The M word! Shush do we have to talk about that???
Seems to be the response whenever the word “Menopause” is mentioned. Add an extra layer of shushness if its’ in a work context!
Seems a strange response to me, when other passages through a women’s life are met with lots of support and interest, such as pregnancy!
So, what to do? Well firstly, to put all this into context, let me give you some background. According to the BMC journal, Women’s Midlife Health edition, with people working till much later in life; more and more women will be working through their time of change or is more commonly known as, the menopause. This generally takes place between 50 and 51 years of age in western cultures. These changes can last between two and four years, but can last up to 10 years.
Recent research has estimated between 20% and 40% of women experience hot flushes and night sweats during the menopause. Women have also reported depressed mood, stress, anxiety, tension, nervousness and worry. These all due to the fluctuations in hormones which lead to the menopause. These symptoms can have a huge impact on quality of life both personally and professionally. These impacts are also felt at a time when many women are considering moving up in their career or moving out!
Women have reported they find it very difficult to manage these symptoms at work as they felt embarrassed and concerned about the reactions of their colleagues and in addition, feel they may get seen as different or not able to cope with the workload; when as a matter of fact, the issue is one of change that millions of women experience.
Women are not inclined to talk about their experience of the menopause at work and in doing so, allow the assumptions about it speak, thus muddying the waters and preventing real dialogue from taking place and in turn, disempowering themselves.
Quality of life at Work
This big elephant in the room has a huge impact and significantly reduces job satisfaction and increases the likelihood of these women leaving their jobs. What can be done by organisations to improve women’s quality of life at work?
Employers can take away the stigma around the menopause by keeping the lines of communication around it open. If a leader in an organisation is female and is going through the menopause it would be prudent if they could speak up about their own experience. This would raise others awareness around it to normalise this passage in a women’s life. Many good employers see the benefit in ensuring they educate their managers and senior teama to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding which can lead to all manner of bad decisions and the economic impact of such.
By supporting women at work through this, companies can have increased employee satisfaction, greater retention of talent and lower sickness absenteeism. Organisations such as the NHS have a policy around this and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development have free resources available to any organisation or individual who is interested. If you are going
Transition and Change?
It can help to understand what is happening by looking through the lens of transition, the menopause (amongst other things) is psychological as well as physical. There are typically 3 phases in a transition that happens psychologically. The first is letting go of the old which could be the old ways of doing things or an old identity. Some of my clients at this stage of the menopause, reported loss of identity, shame and social upheaval.
The second stage is the neutral zone which is the in between stage, where the old has gone but the new isn’t fully apparent yet. At this stage, the mind is adapting to the new.
The third phase is a new beginning. The is when women begin to feel a new energy and change begins to take place. At this stage, women have reported feeling transformed, liberated, freedom, more self-awareness, growth, time to reflect to bring in the new.
Transitions can be said to begin with an ending and finishes with a beginning
Here are My 8 tips for coping with the Menopause
1.Educate yourself about the changes that are occurring in your body. Resources can be found online and through your GP.
2.Re-evaluate your values in your life. Your values represent what is important in your life. Knowing your values helps you to understand what motivates you, what you enjoy doing, what inspires you and what you would like more of in your life. If we build a life and lifestyle around our values we create a life and career that is meaningful and satisfying to us. What are they now?
3.Meditation can be a useful tool at this time, it can help to turn your attention inward which will help you to recognise the subtle changes in your body and mood. Tuning into your body and with this awareness and acknowledgement is what leads to change and in turn acceptance.
4.Accept the changes that are taking place and be honest with yourself. Focus on what you can change rather than what you can’t.
5.Take care of your diet. Ensure you are eating a good healthy breakfast. Research has shown that by not eating a healthy breakfast before work ensures your body will operate from a flight or fight response. Not the best way to start the day when stress levels are already high due to the menopause.
6.Share your feelings with someone your trust. Talk to other women at work who are going through the same. This can be very cathartic and very helpful.
7.Combat forgetfulness and brain fog by writing lists and set up alerts and reminders on Ecalendars and on your phone.
8.Exercise every day. Hormonal changes can add to those feelings of stress and anxiety. Moving your body can help to focus and release mood boosting endorphins.