Period and Burnout

Loving the ADHD devil – DAY 27

I used to be blessed with very minor periods. I believe no one could figure out when I used to have them, every month I was able to keep working and go to the gym, even getting punched in the belly during boxing wasn’t a problem. Besides a slight pain in my belly that did not last more than 1 day, I didn’t feel anything that affected the way I used to live my life.

But since I broke down this changed completely. Yesterday my period started and I wasn’t able to do anything. I didn’t have any energy left inside me, I felt like I had a fever, whenever I stood up I got so dizzy I had to lie down immediately, my belly hurt so much I need warmth, painkillers and a fetal position to manage the pain and I believe it’s better if I don’t describe the mood swings I’m experiencing. To make everything worse, the complete feeling of weakness and pain remains today.

The past 3 months I am experiencing much more severe periods, and I believe there must be a connection between these and my burnout, since things changed after I broke down. I’m afraid that a burnout is able to change much more in your body than just your mental wellbeing, and that besides headaches, exhaustion, anxiety and many other things, my mental state is also changing my hormonal balance.

The Science

A burnout has everything to do with stress, and while you are stressed your body produces two hormones: corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol (the “stress hormone”). Increased CRH and cortisol can suppress normal levels of the reproductive hormones that control your menstrual cycle, when CRH and cortisol levels are too high, your brain is essentially saying “hell no” and decides that you’re too stressed to handle a pregnancy. Cortisol can delay, or even prevent, ovulation, and this is nature’s way of reducing the chance of pregnancy when you are already under a lot of pressure.

Cortisol also interferes with the production of progesterone, and decreased progesterone can sometimes cause spotting. So when you’re stressed, your period may show up late, early, or stop altogether (known as amenorrhea). It could even be heavier and more painful, dysmenorrhea. There’s no one way your period may be affected when you’re stressed, as it highly depends on how much stress you can handle and how regular your period is. But any shift in hormonal function has the capacity to change bleeding patterns. In a 2004 study found a significant link between stress and dysmenorrhoea, the results showed that women with high stress were twice as likely to experience painful periods.

Listen to Your Body

I know that my burnout is all about stress, I know that even the years before my breakdown where covered in stress daily, but not once did I encounter a problem with my menstruation until I actually broke down. Why? I’m not sure, I am afraid a lot about our hormones remains a mystery, even for science. We are complex beings with complex problems, and unfortunately some things just happen without making complete sense.

Hopefully next month will be better, maybe I can see my periods as a monthly check on my stress levels and overall mental wellbeing, like a test. For now I’ll keep eating my chocolate ice cream, whats some bad romantic comedies and most importantly, stay on my couch. It sucks to be a woman now I finally feel what our monthly gift of nature can feel like but there is no point in fighting against it. As I have to learn to listen to my emotions, I also have to learn to listen to my body as well as my period and take rest when it asks me to. Energy will return and pain won’t last, hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Although there is no health benefit to bleeding every month, periods are like your fifth vital sign. They can be a great indicator of when things are a bit off, sort of like your body’s way of warning you. Whether you’re stressed because of burnout, a recent breakup, the loss of a loved one, school deadlines, personal illness or any other curveball life may throw at you, your period could react accordingly. Everyone experiences stress to some degree, but if it’s interfering with your menstrual health and affecting your cycle, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP or healthcare provider.

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