Hilary, a Hormonology newsletter subscriber, asks: “I ice climb and rock climb regularly and often find that my biggest, most exciting and terrifying trips fall right before my period starts. This is a super-bummer because I look forward to these big trips for months and then struggle through them because of downtrodden hormones. Any suggestions on how to overcome my lower risk tolerance right before my period? (I sometimes find myself, embarrassingly, in tears because I’m ‘scared’—when in weeks 1 and 2 I’d be leading the crowd.)”
My answer: Great question! I think a lot of women can relate to this problem of having courage and derring-do plunge as estrogen and testosterone dive in premenstrual Week 4. Luckily, I know of a few study-proven suggestions for boosting your confidence by upping your testosterone or motivation in general:
1. Drink a caffeinated beverage (if you can drink caffeine): Normally, I would advise women to avoid caffeine in their premenstrual Week 4 because it can trigger irritation and anger by exacerbating the moody effects of plunging hormones. However, caffeine also temporarily boosts levels of testosterone–the hormone that makes you more daring and impulsive. So, you have to really know how caffeine affects you before you use this tip. If you know it triggers anger or anxiety, skip this tip. If you can drink caffeine and it doesn’t have a negative effect on you, you may want to try it.
Bonus tip: When you’re not rock climbing, ice climbing nor operating heavy machinery and you need help taking a risk, you can try sipping an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol temporarily raises testosterone levels while, obviously, also loosening inhibitions. But, stick to just one drink—more than that raises your risk of dependency on alcohol in fearful situations and can pose health problems.
2. Strike a “power pose”: Sounds (very!) silly, but a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology shows that standing like Wonder Woman (legs apart, hands on hips, chest out) for a few minutes prompts a temporary rise in testosterone. Researchers say that adopting powerful body language tells the brain it’s time to amp up your power in case you need it for, say, a battle, so it releases more testosterone to help you succeed.
3. Listen to uptempo music…and turn the volume up a notch: A slew of recent studies show that loud, uptempo tunes prompt a rise in certain brain chemicals that rev energy and motivation. (It’s why you can exercise longer when listening to your iPod.) Just be careful not to go so high with the volume that you damage your hearing.
4. Think of someone you like who climbed higher or more than you: Imagining a “regular” person (as opposed to an Olympic athlete) who has already achieved what you want to achieve boosts motivation by instilling a bit of “benign envy” in you while also making you feel like your own goal is within reach, too, according to a recent study out of Tilburg University in The Netherlands.