Knowing Your Ride: How Your Cycle Affects Your Mood
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Knowing Your Ride: How Your Cycle Affects Your Mood

by Aisle Team
Knowing Your Ride: How Your Cycle Affects Your Mood

Having a menstrual cycle can be a ride of reflection, agitation and connection. Having been on this ride 156 times, I am still caught off guard when I experience my routine irritants during my pre-menstrual period. I am still pleasantly surprised when I have boundless energy and fill my social calendar (despite being a true hermit at heart) during my follicular phase.  Feeling out of control in your own bodily experiences is never pleasant. Knowing the impact of the rise and fall of your hormones on your mood throughout your cycle can allow you to create healthy routines, boundaries and practices to contribute to a more grounded and empowered menstrual experience. 

Which hormones are associated with mood swings throughout my cycle? 

The main hormonal players throughout the menstrual cycle that impact mood are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. 

Endorphins, a type of monoamine neurotransmitter that acts as a hormone, can be used as a “happy” tool during your cycle, triggered by movement, meditation, sex, acupuncture, music, laughter and UV light. 

Serotonin and cortisol are here at the period party as well. Serotonin, known as the happy hormone, directly mirrors the levels of estrogen throughout your cycle. Cortisol, typically known as the stress hormone, is more likely to be triggered when estrogen is low and progesterone is high. 

What moods can I expect throughout my cycle and what do hormones have to do with them? 

Menstruation: Restorative Rest and Reflection

Days 1-7 (ish)

The time of the month when you are bleeding is when all your hormone levels are at their lowest. The direct emotional impact of these low hormones on mood is said to not be significant. Yay!

What can and does impact your mood during menstruation is a hormone-like chemical called prostaglandins. No shade; prostaglandins are important to having a healthy period, as they trigger the muscles in the uterus to contract to shed your uterine lining. However, an excess of prostaglandins can intensify the contractions causing the well-known cramping, and back pain during the period. An excess can even leak into nearby areas such as your gut and cause pesky period poops, nausea, cramping and headaches, which, understandably, are going to impact your mood. 

Research suggests that endorphin-releasing activities, sleep and rest, reduced social commitments and cutting back on work tasks are also good practices during this phase. This is a time of rejuvenation, and release; consider how that can be reflected in your day-to-day activities and expectations of yourself. 

Follicular: Social Fluttering and Risky Novel Experiences

Days 7-14 (ish) 

After our period plateau, estrogen (and testosterone, although not as significantly) rise during our follicular phase. A release of the follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone occurs as key players in preparing for ovulation. Estrogen works in partnership with serotonin and dopamine, so when estrogen climbs and peaks during your follicular phase, it can create an elevation in happiness, enthusiasm and energy. 

This is a good time to try new things socially, respectfully push yourself physically in your movement practices and complete more mentally arduous tasks. Estrogen, in its mood-boosting powers, is said to make you more resilient to social dynamics that may stress you out in other phases and allows you to maintain a sense of zen and relaxation when socializing. In addition, the hippocampus and hypothalamus are activated during your follicular phase, making memory retention and consolidation more effective.

At the tail end of the follicular phase, or about halfway through your cycle, is when you ovulate, making this a time when you may feel more sexually aroused or horny and eager to engage in intimacy. 

This is a time to lean into your unique colour of confidence and try some of those new things you have been journaling about in your menstrual phase. This is a time of active participation out in the world. 

The Luteal Phase: Emotionally Protective Practices

Days 14-24 (ish) 

Progesterone, which was slowly rising in your follicular phase, is now moving towards its peak. The egg released in ovulation is now traveling down the fallopian tube.

Progesterone is known to have anxiolytic effects on the brain, meaning it decreases anxiety. With this calm comes an increased sensitivity to your environment, making you more responsive to your internal stressors while making it more difficult to gauge the emotions of others. In the presence of stress, progesterone is converted to cortisol, which increases your stress response and negatively impacts your ability to process emotions. 

Therefore, it is important that you allow space for yourself to be sensitive and engage in practices that allow you to feel safe in your heightened sensitivity to your environment. Be gentle with yourself.

The Premenstrual Phase: Movement, and Radical Generosity

Days 24-28 (ish) 

Estrogen and progesterone are both in decline, meaning that our go-get-em enthusiasm and our sense of calm are now leaving the party. So what are we left with?

For some, it’s deep rage at the tiniest triggers. For others, it’s bloating, anxiety and sore breasts. For some, it’s a deep blue depressive state. There are over 150 different premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, therefore, everyone's emotional experience during this 4-7 day long phase is going to be different. 

So what’s the hack? 

Estrogen affects serotonin (the happy hormone), therefore in its absence, it can be difficult to feel uplifted or positive during this time. So, endorphin-releasing activities are your superpower during this time. Movement is a tried and true endorphin trigger, but I don’t know about you, when I’m bloated and feeling like an angry puff, I don’t feel much like going for a run. Therefore, playful movement, like a five-minute disco dance session, laughing with a friend over inside jokes, or cooking a favorite meal from childhood, can act as more inclusive and appealing alternatives. Or go on a long slow, solo walk and clear that head!

Regardless of your approach, being generous with yourself and your somewhat unstable hormonal state is important. Communicating to those you feel comfortable with about what this phase feels like to you, can be an empowering way to include your immediate community in supporting you through your symptoms. 

Knowing the ride that is your menstrual cycle is one of the best ways to feel empowered and supported throughout the month's hormonal offerings. When you can, give yourself your best shot by planning out your monthly engagements and expectations with your cycle in mind. Keep a menstrual cycle journal throughout the month to reflect on your daily emotional hurdles. Have a set of affirmations for when things may be difficult during pre-menstruation and menstruation. Last, make sure to prioritize comfort - get yourself a heatpad for crampy days or some high-absorbency period underwear for heavy-flow days. Whatever it looks like, knowing your own reactions to hormone changes in your body can be the first step to combat feeling out of control and allow you to know when things aren’t normal. 

Much love. 


Ella Adkins is a writer, teacher and occupier on the ancestral homelands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh  and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations. Her work has been featured in Femme Art Review, Peripheral Review, SAD Mag, ReIssue and Public Parking.



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Bobel C, Corinna H, Gerber H, Greenfield M, Hitchcock C, et al. “Stages in the Menstrual Cycle.” Our Bodies Ourselves. (2014): 

Cappelletti, Maurand and Kim Wallen. “Increasing Women’s sexual desire: The comparative effectiveness of estrogens and androgens.” Hormones and Behavior. 78. (2016): 178–193. <>

Derntl, Brigit, Ramona L Hack, Ilse Kyrspin-Exner, and Ute Habel. “Association of Menstrual Cycle Phase with the Core Components of Empathy.” Current Psychiatry Rev. 8(3). (2012): 247–256. <>.

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