bubblesEven though I’ve been exploring how the hormones in our monthly menstrual cycle impact our moods, behavior and health since way back in 1999, the idea of looking at how our cycle affects us is still a relatively new concept for most women.

Because of this, I try to come up with simple ways to describe some general trends in your cycle.

For instance, I wrote about how you can view your monthly cycle as two halves: During the first half (Week 1 and Week 2), you have an outward-flowing energy where rising estrogen has you seeking out new experiences and connecting with more people. During the second half (Week 3 and Week 4), you have an inward-flowing energy where lower estrogen combined with progesterone has you preferring to stick close to home and makes you more introspective.

This morning, I realized there was an easy way to view another general trend in your cycle. Let me explain….

I’m deep into my Week 3 (the week right after ovulation) and was getting ready to run errands after having taken a shower. I threw on a pair of baggy shorts and an oversized t-shirt because in this week of our cycle, we tend to prefer comfort over style. (This is especially true with me. If you see holes or stains on my shirt, it’s the second half of my cycle for sure!)

I had planned to skip makeup altogether–because I really don’t care how people see me in this more introverted phase of my cycle. But, then I glanced at myself in the mirror and changed my mind: I saw that I was looking a bit tired from lack of sleep due to my painful still-healing back; I had a few pre-period pimples that were glaring angrily at me and my grey roots were growing in, giving me a white halo around my face. Not awesome.

So, I decided to put on a little makeup. Not to appear more attractive to anyone I might run into at the bank or post office. But to make me feel better whenever I looked at myself.

And that’s when I realized another major difference between the first half and the second half of our cycles:

In the first half of our cycle, we tend to do things for other people.

In the second half of our cycle, we tend to do thing for ourselves.

For example, in our Week 1 and Week 2, rising estrogen has us dressing in nicer clothes, buying more expensive items, wearing more make-up, sharing more funny stories and even trying to achieve more successes with a primary goal of impressing others. That’s because this hormone wants us to attract a mate and outdo potential romantic rivals. In this phase, we’re also apt to grant favors (big ones!) to folks and be more flexible if a friend wants to make an unexpected change of plans. That’s because this hormone boosts our optimism, generosity and patience with others. When we’re making a decision during these two cycle weeks, there’s a greater likelihood that what others think will color our choice.

In our Week 3 and Week 4, things are different: Lower estrogen combined with progesterone is making us quieter, less likely to reach out to others and has us putting our own personal comfort, safety and security above making a good impression. We’re granting fewer favors to folks since this hormone combination makes us more concerned about guarding what precious little time, money, energy and other resources we have in case we need them for ourselves. And, because this hormone combination can make us prone to cloudy moods or physical aches, we put an emphasis on doing activities that make us happier–and can be far less stoic about having those activities suddenly changed or interrupted by someone else. When we’re making a decision during these two cycle weeks, there’s a greater likelihood that we won’t be caring what anyone else thinks about the choice we make.

Now, these aren’t absolute rules, of course. You’re probably still going to want to impress a prospective boss at a job interview or a cutie on a first date even if you’re in your Week 3 or Week 4. And, if your partner is sick in bed during the second half of your cycle, you’ll probably put his or her wants and needs ahead of your own.

However, these are general trends that can help you see how your cycle affects you, helping you get a better grasp of what to expect every day.

Check this out for yourself: Examine the decisions you make and actions you take across your monthly cycle and think about how they sync up with your desire to satisfy others or to satisfy yourself. Let me know what you discover!

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[Photo: Evilgurl]