would not help, drinking a bit more water this week can actually help reduce bloating. Reports also show that as estrogen and progesterone levels change in the body, dehydration is a common side effect. So remember to keep a water bottle next to you to ensure you are staying hydrated.
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