Mental Health vs. My Period
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
During the past week or so, I have been going through a bit of a funk in terms of my emotional wellbeing; since October 10th is ‘World Mental Health Day,’ I thought it would be fitting to write a bit about my experiences with anxiety, depression, and how they relate to my period.
For my entire life, I have struggled with generalized anxiety disorder; rather than the occasional worry about public speaking, a test, or a due date, it feels like I am constantly worrying and ruminating about recurring, everyday things. Take commuting to work or school--- for most people, it is a care-free task; in my case, I worry about things like arrival time, whether or not doors will be locked, or which vehicle I am going to take. My emotions often tend to get the best of me. This can be pretty debilitating, and is all the more apparent when I am menstruating. This involves worrying about the practical issues related to having a period, in addition to my emotions being more volatile when menstruating.
These feelings extend beyond anxiety; I can also fall victim to feelings of melancholy and even hopelessness. Usually, these feelings aren't triggered by anything except for a complete lack of energy. If you have spoken to me in person, you may have caught me at a time when I was incredibly exuberant and genuinely excited for what life had to offer. Due to these feelings of extreme excitement, my emotional capacity literally drains, leading to a lack of energy and feelings of depression. Once again, while these feelings are completely natural, they are all the most apparent when I am on my period.
Now, how might a routine period have such a large impact on mental health? Well, an internal conflict that I constantly find myself battling is feeling more depressed or anxious on my period, as it highlights stigmas associated with periods. At the end of the day, while this is partially true, it is incredibly important to understand that no one is the problem for experiencing menstruation. Chemically, while people menstruate, more hormones are released within their own bodies impacting certain aspects of their emotional well being. Society tends to react to this as an excuse to denigrate and invalidate ‘females.’ The fault in this continuum certainly does not lie with menstruating people; this is the realization that has taken a while for me to become aware of. In doing so, I have developed a few strategies for making sure that I remain in a somewhat more stable emotional state. Here are a few tips:
Question your inner critic: Oftentimes, if we are feeling low or craving external validation, it is due to intrinsic feelings of unworthiness. While far easier said than done, it is important to confront this part of yourself, and ask yourself why it is there. Usually it is there instinctively; it is probably based on a fear that you have, and is only trying to protect you. Thus, you must be gentle with this aspect of yourself. You don’t need to like it, but you need to accept it so that you respond more clearly and figure out what you really need.
Reflect on your achievements: All too often, we ignore the important strides we have made as individuals; this could be an award we won, a person we assisted, or simply getting out of bed in the morning. Recognizing these achievements is incredibly important! Find a time where you are alone, without distractions - including books, technology, work, etc. This could be while you are taking a walk, showering, meditating, or if you are working at the stable (my favorite place to reflect!). There, I try to find three things each week that I am proud of for enduring or accomplishing.
Find a quote or two that inspires you, and reminds you of what is going right in your life: While this may sound cheesy, it really works! Choose a saying, personal mantra, philosophy, quote or even a beloved artwork that inspires you to do good for yourself and others, and remind yourself of it when you get the chance. This could be written down and placed in your wallet, a wallpaper for your phone, or posted on your bathroom mirror. The quote that I try to live by states, “Be your own advocate.” It is inspiring and hopeful, and reminds me of the importance of self-reliance and having faith in myself. I have it written on a piece of paper and taped it to the mirror in my bathroom; this way, every morning while getting ready, I am reminded of this powerful affirmation.
Keep a journal, paint, play the piano! As I am a writer at heart, I love to journal. I write down a lot of my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and even some lists. I find that this helps me contextualize my feelings, and makes things seem far more manageable. For you, this outlet may not be journaling; however, you could find a similar way to express your feelings through art, music, reading, the sciences, and really any other field you are passionate about!
Get an adequate amount of sleep: Those who know me personally will probably burst into a fit of laughter after reading this headline. This is a strategy I have yet to master, but I am working on it … gradually. Seriously, this is very important; you’ll become less irritable and emotionally reactive, be able to be more optimistic, and be more focused and excited overall. I completely understand that the frequency and business of everyday life can make getting enough sleep extremely challenging, but do whatever you can to practice better self care.
Create a safe home environment: Whatever space you call home, make sure that it is a place that creates feelings of acceptance and peace. This could involve having candles, pictures of you and friends and family, posters that remind you of things that you love, and reminders of how you have impacted those around you. Organization or cleanliness does not necessarily need to be a factor in this - though it could be. If you are a person - like myself - who is not bothered by a disorganized space, this may not be a priority. At the end of the day, you should look forward to spending time in whatever you classify as ‘home.’
Take care of your physical health: What does this involve? Unfortunately, like most things, there is no simple answer to this. For some, it may mean exercising more or getting more sleep; for others, it involves taking more breaks or eating less sugar. On my period, I tend to make sure that I have a stash of chocolate (I know, it’s quintessentially predictable!). This may take some self reflection, but finding ways to take care of yourself will be worth it in the long run.
My biggest pet peeve is reading articles about mental health with morals like, “Don’t put yourself down.” These kinds of articles beg the question: But how!? Most of us already understand what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ for our health; our problems are usually much more complex and require thoughtful reflection and a unique plan that works for us. Yet again, I possess no simple answers; but at least for now I can provide you with this list that may get you thinking about strategies that work in your own life.
Please comment below about the different ways that you engage in self care and how you make sure that you are mentally healthy. Or, comment if you would like to share an experience or thought related to periods and mental health!