Here's How Each Stage Of Your Period Affects Your Mood, So You Can Understand The Swings Better
Have you ever looked up the definition of "period" or "menstruation"? The dictionary sums up the physical aspects of the monthly visitor like a textbook: a flow of blood from the lining of a woman’s uterus, can last up to seven days, a sign of puberty, etc. This is all accurate, sure, but it doesn’t really summarize the other overarching details, like the symptoms you can experience, or how each stage of your period affects your mood. There’s so much more to your menstrual cycle than a simple dictionary definition can touch on, but let the record show that your period is just as emotional as it is physical, and the effects can often drone on throughout the entire month, not just around the time you bleed.
Let's start with the basics: Your menstrual cycle abides by your hormones — specifically, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. According to Ann Mullen, director of health education at Cycle Technologies, you can think of the four phases of your menstrual cycle as a dance of sorts, in which the hypothalamus region of the brain — aka the part of your noggin that controls your autonomic nervous system, body temperature, thirst, hunger, sleep, emotional activity, and the like — choreographs movements throughout the month.
Sometimes the performance is smooth, even graceful. Other times, the presentation is sloppy, and you might feel a little off-kilter in the process. While it’s all normal, Mullen explains that the reason why some women experience certain symptoms, while others grapple with another set, is not entirely understood. What experts do know for a fact, she tells Elite Daily, is that these fluctuating symptoms, including those associated with mood, are definitely linked to hormone levels.
So if you aren't exactly sure what the four phases of your menstrual cycle even are, let alone how they influence the way you feel emotionally on a daily basis, here's everything you need to know, according to an expert in the space.
Menstruation Can Go Either Way In Terms Of Mood
Menstruation, aka the time of the month when you're actually bleeding, begins when your uterine lining sheds, Food Period co-founder, Jenn Kim, tells Elite Daily. During this time, Kim explains, your estrogen levels experience one heck of a rollercoaster ride that starts out high, then drops suddenly, sending your brain's hypothalamus a friendly reminder to start preparing for another ovulation cycle. Your body also experiences a decrease in progesterone at this point in your cycle, Kim adds, which is the hormone that both regulates your overall cycle, and prepares your uterus for pregnancy.
I'm sure I don't have to remind you that, along with your period can come symptoms like abdominal cramping, lower back pain, fatigue, and cravings — but Kim says these symptoms are what's likely going to affect your mood. "During this phase, the communication between the right and left hemispheres of your brain is more powerful than at any other time," she explains — which, in other words, means that, even though you might feel crummy physically at this point in your cycle, there's a good chance that, mentally, you'll be feeling pretty sharp.
The Follicular Phase Will Have You Feeling Inspired
Next up, you have the follicular phase. This is the time of the month when an egg will grow and develop, and the ovaries mature. Basically, your body is pretty busy around this time, and your hormones tend to cause a spike in physical energy that might cause you to feel restless, Kim says.
"Creativity and new beginnings characterize this phase," Kim tells Elite Daily over email. Emotionally, she says, you might feel outgoing, upbeat, and revitalized, so it's the perfect time to start "stimulating projects at work and at home as you will have the most energy to act on ideas," she explains.
Ovulation Will Bring Newfound Confidence And Sex Appeal
You might recognize ovulation as prime baby-making time. It's indeed your most fertile phase, when your estrogen levels are increasing, and an egg is released into one of your fallopian tubes and into the uterus — again, a lot going on, but according to Kim, this is the time to get busy, and not just in the bedroom. "Your communication skills and mental and emotional creativity are at their peaks in this phase," she tells Elite Daily, meaning that this time is optimal for taking full advantage of those creative juices, to say what needs to be said, and to follow your heart.
Additionally, be sure to take advantage of any newfound confidence you notice at this point in the month. During an interview with Elite Daily in December 2018, Rebecca Booth, M.D., OBGYN and co-founder VENeffect, explained that, leading up to and during ovulation, "estrogen and testosterone increase romantic and positive thinking, as well as confidence and desire," which is then enhanced "by an increase in dopamine and endorphins to stimulate mood and energy."
At this point in your cycle, your metabolism is also up and running, your skin is glowing, and even though beauty is so much more than what's on the outside, you can't help but feel good in every sense of the word during this time. So own it, girl.
The Luteal Phase Might Have You Feeling Lazy And Sluggish
Ah, the luteal phase — otherwise known as PMS. Physiologically speaking, this is the time when something called corpus luteum, which is meant to establish and maintain pregnancy, grows and produces a ton of progesterone in the ovary, Kim explains. But if, toward the end of your cycle, the egg hasn't been fertilized, your body will start having a period. No surprises there, right?
I'm sure this won't come as a huge surprise, either: The luteal phase, aka the time when you experience PMS, usually results in a serious lack of energy, and possibly social withdrawal, too, says Kim. On the plus side, however, she says that PMS can put you completely in-tune with "your most inner self." So, rather than view this time as a black hole of suckiness you'll experience from the living room couch, Kim suggests focusing on any aspects of your life that need to be changed instead, and dedicating this time to working through them.
Or, you know, don't, and just chillax and watch Netflix in bed. Who's going to judge? Not I, my friend. Not I.