Right now, I’m watching a webcam trained on a small eaglet from Berry College that was just left alone in its nest and has been targeted by an eagle who’s not either of his parents. My heart is in my throat as I hope its parents return to protect him before the inevitable happens. It’s so difficult to watch, I actually end up closing the browser. Then, I remind myself that this is Nature and what happens in the wild. And this helps me take a mental step back.
But, maybe I’m better able to take a pragmatic view of what I’ve just seen because I’m in the first half of my cycle. That’s what new research in the journal Social Neuroscience suggests.
Aside from the fact that most of us are sensitive to sad or shocking pictures and video, this team of researchers found that you’re more likely to be distressed by disturbing imagery if you view it during the second half of your cycle (Week 3 and Week 4) than if you view the same exact images during the first half of your cycle (Week 1 and Week 2).
Why? Hormones, of course. As estrogen rises in the first two weeks of your cycle, it prompts certain brain changes that make you have a less intense emotional reaction to seeing something negative.
During the second half of your cycle as estrogen dips twice and progesterone rises and falls, these hormonal changes make you have a more intense emotional reaction to seeing something negative.
The takeaway here? While it’s impossible to avoid viewing all negatively arousing imagery during the second half of your cycle (like breaking news or passing something you see on the street), you may want to time certain events that you can schedule that contain disturbing images (like watching a horror flick or attending an edgy art show) to coincide with the first half of your cycle.
That way, you can avoid getting overly shocked or disgusted and prevent having an “emotional hangover” that sours your mood and ruins your sleep for days.
Some good news to report about the eaglet: I just checked in and both its parents returned to the nest to protect it and the dangerous intruder has now flown off, keeping the fuzzy little guy safe. What a relief!