Picture the scene. You’re in an important meeting, about to begin your presentation. A lot is riding on this and your boss is counting on you to do a good job. You’re exhausted after another sleepless night, but you’ve got this. Until you open your mouth to speak and your mind goes completely blank. You turn to your boss, hoping he can help you out, but you realise you’ve forgotten his name. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, you feel a hot flush creeping up your neck and in seconds you’re drenched in sweat. Welcome to the menopause years. And notice I say years – symptoms can begin up to 10 years before the actual menopause.
Menopause affects half the population – yet until very recently it was something that never got talked about, unless it was the punchline to a joke. How many times have you seen someone comment ‘Oh she’s having a senior moment’, and look embarrassed? Or dismiss someone as ‘being hormonal?’ Not talking about it causes so many problems. We’re not prepared for one; I certainly didn’t know what to expect! That lack of awareness affects others too, meaning we might not get the support we need. And in a work setting it might mean that our confidence and performance are affected, all because people are too embarrassed to talk about something that affects half the population.
So here are some things I wish I knew before it happened to me:
- Symptoms can appear up to 10 years before the menopause itself – so don’t assume you’re too young to have symptoms in your 40’s
- There are many symptoms besides hot flushes. The ones I wasn’t expecting were reoccurring bladder infections, brain fog and rising anxiety, not to mention flashes of rage!
- There are many things you can do to help yourself. Obviously, HRT is an option but there are also more holistic approaches. I’d also recommend seeing a good nutritionist. Supplements recommended by my nutritionist really helped regulate my mood swings – which I likened to PMT on steroids!
Most symptoms are caused by lowering oestrogen levels but can be worsened by the pressures that many women have in their mid-life, such as looking after children and parents while advancing in their careers. The HSE reports that mid-life women are the most stressed of any group.
Two thirds of women working through the menopause say they currently have no support at all from their employers. 25% of women say they have considered leaving their job and 1 in 10 actually end up handing in their notice.
If you’re a mid-life woman, why should you have to give up everything you’ve worked for, just because you’ve going through a natural life event that affects 50% of the population?
And if you’re a company, why would you want to lose valuable talent for the same reason?
So, what can be done?
If you’re affected by menopausal symptoms
- Educate yourself, make sure you know what to expect and what you can do to manage the symptoms
- Speak to someone at work. It would be great if it could be your boss, but if not maybe someone from HR or other women. It’s always nice to get some support and realise you’re not alone, and the more we all speak out about it the more normalised it will be.
- If you feel your symptoms are affecting your performance, come up with some solutions to discuss with your employer. For example, if you struggle with insomnia, could you alter your start time? If your memory is shocking, carry a notebook everywhere with you so you can write everything down.
- Remind yourself of all your achievements and strengths to counterbalance the reduced confidence you may feel. You have so much to offer.
If you’re an employer
- Educate yourself, and your managers. In the last company I worked in, I brought an expert in to talk to HR and managers about how they can support women through the menopause. She then led workshops for staff. It was great to see an interest from men too, wanting to understand what their partners were going through.
- A Menopause Policy will show employees that you’re supportive. If not a separate policy, make it part of a Health and Wellbeing Policy.
- Talk to women about what they need to support them at work. It will be much cheaper and more productive than losing top talent!
If you need help with anxiety, contact me to book a free consultation.