The Benefits of Charting for Your Mental Health
Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM) are an empowering way to track your menstrual cycle and manage your fertility, but did you know that charting can also provide you with important information about your mental health?
It’s true. The complex hormonal changes your body goes through in the four stages of your menstrual cycle can play a role in mood changes and some mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. By charting your observations as you normally would when you use a FABM, you can gain valuable data about how hormonal changes may be affecting your mental health, which can better enable you to address any issues promptly.
Hormones and Anxiety
Did you know that women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as men? According to Dr. Jolene Brighten, hormonal changes or imbalances may play a role in a woman’s experience of anxiety, particularly low progesterone levels or low thyroid function. Progesterone is a natural relaxant and antidepressant, so it makes sense that low progesterone levels could contribute to an increase in anxiety and depression symptoms.
According to Dr. Brighten, when you are under stress, your body turns its energy away from producing progesterone and pours its energy into making cortisol. This means that you are missing out on the feelings of calm that progesterone normally helps produce, which can worsen or trigger anxiety symptoms.
After charting your observations, you can consult with your FABM instructor to identify whether or not a hormonal issue may be contributing to your anxiety. This information can be extremely beneficial in knowing how to treat your symptoms of anxiety. If a hormonal issue is at play, your treatment may include working with a NaProTechnology-trained physician, with someone who has been trained in treating hormonal issues in addition to traditional psychotherapy treatment, or with a psychiatrist who may prescribe medication.
Hormones and Depression
Women are also twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. For some women, this can partially be attributed to hormonal changes. Similar to the relationship between some types of anxiety and low progesterone, low levels of progesterone are also associated with changes in emotions and mood including irritability, crying easily, anger, and depression, all of which are symptoms associated with depressive disorders. Low progesterone can also contribute to PMS symptoms, which can include increased mood changes such as irritability, crying easily, and depression. It is also thought that changes in estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones (such as those that occur normally during one’s cycle, or during puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, etc.) affect mood-related neurotransmitters such as serotonin. There is some evidence that low progesterone combined with pre-existing depression can contribute to the development of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Postpartum depression, which occurs in 10-15 percent of women, may also be related to hormonal changes.
Even by simply aging, changes in our hormones levels can put us at an increased risk for depression, especially when going through perimenopause (when estrogen and other hormone levels are fluctuating), early menopause, or after menopause (when estrogen levels are much lower).
While mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are complex problems, the good news is that our bodies can offer insight into identifying a host of depression and anxiety-related issues. Simply by charting your biomarker observations as you typically would, and through working with a FABM instructor, you can spot any hormonal changes that coincide with changes in your mood. Catching these changes as you chart can enable you to seek treatment from a NaPro physician or other qualified healthcare provider, who can help you to correct any hormonal imbalances, so that you can improve your mood, and keep your menstrual cycle healthy.