The Menstrual Cycle & Mental Health

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

One minute you feel amazing, the next you're down in the dumps. Learn to understand your cycle and your emotions, week by week.

My breasts ache, I am crying for no reason, I feel a hormonal zit coming, I am gassy, I want chocolate, and I just cried again. Have you ever felt all these things at once? If you have that means your hormones are WORKING. This mix of emotions comes from the hormonal changes we feel as our natural cycle progresses through the month. The symptoms I listed above tend to come up the week before our periods when we are premenstrual. And each week of our menstrual cycle affects our mental health in different ways. 

The PMS Mess: Emotions The Week Before Our Period

"How could you even say that to me?" we may say tearfully in the throes of PMS when our best friend kindly tells us our blue skirt looks a bit wrinkled. Progesterone and estrogen, the primary female sex hormones, affect the parts of our brains which influence mood and behavior. The progesterone in our body suddenly rises when we are premenstrual, which brings on the depressive, lethargic, and sensitive feelings. One explanation for this could be that progesterone affects the amygdala (the part of our brain in charge of reactivity and our fight or flight response). The amygdala helps control our fear-based response system, and since progesterone triggers the amygdala, we become hyper-reactive in the throes of PMS. This increased sensitivity makes sense—our body is preparing us for menstruation. It's normal to feel less social at this time of the month.

Bloody Hell: Menstruation & All The Feels

"I need a hug, and now I want to scream, and now I'm the happiest I've ever been, and now I want to cry," we may say within a 24 hour period when we are menstruating. 

When we are menstruating, there are actually very low levels of both progesterone and estrogen circulating in the body. You know how sometimes you don’t know how to feel when you’re on your period? This hormonal black hole may be a result of those low hormone levels sneaking around the body.

Bring on the cramps (and ice cream)—your uterus is sloughing itself and you may still be feeling the PMS effects of the heightened progesterone days beforehand. Take it easy as your body adjusts—self-care is key. Ride your emotions and feelings as they come.

Finding Peace with Estrogen: The Post-Period Saviour

"I am happy and balanced, and don't even recognize the person who was living in my body the last two weeks" we may say after our PMS and menstruation.

Towards the end of our periods, the ovaries begin to release estrogen, letting the body know it’s time for our period to stop bleeding. 

Estrogen works well with the serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the “happiness” hormone in our bodies. As a result of this relationship, estrogen can have an antidepressant effect in the body.

So goodbye to the mess of emotions, we are going uphill (at least for the next ten days). Ovulation: When We Are Feeling Ourselves "I am sexy and I know it," we may say with a hair flip and a smile when we are ovulating.  When we ovulate we are scientifically proven to come across as more attractive. When we come across as more attractive, we most likely feel more attractive and confident, and according to research, the impacts of these self-positive feelings show.  A 2007 study found female lap dancers actually earned higher tips when they were ovulating, i.e., at their most fertile. Another study found women are more likely to buy revealing clothing when they are ovulating, and may even choose “sexier” shoes and accessories. Research shows fertile women are also more interested in attending social gatherings. (You will most likely experience a uptick in your sex drive, so don't forget the lube.)

...And then like a flip of a switch it’s all over—right after we ovulate our progesterone levels rise and our PMS hits and the whole cycle starts again. 

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