Coping with the Menopause at work
Hot flushes, mood swings and forgetfulness are just a few of the more obvious signs of the menopause. But how do you cope with the symptoms of menopause at work?
Most women look at other women during menopause at work and think that they are coping better than they actually are. But what really happens when you have a busy working schedule and you start to have hot flushes, weepiness, panic attacks and worse still forgetfulness and memory lapses?
No one knows why some of us sail through the menopause and others have their lives fall apart. I have a very vivid memory of friends whose lives literally changed forever with the symptoms. My male friend said that the woman that he had known, married and loved, changed into a person he no longer recognised, no longer liked and worst still ended up divorcing. Their lives that they had enjoyed for nearly 25 years melted in front of their eyes.
It is very easy for both personal and professional esteem to hit rock bottom and to question your ability to ‘keep it all together’ during the moments of weepiness, anger, mood swings, lack of sleep, memory and speech lapses.
Many of us have heard our mothers and female relations wax lyrical about hormone replacement therapy/HRT, however for some this is not the answer and certainly in my own case and many others this does not appear to be to be the blanket success that it was once deemed to be. In recent figures it would appear that only about 20% of women over the age of fifty are taking HRT.
Most career women cannot afford the time to work through their myriad of symptoms and it is only over time that they learn to cope, or find through a process of elimination, a treatment that works for them. Many senior managers in the workplace will fortify their feelings by burying or hiding symptoms and they will certainly not open up to how lousy and insecure they feel as this would be professional folly. With many younger women ready to step into your shoes at a moment’s notice, going through the menopause at work can make you feel old, washed up and feeling as if you have little to contribute. Just getting through the day can be enough of a challenge.
There is no doubt that the menopause leaves you seriously questioning your competency regardless of confidence and strength of character.
A study by the University of Nottingham, showed that nearly half of women going through the menopause have difficulty coping with symptoms at work; yet two thirds say they would not dream of disclosing their menopausal status to their bosses, male or female. This was particularly true of those in demanding jobs – which might involve giving presentations at lengthy meetings for example. Half of these said they would also avoid mentioning hot flushes and other symptoms to colleagues, especially if these were men or younger women.
The research by Professor Griffiths showed that many women were not prepared for the arrival of the menopause and nearly half of women felt their job performance had been negatively affected. Nearly a fifth thought the menopause made managers and colleagues view them as less competent.
It is understandable that people want to keep intimate health details to themselves, says lead researcher Amanda Griffiths, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Nottingham. But with 3.5 million women over the age of 50 working full-time, the challenge of the menopause is fast becoming an occupational health issue and should be treated as such, with more support from employers, she says.
Menopause is a very complex health issue and is one most GPs do not fully understand. In fact, most women do not understand until they reach the age that it affects their own health, work and family life. It is thought that 80% of women will have menopausal symptoms.
For professional women it would certainly help to have more research that would improve the working environment if not for oneself then for future generations of women. It would be nice if we could have a culture of openness that could influence change and support professional women in their place of work. For now, there is a sketchy online support network by women with links to suitable websites
Nottingham University produced their own guidance following Professor Griffith’s research that would assist managers engaging with women. WORK AND THE MENOPAUSE: A GUIDE FOR MANAGERS.
This would also help professional women in management to commit to change for the future, and if you’re feeling really bold, be a trailblazer and start sooner rather than later.