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Menstru-Waiting: Can Stress Make Your Period Late?

Jessica Lollino

Posted on July 27 2016

Is your late period stressing you out? Well stop, breathe, read, and see if stress is the culprit!

Time to get technical: Hypothalamic amenorrhea

Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a temporary condition in which the period stops due to extreme stress. Extreme stress is stress that goes beyond daily hassles like your adorable puppy having an accident (or twelve) on the floor or an overdraft fee. We are talking the big girl stressors like death of a family member, loss of a job, divorce, or illness.

Stress affects your hypothalamus, the area in the brain which regulates the specific hormones the body uses during menstruation. It gets overrun with stress and hormone production is temporarily suspended. There may even be an evolutionary reason for this. Think of it like this: When experiencing high stress, the body goes into survival mode and shuts down less critical functions to focus on the more pressing situation at hand, be it zombie apocalypse or discovering an Ashley Madison account on your partner’s laptop. The body will direct all of its resources (and redirect some) to focus on the incident causing the most pain or panic to the body.

A few tips to relieve stress – in this case, more is better!

  • Deep Breathing – it’s free and you can do it anywhere. Every time you feel yourself getting a little too worked up, stop the thought and take deep belly breaths. Deep breathing starts with an inhale to fill the belly and the abdomen (not the chest, where stress is known to reside) for five counts, hold it for five counts, and then exhale for five counts as your belly empties. This instantly lowers both your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Lay down in corpse pose (savasana) and mentally turn off each body part starting with your toes and moving upward. Take deep breaths for at least five counts before proceeding up to the next body part. Once you get to your head, just breathe and try to quiet your mind.
  • Grab a sauna or take a bath. Heat naturally relaxes muscles and promotes relaxation. Sauna sessions get blood circulating, causing the release of endorphins. Baths are an ancient ritual practiced by everyone from the Romans to the Japanese to cleanse away mental and physical stress. Add some aromatherapy like lavender, German chamomile, or sandalwood to your bath for added stress releasing benefits.
  • Chocolate, the cure-all for all things. Besides being tasty, chocolate reduces cortisol, a nasty little stress hormone. Have a square or two of high quality chocolate when you are feeling stressed and let it work its magic. You could even warm it up and dip a strawberry in it to get extra Vitamin C.

The good news? Once you resolve the stressful situation, your period will return and get back on its normal cycle soon after. Your conscious job is to close the issue, vanquish the stress, and let your bodily functions take care of the rest.

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