Estradiol (a form of estrogen in the body) and one of our stress hormones (cortisol) are both steroid hormones and interact with each other – this means that your stress levels and stress response may be heightened or reduced depending on where you are in your cycle.
A decreased cortisol response has been studied in the late follicular phase – when estrogen is building to its peak, and you’re in that “feeling on top of the world” mood those few days leading up to ovulation.
We have estradiol receptors in the brain that are involved in our response to psychosocial stress. A study found that high estradiol (late follicular phase) showed a slower/weakened response to emotional stimuli vs another study demonstrated that low estradiol levels can exaggerate the effect of psychosocial stress.
A different study was done assessing the stress response (via questionnaires) in women with a natural menstrual cycle, in comparison to women undergoing an IVF stimulation (very high estrogen) cycle. The results of the study showed no clear differences between the two groups, so no clear conclusion can be drawn from this study on estrogen + stress tolerance.
Stress is a tricky aspect to study. It’s completely subjective on how someone is going to perceive a stressful situation, and that perception is going to moderate how they react to it. Estrogen, and where you’re at in your cycle is just one of many aspects to consider when it comes to stress and stress perception.
One of the best things you can be doing in your day to day is finding and working on techniques that help manage stress. Whether its meditation, yoga, restorative exercise, reading, taking a hot bath – it’s important we have these go to’s when life gets crazy that can help us mange our stress response!