Life Under the Influence of Estrogen and Progesterone.
Hello Sweet Delightful Blossom!
Welcome to our My Body Is an Alien blog series. Today we are going to talk about our lives … under the influence of estrogen and progesterone.
The basic fact is … being a blossom ain’t as easy as it looks.
Does it actually look easy? … Maybe only to non-blossoms.
The rest of us know once our hormones kick in … stuff starts happening. Stuff that is life changing. Life impacting. Our bodies become a mystery in many ways … alien … and for some, an enemy, even.
So today, I want to hit on some important thoughts specifically focused on how our lives are impacted by hormones … and when I say “lives” and “impacted” I mean the ways our living, our confidence, and our health are impacted … acknowledging, in fact, that our lives are deeply impacted!
For our upcoming AWESOME chat, we are going to talk about all kinds of HELPFUL, INSIGHTFUL, HEALING GOODNESS!
We're gonna take a look at life under the influence of development and estrogen and progesterone from preteen years to post-menopausal life.
- We'll answer the questions: What are hormones and why do I need them (with our specific focus being on estrogen and progesterone)?
- We'll chat about the physical, mental, and emotional impacts we experience in our bodies.
- We'll talk about the internal and external influencing factors that impact us in context of our life under the influence ... meaning, we'll talk about how we are influenced and impacted by social, cultural, work, family, relationship type factors.
- We'll talk about how all these factors influence us, our behavior, and our health.
- And we'll talk about what we can do to help ourselves live our healthiest lives under the influence of estrogen and progesterone.
- I've included some CRAZY-HELPFUL Info-doodles to help you visualize things easily and clearly!
So buckle up sweet, beautiful blossom! It's time to let the sunshine flow over us and make us beam with radiance!
Let's begin with how this whole thing gets started: Hormones. What are they, and why do we need them?
From the time we turn 8 – 9-ish, there’s a “master switch” (hypothalamus) that turns on a number of hormones telling our bodies it’s time to develop our bodies sexually. Hormones, simply stated, are chemicals that tell the bits and pieces of our bodies what to do and how to behave. Some hormones even tell our whole bodies what to do. Currently, health science has discovered more than 200 different hormones and hormone-like substances in our bodies.
Okay, so we have these hormones, what now?
So, here we are, 8-9-ish, our hypothalamus is turning on some of hormones telling us to develop sexually, and on average-ish, by the time we are about 10, puberty begins. By the time we are 12-13, if not earlier, we get our first periods.
And for our periods to happen, we need hormones. Today, we're gonna chat about 2 of them ... cuz they're the ones who seem to get the most press, so to speak. So they're a good place to start. Hello Estrogen and Progesterone!
Before I get a little more into who/what they are/do ... I want to show you an overview of our lives under the influence of these little beasties.
Life Under the Influence of Estrogen & Progesterone
When we're young adults, it's easy to not see beyond having periods. Our life is now punctuated monthly (usually) with a period. For some of us, our periods are monsters ... pain, cramps, migraines, fatigue, and more. We range in impact from, "Hey, I'm fine. I don't feel a thing. Life is usual." to "OMG, I'm dying. Someone pull the plug. This sucks SO BAD!"
For some of us blossoms, periods and hormonal events can be debilitating (I'm one of these blossoms. By the time I was about 27, I just knew from experience that the first day of my period I was useless toast. I'd be in so much pain and be so depleted, all I really could do was rest in bed. By the time I was in my early 40's, I was suffering from chronic fatigue, which is exacerbated by fluctuating hormones).
When we're young, we're often told, "Getting your period is you becoming a woman." ... Hmmm. What does having our period stop (menopause) mean? ... We're turning into fungoids?
The time of our periods is the time in which biology has decided we are most physically fit to bear children. I could segue here and go off on the tangent about how biology seems highly biased against us, as once our bodies enter into menopause & post-menopause (no more periods), we lose something called "estrogen protection," which was vitally protecting our bones, heart, and other bits and pieces. Did you know that a woman's risk of a heart disease increases "dramatically"? ... It's like biology is saying, Hey, if you can't make babies, you don't need your health anymore. Wuuuuut? ... Okay, so I segued a little ... but trust me, I could go on with that, but instead ... back to our chat.
So, we're young. We get breasts and periods, and all that comes with it. We're programmed to be able to make babies. But by the time we're about 27, our bodies start thinking, maybe we're not such a good fit body for making babies anymore, and our estrogen and progesterone levels start to drop.
From my reading, when perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause/no more periods) is discussed, they usually pin it to around 40 years old. They talk about the decline of hormones. And all the holy shiz symptoms that can come with it. But I'm honestly a bit perplexed by this. It's known that our estrogen and progesterone start to decline before we hit 30, so why isn't this perimenopause, too? Dunno. But what I will say here ... and this is big ... so I'm even gonna give it its own new paragraph:
Culturally, these days, it's puberty > periods start > emotional, confusing, self-discovery, self-confusion high school years > college > maybe more college > super achieve to compete in a workplace that lacks equity and equality for blossoms > maybe find our special human to play with for life > and now ... somewhere around the time we are 30, start making a family ... except ... whoops ... our hormones have started tanking, so now we have infertility issues ...
