Are you a girl or woman with a menstrual cycle who gets frustrated or worried by the sudden changes in mood, energy and health that are linked to your hormones? Ever wish you could go back to a time when you didn’t have a menstrual cycle because the hormone fluctuations that come with it are so annoying or they make you feel like you aren’t in control of your own mind or body?
If so, I’d like you to do something for a few moments: Think back to when you started to learn how to ride a bike, skates or skateboard. At first, you were probably scared; you may have fallen down a few times and you were pretty sure you were never going to figure out how to master it. At some point, you may have even thought about giving up altogether because you were convinced you weren’t any good at it.
But then, after a little practice, and maybe a little more, not only were you doing it well, you were loving it. After that, you were brimming with confidence about your newfound abilities. Even better, you were then using your bike, skates or skateboard to get places faster—and with more fun!
Believe it or not, your hormones can be just like that. Once you get the hang of them, understand how they work and can predict how they’ll be affecting you throughout your monthly cycle, you can use your hormones to make life easier and more fun.
The result? You’re no longer dreading or worrying about hormone changes. Instead, you’re confident about your cycle. That’s because there are no more surprises, plus you know how to take advantage of hormonal benefits and overcome hormonal challenges, putting you in control of your own mind and body.
What to expect from your hormones
So, what kind of effects can you expect from your hormones throughout your cycle? The rise and fall of estrogen, testosterone and progesterone affect whether you’re upbeat or downcast, chatty or quiet, energetic or tired, have health flare-ups or experience days when health issues recede, and the list goes on.
A quick-and-simple way to remember how these changes occur is to think of your cycle as two halves:
- The first half includes Week 1 and Week 2 (which starts with the first day of your period and ends with ovulation).
- The second half includes Week 3 and Week 4 (which starts the day after ovulation and ends the day before your next period).
In the first half of your cycle, rising estrogen (and a small bump in testosterone at the end of this phase) give you an outward energy:
Day by day as this phase of your cycle goes on, you’re coming out of your shell. You tend to be more upbeat, optimistic, outgoing, energetic, chatty, social, daring, adventurous, curious about people and events around you and interested in learning about new subjects.
You have a greater urge to go out into the world and explore. You also have a desire to acquire things, such as experiences, friends, skills and material objects. Ambition climbs as well as a desire to impress others, making you interested in racking up accomplishments that earn you material rewards or compliments.
Chronic health issues (such as allergies, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and eczema) can flare up at the start of this cycle phase during menstruation. However, as estrogen rises, these health issues tend to lessen.
In the second half of your cycle, lower levels of estrogen combined with higher progesterone give you an inward energy:
Day by day as this cycle phase goes on, you’re climbing back into your shell. You tend to be more cautious, introverted, quiet, subdued and introspective, interested in examining your own thoughts, beliefs and experiences.
You prefer familiar ideas, people, food and places over anything new. You enjoy sticking closer to home and connecting on a deeper level with cherished friends and family over having superficial conversations with folks you don’t know. In general, you’re spending less money on purchases and looking for ways to save.
This is a time when you enjoy hunkering down and replenishing your physical and mental energy. And, the activities you undertake in this phase tend be those that nourish your inner self—rather than those that attract attention from others—such as writing or playing music.
Chronic health issues can crop up at the end of this cycle phase due to low estrogen.
Keep in mind that the descriptions of hormonal effects above are general trends. They can be eclipsed by anything that can have a big impact on your mood, energy or health, such as stress, illness, being offered a dream internship or job or losing your wallet. But, on a typical day, this “inward/outward” snapshot is how your cycle tends to play out.
How to harness your hormonal effects
Now that you have a brief overview of what to expect throughout your monthly cycle, you can use this information to make life easier and more fun.
That’s because you can schedule activities to sync with how you’ll be feeling. For example, you can plan a party for the first half of your cycle when you know you’ll be more outgoing, energetic and chatty. And, you can plan mellow activities, such as catching up on a good book, during the second half of your cycle when you know you’ll be in a veg-on-the-couch kind of mood.
Just as importantly, you can take control of your health. By tracking when symptoms rise and fall with chronic health issues, you can either take precautions to prevent flare-ups (such as avoiding high-pollen areas if you have seasonal allergies) or be prepared to use medications or other treatments on these cycle days.
After a while, just like learning how to use a bike, skates or skateboard, you’ll know how to navigate your cycle without even thinking about it. It becomes a skill you’re completely confident about. Then, instead of dreading or worrying about your hormones, you can use and, even enjoy, their effects all cycle long.
Gabrielle Lichterman, the founder of Hormonology® and a longtime women’s health journalist, is leading the growing movement among women to live in sync with their menstrual cycles and know more about all the ways their hormones impact their moods, health and behavior. This is a movement that was launched in 2005 with her groundbreaking book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals about Your Love Life, Moods and Potential, and her creation of Hormonology®. She offers a variety of tools—including her popular Hormone Horoscope® Apps, free eBooks, infographic “cheat sheets,” videos and tips—to share vital information about hormones. You can learn more about Gabrielle and how to join her in her mission at MyHormonology.com.