Written by Tyra Douglas
Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year? Maybe not for your period. Festive stress is oh too common around Christmas, with 1/3 of women and 1/5 of men feeling stress over the Christmas period, so if you feel stressed out you are not alone. Sure, some stress is natural and can be good for us, but too much of it can negatively impact your mind and body, including your menstrual cycle.
4 Causes Of Festive Stress
Every year, around the Christmas period, we can all start to feel a little stressed. Whether it’s trying to finish work before the celebrations begin, or getting your home ready for guests - this time of year is less than relaxing. Here are the main reasons for feeling ‘festive stress’
- Decorations - Putting up (and taking down…) the Christmas decorations
- Christmas dinner - Organising a family Christmas dinner. The shopping, the cooking, and cleaning up after Christmas dinner
- Gifts - Buying gifts, not only the costs of doing so, but also having to go out and buy them or find the ‘perfect’ gift in the first place.
- Family - trying to please all family members with gifts, and food, merging family Christmas traditions or trying to visit all family members over the festive season
How Can Stress Affect Your Period?
Stress influences your hormonal system, causing the release of more cortisol which is controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis also interacts with another axis called the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG) Which is responsible for the release of hormones related to your period, including oestrogen, progesterone, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) - which basically means that stress ultimately influences your period, and if you see an interruption in your cycle, don’t worry!
We recommend you look out for:
- A change in the length of your period, becoming either shorter or longer
- More painful periods
- More PMS symptoms
- Delayed or irregular periods
- Or your period might stop altogether
How Long Can Stress Delay A Period?
How long your period is delayed is dependent on your personality. For example, some people can handle stress very well, and therefore may find their cycle is normal - there is no ‘rule book’ here.
However, greater stress can also likely result in a more delayed, or even missed period. To clarify, a late period is if your period is at least 5 days late - longer than 6 weeks late could indicate a missed period. To accurately determine how late your period is it is a good idea to track your period. There are many apps that can help with this as well as simply keeping a note on your phone for example.
Can Stress Stop Periods Altogether?
Yes, stress may stop your periods altogether, at least whilst you remain highly stressed. However, stopped periods could be due to something other than stress, for example, pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome, or sudden weight changes. If you do experience a missed period or absent period, with longer than 6 weeks passing from your last period, it might be a good idea to do a pregnancy test and contact your doctor, especially if you have missed multiple periods or irregular menstrual cycles. Do not simply ignore it.
Top Tips To Cope With Festive Stress
Ok so all this talk about stress impacting your period, but how can you cope with the stress? There are several things you can try depending on how intense your stress is.
If the stress has only appeared during the festive season you can try to take some time to relax, for example trying meditation or breathing exercises, book a lunch or time out with good friends, just talking things through can help, or play sports to de-stress. Some people are also affected by seasonal lows, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so maybe look into aspects around this.
If your stress started during the pre-festive season or lasts well beyond the festive season, then you might want to try something more intense. For example, talk to your doctor who may suggest cognitive behavioural therapy which is a talking therapy.
It is also beneficial to try and identify the cause of stress, for example, whether this is due to organising a big Christmas dinner and then speaking to family members or those you are hosting to share your concerns and try and share the workload. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say! Maybe each family member can bring a different Christmas dish or contribute to the Christmas dinner in some other way, such as washing up, helping set the table, or buying Christmas crackers. Importantly, there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas, so take the pressure off of yourself. (Though that’s easier said than done!)
Chances are you’ll visit friends or family over the festive period (excuse the pun!) and if you are on your period during this time, be sure to take some Fab Little Bags with you in case there is no bin, or you don’t feel comfortable leaving your used period wear in the bin available, to help remove any additional stress during Christmas!