Facing a big challenge? How your hormones can help

My Hormonology

Facing a big challenge? How your hormones can help


It stinks to admit this, but at some point–okay, many, many, many points–in life, we all face major challenges. Whether it’s a problem with work, school, your family, friends, medical professionals, accidents, injuries, sickness, finances, you name it. That’s just the way life goes. You have the ups. Then, there are the stressful, frustrating, annoying, defeating, demoralizing downs.

I want to help you get through these down times more easily–and the way I can do that is by letting you know how estrogen, testosterone and progesterone throughout your menstrual cycle impact how you deal with life’s many challenges.

This way, you’ll understand why you feel strong, confident and optimistic some days–and why on other days you feel like giving up and going home.

By being aware of the many ways your hormones impact how you deal with a challenge, you can help overcome hormonal setbacks and capitalize on hormonal benefits, which will hopefully make the challenge at least slightly easier to handle.

How your hormones impact how you deal with a challenge

Week 1
Day 1 through Day 7 
Estrogen starts off at its lowest point and rises steadily

Your Week 1 can really be a bit of a two-parter:

During the first couple of days of this cycle week, low estrogen can keep your mood, optimism and confidence low. That’s because this hormone affects the output of brain chemicals that produce these feelings. As a result, you can start out your cycle feeling like you have little chance to beat the bad guys and be convinced that whatever actions you take have only a slight probability of working out in your favor.

However, as your Week 1 goes on, estrogen rises–and, as that happens, you become more hopeful about being victorious. That’s because rising estrogen helps the brain produce more chemicals that boost good feelings, positivity and self-assuredness. As a result, you may get a surge of go-get’em-ness that inspires you to try harder, push farther and explore new avenues for making sure you win.

To help deal with a challenge during your Week 1: Remind yourself that if you’re feeling defeated during the first half of this cycle week, it may be due to low estrogen–not the reality of the situation. You may have more options or a higher chance to overcome the problem than you realize. By the second half of this cycle week, you’ll likely be feeling more empowered. And, you certainly will be feeling more optimistic by your Week 2. So, try to hold on….

Week 2
Day 8 through ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle; sooner in a shorter cycle, later in a longer cycle)
Estrogen rises till it peaks; testosterone rises and peaks at the end of this week

During your Week 2, high-and-rising estrogen along with a late-week spike in testosterone rev your mood, outlook and confidence to cycle-long highs. That’s because these hormones help the brain churn out an abundance of chemicals that enhance these feelings.

This means that on these cycle days your inner warrior comes out: You’ll likely feel that, despite many obstacles in your way, you’re destined by a divine spirit, the Universe or Lady Justice to be the victor. This can push you to take more actions to help ensure you win, for example, re-strategizing, recruiting experts or brainstorming out-of-the-box ideas.

Your high hormones also make you more impulsive and willing to take far greater risks, for example, you may sign up for a trial of an experimental drug to beat an illness or suddenly decide to go public with your problem, say, by posting it on social media or talking to a news reporter.

While all these beneficial hormonal effects can help you defeat the problem you’re facing, it’s important to keep in mind that there are downsides to these hormone-triggered changes, too: At times, you may become unrealistically optimistic about the outcome. For instance, you may expect a person in authority to act on a complaint based solely on your say-so without having any other evidence or expect a person who hit your car to agree to pay for repairs because he or she was the one at fault. You may also minimize or outright ignore mountains in your path. For example, you might dismiss your doctor’s warning that an experimental drug isn’t widely available yet or disregard legal advice about going public about a boss’s bad behavior, putting yourself at risk of losing your job.

You can also be impatient, wanting action to happen quickly, which can lead you to make spur-of-the-moment changes that may make your fight more difficult, such as firing a doctor or attorney handling your case because they aren’t getting you information you want fast enough.

To help deal with a challenge during your Week 2: Harness all that high-hormone confidence to go full-force into the path of the challenge and do all you can to overcome it. However, keep in mind the realities of the situation, too: Hope for the best, but expect the worst. By remembering that a negative outcome is possible, you can help better prepare and strategize to reduce the possibility. And, try to be patient; unfortunately, paperwork, legal channels and other processes can take time.

Week 3
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (which is Day 15 through Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
Estrogen and testosterone drop for the first half; estrogen rises again during the second half; progesterone rises throughout

During your Week 3, you come back down to Earth: That soaring mood, optimism and confidence retreats as estrogen and testosterone drop, which can lead to doubts clouding your thoughts and second-guessing if you’re on the right path to success.

In addition, all throughout this cycle week, progesterone climbs–and as it does, this hormone makes you more cautious and wary. You no longer have the urge to take risks, like you did in your Week 2, and prefer an approach that’s safer and more traditional.

In a way, these hormone-inspired changes can be beneficial: Compared to your Week 2, you’re willing to adopt a more realistic view of the situation and obstacles that lie ahead. And, this can help you prepare better for battle since you’ll know what you’re up against.

On the other hand, seeing the challenges that lie ahead more clearly can lead you to slipping into a negative mindset and trigger worry that you may not triumph. And, this can cause you to pull back from your efforts if you think they’re not worth the time, money, energy and other resources you’ll need to keep up the fight.

To help deal with a challenge during your Week 3: As a clearer view of the reality of your situation sets in during this cycle phase, it’s important to keep yourself from spiraling into a negative mindset–and one way to do this is to remember that having this clearer view actually improves your chances of overcoming the challenge because you’ll know how to prepare for all possibilities.

Week 4
Final 6 days of your cycle
Estrogen and progesterone drop throughout this week till they hit their lowest points

During your premenstrual Week 4, your mood, outlook and confidence have the potential to take a dramatic downward turn. That’s a result of plunging estrogen, which drags down levels of brain chemicals that impact these feelings.

The intensity and frequency of this negativity depends on your personal sensitivity to descending estrogen in addition to other factors that can exacerbate descending estrogen’s effects, such as how much stress you’ve been under, how much sleep you’ve gotten and how well you’ve been eating. Some women may notice that they simply become a bit more pessimistic and doubtful while others become hopeless, overwhelmed, demoralized and/or defeated.

To help deal with a challenge during your Week 4: It’s time to recruit your support system. Talk with friends, family members, colleagues and experts. Air out your feelings, share your worries and get advice for moving forward. This is a time when getting shored up by others is critical to helping you keep up the fight. No one around to lean on? Then, join online groups, participate in messageboards and jump onto social media. More than likely, there are others like you who are in a similar situation and are online looking to lend support and seek support from others, too.

I hope these tips help you in being victorious with your next challenge. If you have tips of your own, share them below in the comment section!

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