I just took a walk with my husband, Douglas, to a nearby pond where an adorable group of baby ducks was recently born and is now happily swimming around with their mom and dad. But, on the way there, a cat unexpectedly leapt out of a tree and landed almost on top of us. It took me a few moments for my eyes to catch up with my brain before I let out a yelp of surprise. To which Douglas exclaimed, “That took you a long time to react to!”
Being me, I immediately calculated where I was in my monthly cycle (naturally, right?)–which is Day 3 in my Week 1. That’s when I realized that if I had been in the second half of my cycle–my Week 3 and Week 4–I would have reacted to the leaping cat a lot sooner.
Why? Research (such as this and this) shows that during Week 3 and Week 4 of your cycle, you’re faster at processing visual information that suggests a potential threat, such as a car veering into your lane or a cat leaping onto you from out of nowhere. That’s a side effect of progesterone. While this sedating hormone normally slows you down, making you a bit tired or foggy, it actually has the reverse effect when it comes to possible threats: It makes you faster at spotting them. Researchers surmise it’s because this hormone makes your body think you’re pregnant, so you become more anxious about your safety in case you need to be protective for two, which puts you on higher alert for danger.
Now here’s where things get interesting. This study specifically examined how fast women spot snakes in the second half of our cycle and found that, like other potential threats, we see them faster in our Week 3 and Week 4. Well, wouldn’t you know, on the way back from watching the ducklings, a long black snake slithered right into our path. However, this time I saw it quickly and reacted fast, jumping out of the way before Douglas even had a chance to notice it–because I’d been reminded just a few minutes earlier that I needed to be more aware of my surroundings and more cautious.
The takeaway here: By being aware of the many ways your hormones impact you, you can tweak your own behavior to compensate for or capitalize on hormonal effects. And what just happened to me is a perfect example. So, I’d recommend that during the first half of your cycle–your Week 1 and Week 2–if you’re in an area where you might face potential hazards (like the many slithery snakes we have here in Florida!), try to remind yourself to keep an extra eye out for potential hazards since you’re less on the alert.