Dipping Your Toes Into Fertility Awareness Via Mood Tracking
Mood tracking is a hot topic these days. The interest in mood tracking is perhaps fueled by the recent focus in the media and in health care on mental health, and by the explosion in popularity in mood tracking methods like bullet journaling and mood-tracking mobile apps.
For people with mental health or emotional issues, mood-tracking can be a vital way for individuals to identify episode triggers, thereby helping them to avoid those triggers in the future. But even for those of us who are lucky enough not to struggle with a mental health issue, changes in mood are a fact of daily life, and tracking that information can reveal a wealth of information about our mental and emotional health.
Many things can affect our moods. We all know that getting too little sleep can put us on edge, and that eating too much sugar or caffeine can do the same (after all, who among hasn’t experienced a morning where we’re over-tired, over-caffeinated, and the usual morning commute seems to put us in a much worse mood than usual?) There is now a theory that what we eat may affect our gut, which can then in turn affect our moods. Conflict in our interpersonal relationships can have another huge (and obvious) effect on our moods. For women, the normal hormonal fluctuations of our reproductive system can also have an impact on our moods throughout the month. It is for this reason that mood tracking can be a great way to “dip your toes” into the world of fertility awareness. If you are woman who is already tracking—or considering tracking—your moods, chances are good that you might already have noticed certain trends in your changes in mood and how they correspond with where you’re at in your cycle (even if all you do is mark the start of your period each month).
Many women notice their sense of happiness and energy level can fluctuate in accordance with their cycle. And while PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) is a condition often joked about, there is definitely something to feeling a little off during a certain “time of the month.” If you tend to feel more sensitive and anxious in the days leading up to your period, you’re not alone. If you are so sensitive and so anxious during the end of your cycle each month that you feel like you can barely keep it together, you may actually have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)—a very severe, sometimes disabling form of PMS. Tracking your cycles and your moods together could help you (and your doctor) determine if your symptoms resemble average PMS or something more extreme like PMDD.
Another way your cycle can affect your mood is through its effects on your libido. Many women report feeling more amorous during the middle of their cycles (when ovulation typically occurs), and a sharp drop in sex drive in the days leading up to (and during) their periods. This has to do with the fluctuation of certain hormones that occurs throughout a normal cycle, which can be easily interpreted by anyone who tracks both their moods and their cycles.
Better Mood Tracking Via Natural Means
There is now a mounting pile of evidence that taking oral contraceptives such as the Pill or being on an IUD can affect many of the factors that influence our moods. For example, it is now suspected that the Pill may have detrimental effects on gut health, and it has long been known that the Pill robs the body of key vitamins that are associated with maintaining good moods, among other important functions. The Pill also affects the way we interact with others—in particular, the opposite sex—and not always for the better. Unfortunately, these negative side-effects of the Pill and the IUD often go undiscussed, as the “benefits” of birth control are seen by our mainstream culture as outweighing its detrimental effects. And, speaking of anxiety, if you’re trying to take charge of your mental health, these contraceptive methods can at best make it tricky to attribute your moods to common triggers, and at worst, actually be contributing to your mental or emotional health issues (like depression and anxiety).
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are already tracking your mood, and serious about taking charge of your mental and emotional health, it might be time to consider ditching your conventional birth control method and its mood-wrecking side-effects, and instead learning a Fertility Awareness-Based Method (FABM) or Natural Family Planning (NFP). Combined with the information you’re gaining by tracking your moods, your fertility charts will open up a whole new world of information about not only your mental and emotional health, but your physical health, too.
Together with your doctor (especially a doctor trained in Natural Procreative Technology), this detailed information about your body should be able to help you to better understand your body and your mind and the factors that affect you (either negatively or positively). Best of all, these methods empower you to put this information into action to improve your overall health.
If you’re interested in charting your moods with your cycle to dip your toe into fertility awareness methods, grab a notebook. Start with the first day of your next period, and mark each day your symptoms. For some women, seeing the trends can be very powerful. It just may whet your appetite to contact a certified instructor in Fertility Awareness-Based Methods to teach you the full science behind FABMs and how to use it for everything from monitoring health to family planning. By beginning to chart your cycle, you have nothing to lose, and so much to gain.