Are your symptoms holding you back? Here’s what you can do to manage menopause at work.
How to managing menopause at work:
Managing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, brain fog and anxiety, can be tricky enough at the best of times. But what about while trying to stay on top of things at work? ‘Until fairly recently, menopause was still a taboo subject in the work-place, and many women are still too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms,’ says Diane Danzebrink (founder of menopausesupport.co.uk), who launched the Make Menopause Matter Campaign in the UK. ‘They worry they might be unfairly judged or discriminated against.’ For some, it all gets too much and many women have left their jobs due to menopause symptoms. But the good news is that the tide is changing. ‘We’re moving in the right direction,’ says Diane. ‘Increased awareness means that more employers are taking menopause seriously.’ As well as fi nding out what support your employer can offer (see box), there are also self-help tactics to try.
1. ALWAYS CHOOSE NATURAL FIBRES
‘Experiencing hot flushes? The last thing you need is to be wearing tight clothes,’ says specialist menopause nurse Kathy Abernethy. ‘Instead, wear loose layers and choose natural fi bres, such as cotton or linen, which allow your skin to breathe. If you wear a uniform, ask your employer to provide you with extra outfits. That way you have fresh clothes to change into should you feel hot and sweaty.’
2. STAY HYDRATED
‘Drink plenty of water and fluids,’ says Kathy. ‘Hot flushes and sweating can cause you to become dehydrated, which makes brain fog worse. Over 70% of your body is made up of water, and studies show that even a 2% drop can affect concentration, focus and mood. Dehydration also makes you feel more tired and irritable, and it can affect your sleep.’
3. TRY TO MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY
‘Many women feel more anxious, irritable and prone to low moods as they approach menopause,’ says Kathy. But if you’re working long hours or struggling with deadlines, this can make it worse.
✣ Always plan ahead. If you do not feel prepared, this raises stress levels and exacerbates anxiety.
✣ Give yourself plenty of time to complete projects.
✣ Explore pathways of support. For example, join a menopause self-help group on the internet, or check if your workplace has one.
✣ Meditate and practise mindfulness. Look on YouTube for videos to follow.
4. SLEEP BETTER
‘Night sweats can play havoc with sleep, and leave you feeling exhausted for work the next day,’ says Kathy.
✣ Aim to go to bed at the same time every night.
✣ Make sure your bedroom is dark and well ventilated.
✣ Don’t have caffeine after 2 pm.
✣ Sleep in natural fabrics, such as cotton bed sheets and a lightweight silk duvet.
✣ Relax before bedtime – have a lovely warm bath, do some yoga or try a few breathing exercises.
✣ Use calming essential oils, such as lavender, frankincense, ylang-ylang or camomile.
✣ Keep technology out of the bedroom.
5. EAT RIGHT
‘Make sure that you have at least five portions of vegetables every day,’ says nutritional therapist Alison Cullen. ‘Vegetables help to balance blood sugar levels, reducing the stress hormone cortisol.’ Plus, eat healthy fats, such as wild mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring,
chia seeds, walnuts, egg yolks, olive oil, yoghurt, nuts and avocado.
6. OPTIMISE YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT
✣ Try and sit by a window that opens if you get too hot.
✣ Keep a cooling spray and bottled water on your desk.
✣ Check if you can regulate the temperature – be first in meetings so you can turn it down.
✣ Set up your desk space properly, in order to avoid any avoid aches and pains.
7. CONSIDER YOUR TREATMENT OPTIONS
‘If your symptoms are particularly bothersome, talk to your GP,’ says Kathy. ‘They may suggest hormone replacement therapy (HRT).’
HOW YOUR EMPLOYER CAN HELP
‘First, check if there is a menopause spokesperson you can talk to,’ says Diane. ‘If not, arrange a meeting with your line manager. Before the meeting, have a think about how symptoms are affecting your job and what adjustments might work for you.’
✣ Do you have easy access to toilets and a washroom?
✣ Do you need a desk fan?
✣ Can the air conditioning or heating be adjusted?
✣ Is there somewhere you can rest or take a break?
✣ If sleeping is a problem, can you work more flexible hours, such as start and finish later?
✣ Can you work some days at home?
✣ Can you take time off for healthcare appointments? ‘Write everything down,’ says Diane. ‘If you have notes, this will help you to feel less anxious. Human resources or the occupational health department may have to get involved. But there is a legal onus on employers that they need to support the health and well-being of employees.’
ALSO SEE HOW TO MAKE MENOPAUSE MANAGEABLE