At LOLA, our mission is to provide this community with the resources you need to make empowered and informed decisions about your reproductive health. Whether you’re looking for information about natural period products, or expert advice on your irregular period, we’re here for you.
In that spirit (and in honor of Women’s Health Week) we recently asked our community to share the reproductive health questions that keep you up at night. We’re featuring those questions, along with answers from our team of medical experts, every day this week on our Instagram channel.
On our second day of Women’s Health Week, we talked with psychotherapist Jennifer Mann from Alma’s network of incredible therapists. Jennifer specializes in helping her clients with anxiety, life transitions, and women’s issues by using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Techniques) and mindfulness techniques. Click here to watch the full interview, or read on for highlights on how to stay mindful when it all feels anything but.
Q&A with Jennifer Mann
Knowing that mental and reproductive health are related, what are some tactics and strategies to help maintain and better mental health to then have a positive downstream effect on reproductive health?
I would start with talking about mental health and how to practice and maintain better mental health. First, understand your needs and personal goals. Everyone has a different journey, so not everyone needs the same thing. Something that people tend to really benefit from is working with a therapist to develop skills like coping mechanisms. Alternatively healthy lifestyles, like incorporating meditation into your life, nutrition, and fitness, can be huge components of maintaining positive mental health and self care.
I just started trying to get pregnant and now it’s all I can think about. I know stress can impact ovulation (and therefore my ability to get pregnant) but I can’t stop obsessing. How do I break out of this vicious cycle?
There are so many situations where you’re told not to stress, and they’re around stressful situations [laughs]. It’s okay to be stressed — this is a stressful topic. The more you fight and resist stress, the more it will come into play as cortisol and adrenaline heat up in the body and cause you to get emotionally flooded when you’re already feeling stressed. My biggest piece of advice is what’s called “leaning in” and just diving into the feeling — acknowledging that “this is stressful” and validating that for yourself. The more we accept our stress and practice being gentle with ourselves, the more we can reduce our stress levels.
I just found out I am pregnant. I’ve wanted this for so long, and wasn’t expecting the wave of anxiety that has continued to wash over me since I found out. I’ve been paralyzed by the potential for loss. I would appreciate any advice on not spiraling to the worst case scenario.
Getting pregnant in itself is such a new, amazing life transition that it makes sense that a lot of worst case scenarios are coming up. The work I do in CBT is talking a lot about what-ifs and worst case scenarios. When we start to spiral, it’s really hard to stop ourselves from going down that path and obsessing. The next time this happens, start catching those thoughts and actively notice them: “What am I thinking? What are these thoughts I’m having? What are the worst case scenarios? Let’s write that down.” Put these thoughts on trial and just try to figure out which of these thoughts are true or false. It’s a good way to produce an alternative response for ourselves by creating a little bit of space away from that worst case scenario.
My stress levels keep bringing down my mood in the bedroom. I’m having a hard time compartmentalizing with everything going on in the world.
The pandemic is seeping through our lives on so many levels, so this is such a relevant question. You’re not alone — the first thing is to validate that this is normal and that’s really powerful. Beyond that, connect with your partner and have those conversations about what’s going on for you and acknowledging that this is really hard for you. They might say the same thing and that can be a really bonding experience. Putting it out there is really powerful and can add a whole new dimension to the bedroom as well as a supportive place where your partner is there to help you when you’re having a hard time. Opening yourself up to them can be meaningful.
How can I help others around me understand the challenges of PMS so they can be more understanding or more sensitive?
This is a really important question because there’s so much stigma around PMS. To start, it’s important to come back to the self. Acknowledge you’re having PMS and validate that it’s okay. If you’re experiencing more PMS during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Because of the stress levels already ingrained in your day-to-day, sometimes it can be heightened by additional sources of stress and anxiety. When you acknowledge how you feel, the message you send out to other people will be much more confident and you’ll be able to communicate and set boundaries with people in ways that they’ll really respect.
Can you discuss how hormonal birth control options affect mental health and what happens when those changes fluctuate?
Certain hormones impact mental health and birth control has different effects on the individuals. You do not need to suffer through a bad mental health experience just to be on birth control — there are different types to fit the needs of every individual. Talk to your doctor to figure out what best for you. If you’re confused about how your hormones are changing and how that’s impacting your mental health, start tuning in and tracking with a mood tracker and you might be able to see some patterns. Once you identify those, you can work through them with your doctor and therapist.
For more advice from Jennifer Mann, find her on Instagram @jennifermanntherapy.