Menstrual cycle phases: how do they affect your mood?
You know that feeling when out of the blue everything is getting to you and your normal coping strategies just aren’t helping? Or you feel completely drained and the idea of getting out of bed feels like climbing a mountain? The culprit? Your hormones.
The role hormones play in your cycle
The fluctuation of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, play a key role in the mood changes you experience during your cycle. Every person is different when it comes to mood swings and the effects of hormones during their cycle. But, understanding what phase your body is in can help you support your mood better during that time. Remember as well that all of the ups and downs you go through during your cycle are completely normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Change in mood at each cycle phase
The Menstrual Phase
The menstrual phase is the first phase of the menstrual cycle and begins on the first day of menstruation. During this phase, the lining of the uterus is shed, resulting in bleeding. This phase is often associated with symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and fatigue. These symptoms can have a negative impact on your mood, causing feelings of irritability, sadness, and depression.
The Follicular Phase
The follicular phase is the second phase of the menstrual cycle and begins after the menstrual phase. Your estrogen levels will be low at the start of this phase leaving you slightly more tired than usual but this won’t last long and will begin rising in a few days into your period. As the uncomfortable feelings of PMS start to fade away you will find yourself feeling overall more energised and upbeat.
The Ovulatory Phase
The ovulatory phase is the third phase of the menstrual cycle and occurs when an egg is released from the ovary. This is your most fertile window during your cycle. High levels of estrogen alongside the luteinising hormone (LH) triggers ovulation and results in a bouncier mood, higher libido and more energy. This is a great time to try new things, plan in time to socialise and exercise.
The Luteal Phase
The luteal phase is the fourth and final phase of the menstrual cycle. During this phase your body starts getting ready for a new cycle and lasts about 14 days. This phase is unfortunately categorised by lower mood, sluggishness and irritability as a result of a drop in serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone. As your body begins to approach a new cycle PMS can also occur; including bloating, cramps and other physical symptoms.
3 ways to support your mood during your cycle
Move your body
Movement of any kind is a great way to release stress and mitigate low mood at any phase of your cycle. Gentle movement such as yoga, walking, swimming are great ways to incorporate movement on those days in your cycle when you are feeling more sluggish. If you are feeling low, do your best to get outside and go for a walk. The combination of fresh air and movement is an ideal way to alleviate stress and also give you a chance to connect with yourself and your emotions.
Get enough sleep
Tiredness can make anyone feel less like themselves, being exhausted during certain phases of your cycle can be a bad combination. Prioritise good quality sleep in all cycle phases but especially during the Luteal Phase. Create a bedtime routine that signals to your body it is time for sleep and do your best to stick to it every night.
On the hard days when you feel low, anxious and exhausted it is important that you prioritise yourself and practice some much needed self-care. This looks different for each person but things like taking a hot bath, calling a friend or going for a walk are all simple yet effective ways to give yourself a little extra TLC during this time.
Final thoughts: tracking your cycle, external factors and getting help
Tracking your cycle is a great way to get more in sync with your body and gain more understanding and better manage the mood changes you experience throughout your cycle. It should be noted, that whilst mood can be affected by your menstrual cycle there are lots of external factors that can also play a part including environment, diet, genetics and many others. Always speak to a mental health professional if you are struggling with continuous symptoms of low mood or depression.