Are you kidding me???? Nope. We are now set to work right on through our most fertile years, with the added stress of proving ourselves and out-performing each other and everyone else in the room. Stress, by the way, is also a hormone killer. Which, guess what??? Yep, increases infertility rates.
Many women spend years on a new goal ... trying to get pregnant. (My honeybun and I tried for 10 years. We ended up getting a cat.)
Whatever your years looks like between high school and 50-ish ... whatever opportunities and choices you have and made, around the time you are 40 - 55, things start getting REAL as your body experiences the full on effects of ever declining hormones.
Imagine being in your work place, trying to be all respectable in the midst of a meeting, and suddenly you burst out crying for no apparent reason? Or you turn beet red and sweat like you've just run a marathon? People are watching.
There is so much emotional, physical, and mental impact happening.
So. One of the important things I want to say here is from the time we are young girls, still in pigtails, our lives are changed by the ongoing development of our bodies. The presence of these hormones impacts our lives: how we look, how we feel, our health. Even the slow decline to reach a new steady state of low hormones post-menopausally impacts our lives: how we look, how we fee, our health.
A for instance on the how we look and feel aspects ... when we're young and even transitioning through perimenopause and menopause we can get acne, which makes us look less than what we'd hoped, and makes us feel (quite often) very low, embarrassed, ... our self-confidence is impacted.
And here's the extra snag of it ... our hormones impact our physical health, which can impact our mental and emotional health ... which impacts our physical health ... it's a cycle, and it goes round and round. And it can get worse, if fed by negativity like stress and depression. But it can get better, if fed by positivity.
This is the next big point I want to focus on.
From the time we are kids, for the rest of our lives ... our whole lives essentially, our bodies are ruled and guided by our hormones in a very delicately balanced system that not only creates our mood, but is impacted by it.
For all the things we don't have control over, we can make a positive difference in our lives:
- We can learn about our bodies.
- We can learn how to nourish our bodies, minds, and souls.
- We can blossom and grow positivity into our lives to make a positive difference for us mentally, physically, and emotionally.
- We can take care of ourselves with love and kindness.
- We can learn what it means to be well and have wellness in our lives.
- We can recognize we are in a partnership with our bodies.
- We can love our bodies and give our bodies what they need to support us.
- We can choose to be important to ourselves.
- We can choose us!
Simplified Overview: Monthly Jobs of Estrogen & Progesterone
With all that ... let's take a lil look at what estrogen and progesterone are doing for us each month ... well, this is the incredibly simplified view, mostly related to period regulation. These hormones do other things, too. But for now, let's just grapple with this guiding info:
Simplified Overview: Monthly Jobs of Estrogen and Progesterone
Think of estrogen (housekeeping) as your nurturing, juicy, happy home-making hormone. One of its big jobs is to help your uterus get happy and accommodating for making babies. And progesterone (heat) is all about keeping the oven warm in case a baby gets made.
It’s like this … well, in an overly simplified view to just create a picture:
Each month, right after our periods (aka monsters!), our estrogen levels start to rise. This rise is a juicy, nourishing welcoming nest prepper for the egg. The estrogen signals it’s time to get ready for the egg to drop, and it tells our body to prep up a soft, inviting happy space to be!
Then we ovulate … egg drop. To sperm or not to sperm. If sperm, fertilization can occur. If no sperm, the egg gets booted out for another try next month.
But let’s back up to that egg drop. So, here’s this lovely, beautiful egg waiting around, and progesterone kicks in and says, “Hey, in case our egg gets fertilized, we need to make it all warm and comfy in here” (incubation).
Then, if no fertilization, both estrogen and progesterone drop low, telling our bodies, NO GO, NO BABY, let’s reset the nest. This means, we’ve got to boot out the old egg, clean house, and get ready to try again next month. Thus … our period … for some us, our monsters! It comes to flush out the old and make way for the new.
Social, Cultural, Healthcare, Work, Relationship Impact and Influence On Us Hormonally Imbued Blossoms
We've been talking mostly about the biology of our hormones ... how they impact us with periods, infertility, perimenopause, menopause, and other health things. So now, let's have a chat about the external influencing factors that impact us, our lives, and our health ... as they are related to us having ever fluctuating and progressively declining hormones.
Our Bodies are NOT the Enemy ... but We're Programmed to Think So
Let's chat a bit about culture, society, media, healthcare, work, relationships ... all of it.
When it comes to our periods, menopause, - anything to do with our hormonal well-being - we're taught NOT to talk about it in public, and for some blossoms, they're taught not talk about it, ever! It's private. It's personal. To the point of embarrassment. Even shame.
Our periods and our biology has been held over our heads as something that makes us inferior, unable to compete, keep up, etc. Like in the work place ... "Well, a woman can't be president, she's too emotional! God forbid she activate the nuclear codes while she's on her period!" Seriously??? You've got to be kidding me. We've had our own biology weaponized against us to hold us back and keep us out.
