txTomorrow in the United States, many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a day we give thanks for what we have.

In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d run down what all we cycling gals have to be thankful for each week of our monthly cycle.

Okay, so I’m ready to enjoy a big dose of hormonal gratitude! Who’s with me?

Week 1
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
Unless you’ve just gotten a pregnancy scare, you probably don’t equate your period with feeling thankful. But, thankful you should be! That’s because the first sign of red indicates that your estrogen is starting to rise after having dropped like a stone for the previous six days. It also means sedating progesterone is now a distant memory–and with it its tiring, brain-fogging effects. So, you can be thankful that as estrogen rises higher and higher throughout your Week 1, this hormone makes you happier, more energized, mentally sharper, more resilient and just brighter overall. Not too shabby, right?
Tip: Make your Week 1 even better by eating iron-rich foods (including beans, fortified cereal, lean meat and tofu) or taking a multivitamin with iron (15 mg. for girls 14 to 18; 18 mg. for women 19 to 50; 8 mg. for women 51+), which will help reverse the iron shortfall that occurs during menstruation and can cause mental and physical fatigue.

Week 2
Day 8 to Day 14 (or the day you ovulate in your cycle)
For most women, there are lots of reasons to be thankful during your Week 2: High estrogen is making a whole bunch of good things peak–your mood, energy, brain skills, verbal abilities, openness, extroversion, confidence, derring-do and enjoyment of physical intimacy. And peaking testosterone is revving your libido and contributing to your boost in self-esteem and desire for adventure.
Tip: Some women may find Week 2 a challenge because high hormones can trigger anxiety or make you feel on-edge. If this is the case with you, then do activities that have a calming effect, such as drinking chamomile tea, practicing yoga, doing meditation, taking a relaxing walk or enjoying brisk exercise.
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Week 3
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 6 days (which is Day 15 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
Your Week 3 is the polar opposite of your Week 2. But, if you think that means there’s nothing to be thankful for, you’d be mistaken! Dipping levels of estrogen and rising progesterone combine to slow you down and chill you out. This makes it a perfect time to enjoy the subtler joys in life that you were too zippy to savor in the previous two weeks of your cycle, such as your first sip of tea in the morning, a refreshing breeze on your face or a gentle stroll with your dog.
Tip: While your hormones are making you more relaxed during this week of your cycle, you could experience irritation or lose your cool if you go awhile without eating. That’s because progesterone makes some women more sensitive to drops in blood sugar between meals. If this is the case with you, then eat four to five small meals throughout the day and/or keep healthy snacks nearby to nibble on when you hear your first stomach growl.
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Week 4
Final 6 days of your cycle
While it’s true that descending estrogen in your premenstrual week is best known for its negative side effects (such as moodiness and the blues), the plunge in this hormone has benefits you can be thankful for, too: For starters, it saps your patience, which at first sounds bad, but in reality this makes you a lot less likely to continue putting up with problems and injustices you’ve tried to overlook in more patient higher-hormone days in your cycle, such as your co-worker continually taking credit for your work or your roommate not paying her share of the rent. As a result, you’re likely to get nagging issues finally resolved. In addition, dipping estrogen makes you more in touch with your feelings, so you can channel this extra emotional sensitivity into creative projects, such as songwriting and painting. Finally, the drop in estrogen can give you a reason to treat yourself to special indulgences you rarely give yourself permission to enjoy, such as a bubble bath, binge-watching a TV show or eating a favorite food–all without feeling guilty. In fact, research shows that special treats actually help reverse some premenstrual symptoms by prompting a temporary surge of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Tip: Make this week better by reducing your intake of coffee, tea and Red Bull since caffeine tends to worsen premenstrual irritability. And cut back on salt to reduce premenstrual bloating and breast tenderness.
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[Photo: Eli Christman]
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