24 Apr 10 things I wish I knew about hormones when I started my period
No one said that getting used to a whole new hormone cycle that begins when you start to menstruate would be easy. But, dang, it would be far less difficult if we were given at least a little heads-up about what to expect! Up till now, we’ve been told virtually nothing about our how our hormones affect us.
I’m trying to change this by sharing vital hormone knowledge with you through Hormonology so you can spread it to others. But, like most of you, I didn’t have any of this hormone knowledge when I got my period–so I flailed through my new hormone cycle like everyone else did.
So, thinking back to those early days, I rounded up this list of 10 things I would have liked to have known about my hormones once I got my first period. Do they resonate with you, too?
1. Hormones impact you ALL cycle long—not just right before and during your period.
Despite what movies, books and every hormone joke ever told would have you believe, your hormones don’t just impact you solely around menstruation. Your hormones impact you every single day of your monthly cycle–from the first day of your period through the day before your next period.
2. Hormones don’t just make you feel crummy. They also make you feel good. Very, very good.
Again, despite what movies, books and every hormone joke ever told would have you believe, women’s hormones aren’t only behind occasional sadness and irritation. They also spur a whole bunch of positive effects, such as fueling our great moods, charging up our self-confidence, revving our energy, sharpening our memory, ushering in sounder sleep, making us more eloquent and much more. So take that, hormone jokes!
3. Hormones are why some days you’re quiet and introverted and other days you’re chatty and extroverted.
Ever wonder why sometimes the excitement you had for social plans, trips and adventures you’d planned in advance suddenly evaporate and all you want to do is stay home and veg alone? Or why some days you’re frustrated when your friends want to stay home and watch Netflix when you’re dying to get out of the house and have major fun? That’s hormones for ya!
During much of the first half of your cycle (once you’re past period pains through ovulation), rising estrogen makes you want to crawl out of your shell and have lots of fun with other people. During the second half of your cycle (the day after ovulation through the day before your next period), lower estrogen and higher progesterone push you back into your shell, making you prefer quieter times closer to home with fewer people or none at all.
Knowing this fact can help you plan your social calendar by syncing it with your menstrual cycle–and, when that’s not possible, to take steps ahead of time to enjoy yourself anyway, for instance, by drinking caffeine before going out on a low-social day to boost energy or heading out to a MeetUp group or networking event to meet new people when your pals want to glue themselves to the couch.
4. Hormones make you suddenly go ga-ga over your crushes—then make you forget about them just as fast.
The closer you get to ovulation, the more rising estrogen and testosterone rev your romantic desire, making the object of your affection seem like the awesomest, coolest, most attractive, delicious-smelling person who ever walked the Earth. Then, once ovulation is over, a quick drop in estrogen and testosterone make these same romantic feelings cool down faster than a plate of microwaved lo mein. (PS: You’ll know you’re really in love when these over-the-top ga-ga feelings last all cycle long–despite hormonal fluctuations.)
5. Hormones aren’t just behind acne flare-ups, but flare-ups in asthma, constipation, allergies and other health issues, too.
If you’ve got a chronic health issue, like IBS, eczema, allergies or asthma, the ups and downs of your monthly hormones can make symptoms worse at certain times in your cycle and better at certain times in your cycle. If you notice a repeating pattern in your cycle, talk with your healthcare professional about it since some treatments can be tailored around your hormone fluctuations.
6. Hormones have the potential to make a problem seem insurmountable and overwhelming—but these feelings pass in just a few days as hormone levels change.
You lost the game, broke up with your honey, heard bad news about a friend or something else horrible happened. Sure, it sucks. But, horrible events can feel even worse in the days before your period. That’s plunging estrogen’s fault. As this hormone descends, it drags down mood-managing brain chemicals (like serotonin) with it, which can intensify sadness, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and rumination about problems. But, it’s important to remember that these intense feelings fade as estrogen climbs again after menstruation begins. They are not permanent. So, when you’re feeling despair, talk to a friend, family member or healthcare professional to help get through the rough time. And, remind yourself that, even though it doesn’t feel like it now, brighter days really are ahead.
7. Hormones are why you like taking big risks on some days, but are more cautious other days.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: You volunteered to be at the top of your friends’ cheerleading pyramid just for kicks, but also threatened to storm out of a friend’s car because she was driving too fast and you thought it was dangerous. You were the first of your friends to jump off the high dive at the public pool, but you refused to eat at a dodgy-looking restaurant because you were afraid it would make you sick. You signed up for circus acrobat classes where you’d learn how to walk across a high wire and swing on a trapeze, but you bathed in Purell after someone sneezed on you at the movies. So, which are you–the brave adventurer or the cautious worrier? You’re both, actually–and one key reason is your hormones: During the first half of your cycle, rising estrogen makes you more daring and confident and during the second half, lower estrogen and higher progesterone makes you wary and more concerned with safety. Knowing this little tidbit makes it a whole lot easier to know when to schedule those bungee jumps and fire baton lessons.
8. Hormones are why you eat more–and less.
No doubt you’ve heard that hormones are a key reason you suddenly scarf an entire pizza and chase it with a half-dozen glazed doughnuts. That’s the thing–you always hear about the bad stuff hormones do. But, did you know your hormones are also why you eat smaller portions and healthier foods on some cycle days? It’s true! While a drop in estrogen and rising progesterone can trigger cravings for calorie-dense foods in the second half of your cycle, during the first half of your cycle, rising estrogen and bottomed-out progesterone help keep cravings and appetite in check. Plus, as estrogen climbs on these cycle days, it helps shore up willpower to resist temptation and gives you more motivation to help reach healthy eating goals, such as including more fresh produce in your diet. Does this mean you’ll always choose the apple over the plate of doughnuts during the first half of your cycle? Cards on the table here–no. But, the likelihood is far higher that you will.
9. You can predict all your hormonal effects because they follow the same up-and-down pattern cycle after cycle.
People spend a lot of money trying to predict the future, but you can do it for free. That’s because your hormones have specific effects on your mood, energy, etc. throughout your menstrual cycle–and because your hormones follow the same pattern cycle after cycle, you can know what these effects will be before they happen. Which means if you have regular healthy menstrual cycles, you can know one day, one week, one month, one year or longer from now when you’ll be in a great mood, when your energy will be high, when you’ll feel like socializing and on and on. This makes it easy to plan a vacation, wedding, project, performance or anything else you want to do. To get an idea of how your hormones will be impacting you every day, check out my quick overview here.
10. Just because you accept that you’re affected by your hormones, it doesn’t mean you’re saying that you’re ruled by them. In fact, it means you have MORE control over your life and which direction you’re headed.
That’s because when you know what your hormonal effects will be, you can plan to capitalize on hormonal benefits and take steps to overcome hormonal challenges to make every day of your cycle better.
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