We've been made to feel ashamed of our bodies and our periods, and our hormones and their effects beyond that of embarrassment. Bullied with condescending comments and blame.
Even at the doctors, you explain your cramps or other troubles, and it's blown off as "just your period" ... "take a pill and get a heating pad."
And for perimenopause/menopause, it's even more apathetic. Your body is fully rogue; you feel like shiz; you can't function in life; and the doc says, "Well, that's menopause for you." Fully dismissing you and leaving you alone in the absence of empathy.
Not even science has us prioritized. They've been searching for the cause of hot flashes for over 30 years, ... still no explanation. Yet, they've had time to develop pills for erectile dysfunction.
Women's health is woefully under-researched. Doctors are woefully underinformed and untrained.
And if we try to talk about it with friends, family, people, looks of discomfort and embarrassment mar their faces, maybe even gross-out. "We're not going to talk about bleeding, and pads, and your vagina ... are we????"
Our bodies are seen as embarrassing, limiting, painful, ... our bodies are misunderstood ... we are shamed and dismissed into silence.
Our bodies have become the enemy that keeps us from living a full life. From being competitive at work. From being free of ridicule and negativity.
But the thing is ... our bodies are NOT the enemy.
Our bodies are not embarrassing.
Do they sometimes require a time out to heal and recuperate? ... Sure ... But if every month a guy had to have a portion of his body physically removed and expelled (surgery in a sense), he'd probably need a moment to catch his breath, too.
Our bodies are our life partners. We cannot live without them. We can experience the gifts and joys of life without a functioning body. We are in this together.
In truth, our very first and foremost relationship is with our bodies. And it is up to us to grow and flourish that relationship as positively as we can. We make choices that help us ... or hurt us.
To not communicate ... to not search for answers ... to not take positive, nourishing, self-caring steps to help ourselves navigate and heal is self-defeating.
We need our bodies, and we need each other! We need the loving support and guidance from shared, but different, personalized experiences. We need to know we are not alone! We need to know we are not freaks of nature going through this weird hormonal thing all by ourselves ... like we're the only one ... and no one else is a freak like us. In fact, the more we talk and share, the more we find out just how challenging some blossoms have it ... just how hard it is for their bodies to navigate these challenges. (And just to be clear, this challenge and difficulty doesn't make us less human or less important or less anything.)
We need to grow and love our bodies. We need positive self-care to nourish us, so we can flourish!
With it being said that our bodies are not our enemies ... and I do mean it ... for many of us blossoms, our hormonal events (periods, perimenopause, menopause, etc) can be very difficult. Very painful. Very health challenging. Even debilitating. And because of all the shame, dismissing, and negativity put on us by the world around us, we often times end up ignoring our bodies, our health, and our overall wellness.
Our need to show the world we are not less, that we can compete, that we don't need time off to deal with being a blossom and having hormonal issues is actually putting so much stress on our bodies ... it's self-defeating ... and in the long run, creating increased and more difficult health challenges.
We're not shown compassion, empathy, acceptance. We're blamed.
So we deny ourselves our basic needs to prove ourselves, to compensate, even overcompensate.
And it's to our detriment. It's self-defeating. It's hurting us even more.
Stress ... whether it be mental, physical, or emotional ... all of it has a negative impact on our hormonal health.
So when we don't give ourselves rest ... or nourishing food ... etc ... when we don't give ourselves the positive, nourishing self-care we need, we create stress in all its forms. And that stress in turn makes our hormonal challenges even worse.
We end up going around and around in a negative cycle of unwellness, unhappiness, and feeling ugh.
Nourish to Flourish!
The absolute most important point I need to make here today is we must nourish to flourish!
The ginormous challenge we face is: with all the influencing factors of life, our bodies need our loving, kind, supportive, positive self-care:
- Getting movement into our bodies daily (yoga, walking, & rebounding are especially helpful)
- Eating nutrient dense foods
- Hydrating like we're fish
- Getting restful sleep for 7-9 hours
- Surrounding ourselves with positive, functional relationships ... with people who will love us for us ... who will help us be our best selves, celebrate our successes, and catch us with love when we fall
- Living with POSitude: positivity, reaffirmations, gratitude
- Smiling and laughing
- Hugging and connecting with people who make our hearts sing
- Getting informed about bettering our wellness and making changes to our lives that support this wellness
- Paced breathing
I'll say it a million billion zillion times, whatever it takes to help us live healthier and happier ... with love and big hugs ... we need to nourish to flourish!
It's in the simple things ... but many of the simple things are habits we must grow into our lives. Whatever it takes ... start small, if you have to ... but grow these positive actions into your life.
Let go of the external pressures. See yourself and your body for the beautiful blossom you are! Give yourself the juicy wellness you need! Listen to your body! Grow your relationship with your body and yourself! Create the healthy and happy reality you want and surround yourself with this goodness!!!!
Thank you so much for being here with me on this exploratory journey of our hormones and living our lives under their influence!
I am filled with gratitude for this shared chit chatting time with you! I very much hope you have found it helpful for growing you, your wellness, and your happiness!