How Travel & The Holidays Can Affect Your Period
Travel, vacations, holidays, family gatherings . . .
It's that time of the year.
While there are a lot of great things about each of those, stress often accompanies these experiences. The impact of stress is one of
the key contributors to irregular cycles and an increase in many PMS issues.
Before we get into the impact stress has on our periods and what we can do about it, let’s look at the basics of how your period works.
Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland regulate your menstrual cycle (including ovulation and menstruation). These hormones are “messengers” letting your body know when it’s time to ovulate, when it’s time to have your period, and everything else in between.
Any changes in your physical, mental or emotional health (due to stress, lack of sleep, different routines, eating different foods and altered exercise regimens to name a few) can cause an imbalance to your hormones, negatively affecting your menstrual cycle.
While the two main hormones involved in our cycles are estrogen and progesterone, there are two other hormones that also impact the regulation of your cycle: cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Melatonin helps with our sleep (more on melatonin in just a bit).
As a society, we’ve normalized stress. But, our bodies are not designed to function in the constant state of stress that most people experience in their daily lives, not to mention the heightened stress from travel and holidays.
When your body perceives danger (whether it’s too much emotional stress, a physical danger like a robber attacking you, or not enough food, for example), it will produce the stress hormone cortisol to help it go into energy-conservation mode so as to protect and prioritize other, more vital processes such as brain and heart functions that are necessary for the flight-fight-freeze mode. Our menstrual cycles take a lot of energy each month, so the energy-conservation mode might push our cycles into the back seat as part of this process.
This is why constant stress or surges of stress are directly linked to irregular cycles and PMS issues, causing some women to skip a period, while others may have irregular spotting, and others may have a heavier period.
Melatonin is another culprit disrupting menstrual cycles. We usually only hear the role that melatonin plays in sleep patterns (which is important in minimizing stress). However, it is also involved in the regulation of hormones and menstrual cycles.
In the simplest terms, your circadian rhythms (your body’s internal 24-hour clock) are the ways your body changes in response to intervals of light and dark. Among many other processes, your circadian rhythms help regulate your body’s hormonal fluctuations.
What other ways do travel and holidays interrupt your body’s natural rhythms and impact your period?
Traveling to different time zones disrupts the light patterns that trigger (or don’t trigger) your body to produce melatonin, impacting the hormonal balance of your menstrual cycle.
Lifestyle changes, such as a different daily schedule, or eating different foods, will impact how your body regulates hormones directly related to your menstrual cycle.
The quality of your sleep is different. Do your in-laws have a comfortable mattress? Does the hotel have great pillows? Are there no curtains on the windows at your Airbnb? Are you at a different altitude? All of these things can affect the quality of sleep which disrupts melatonin production.
Here are some simple travel sleep tips:
- Travel with your pillow when possible
- Pack a travel humidifier (for drier, low-humidity destinations)
- Use a travel diffuser with essential oils (like lavender, ylang ylang, and chamomile, plus a drop of eucalyptus for better respiration)
- Bring an eye pillow
- Always have ear plugs or a white noise machine (or app)
Remember, not all stress has to be bad stress. Good stress, or what psychologists refer to as eustress, is the type of stress we feel when we are excited. Your pulse quickens and your hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear.
Under the influence of “good stress” our bodies release the feel-good chemicals helping you to stay focused, not fearful, and to perform under pressure.
But what can you do to minimize the surges of bad stress and enjoy travel, vacations and the holidays more?
Don’t be caught off guard. Knowing in advance how travel and stress can cause irregularities can reduce the “freak out” and panic moments when unexpected things may happen. Menstrual changes within reason can be “normal” within a cycle or two. If your irregularities continue for three months or longer, talk with your physician to make sure there aren’t other underlying issues occurring.
Stay connected. Proactively plan check-in calls with your closest girlfriend. These are not meant to fuel gossip, rather to diffuse stress. Sprinkle in two or three 15-min check-in calls. Quickly vent your frustrations, share your celebrations and gratitudes and wrap up by sharing your desires. Then pause and listen to hers. Doing these calls while going on a walk can help you stay grounded and get perspective.
Be prepared. Always pack period products with you whether you’re scheduled to have your period or not. Tuck an extra pad or tampon in your pocketbook. Put some extra supplies in your toiletries bag so you’re prepared just in case.
Mimic your regular routine as much as possible. While you may not get to your gym you can still plan in active things: A hike, a walk through the neighborhood after a holiday meal with your family, getting a day pass for a local gym, doing a few quick yoga sun salutations in your room before you join the rest of the family.
Minimize alcohol consumption.
Stay hydrated. Adequate water intake can help your body flush out the toxins of stress.
- Get a good night’s rest.
When it comes to travel, sometimes the only thing worse than travel stress is stress from a delayed period that you were expecting or a surprise period that you weren’t expecting.
One woman shared a story with me where she and her family were having dinner with friends and when she stood up after dinner, she saw a big red spot on the white seat cushion. While our periods are a normal and natural part of life, this kind of embarrassment is real. Unexpected changes in your period is the last thing you need on top of everything else you’re dealing with during travel, vacations and holidays.
With busy schedules, demanding in-laws, or a number of other factors, it may be difficult to minimize stress. For those times when you have increased stress, Perfect Period.® is ideal to include in your daily regimen. This can help your body regulate your hormones naturally and positively impact your menstrual cycle.
Just like Zeena. When she was going on her last trip she made sure her bottle of Perfect Period was included on her packing list!
I’m heading on vacation and just said to myself
“I gotta make sure I pack my bottle of Perfect Period!”
~ Zeena Regis (Decatur, GA)
For more information about Perfect Period, or to buy a bottle, go to www.perfectperiod.com and get started balancing your hormones the natural way today.
It’s time you had a happy, healthy period.