Do you sometimes feel like you’re in a mental fog? Research has shown that your hormones may be to blame. Hormonal fluctuations have a proven impact on the brain that affects mood and even memory. The good news is these variations are predictable. Even better, when you know what to expect, you can make the most of each stage in your cycle and use it to your advantage.
1. The Fog Before the Storm – Week One
Hormonally speaking, the first day of your period is a reasonably calm time. The major hormones that control your cycle are laying low, and you’ll probably feel correspondingly chill. However, hour by hour, prostaglandin levels start to ramp up to signal your uterus to release the unfertilized egg and the uterus’ now unwanted lining. Prostaglandin is the reason behind the cramps and nausea that you may experience at this time. Estrogen and testosterone will also start to raise slightly. That small increase in estrogen should release endorphins that make you feel good and put an end to any symptoms of PMS. However, low estrogen levels could lead to low energy and brain fog.
Tips for week one:
- Pay attention to your to-do list to combat forgetfulness.
- Don’t skip breakfast. It’s known to be brain boosting, and by including eggs and oatmeal, you’ll reap the benefits of memory-enhancing vitamin B.
2. Super You – Week Two
Estrogen levels start to rush back up during this time to prepare your uterus for possible fertilization. According to the author of the book “The Female Brain,” Louann Brizendine, M.D., estrogen acts as a fertilizer for brain cells. She writes that during week two of your cycle, there is a growth of synaptic connections in the part of the brain that controls short-term memory and decision-making. These increased connections also tend to sharpen speaking skills. Additionally, rising levels of testosterone boost a woman’s sex drive.
Studies show that in the days immediately leading up to ovulation; women tend to wear more makeup and brighter clothing colors. At this time of the month, thanks to testosterone and estrogen, you can be a more outgoing, flirtatious and mentally sharp you. See Six Strange Ways Ovulation Affects Women.
Tips for week two:
- If you have to give a speech or presentation, schedule it for this week.
- Take on a challenging project at work.
- Week two is a good time to try to break a bad habit.
3. Get Your Freak On – Week Three
Research shows that around the time of ovulation, women become more impulsive and find themselves especially attracted to hyper-masculine faces. They’re also more likely to take part in risky sexual behavior: Mother Nature’s way of pushing the odds that they’ll get pregnant.
During this time, you are still enjoying the benefits of expanded gray matter thanks to the surge in estrogen levels last week. Studies claim that this may lead to improvement in memory and the ability to process information. Of course, it can’t be all fun and games. Once you start to ovulate, estrogen and testosterone levels plummet, which can begin to cause some crankiness. However, progesterone, another hormone, begins to increase and according to Brizendine, this acts as a natural anti-anxiety drug. Progesterone is also the hormone that tells your uterus to start getting ready for possible implantation of a fertilized egg.
Tips for week three:
- If you are trying to get pregnant, this is the time to do it.
- Testosterone can make you more competitive and assertive; pay attention that this doesn’t cause you to disrespect other women (unless that’s your thing. Reality-TV women, I’m talking to you).
- Take some me time. Write in a diary or spend some time in nature.
4. Hello, Goodbye – Week Four
Your body comes to the realization that it’s not pregnant. Your levels of estrogen and progesterone both take a nosedive. This drop triggers the release of the brain’s stress chemicals such as cortisol that is one cause of jangled nerves during PMS. Headaches, inferior sleep quality and lowered energy levels are pretty much par-for-the-course at this time. It can be harder to focus, and some studies have shown it may even be harder to learn new things. But the great news is, you should be getting your period soon and then the cycle will start all over again! Goodbye PMS, hello period!
Tips for week four:
- Get some aerobic exercise to help provide more oxygen to the brain. More oxygen means better concentration and thinking skills.
- Eat foods loaded with vitamin B-6 like bananas and salmon. Vitamin B-6 is vital for optimum cognitive function.
- Try eating frequent, small meals to help keep junk-food cravings from spiraling out of control.
The monthly menstrual cycle has a predictable impact on a woman’s brain, in some ways for better and in some ways for worse. Armed with this knowledge, you can strategize to make the most of each phase of your cycle.
For Disney’s take on Menstruation: