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When Menopause Messes With Your Job
Jan. 26, 2022
How to handle menopausal symptoms at work.
Angela Ridley was sure: she was losing her mind. The sales marketing job she’d done with ease for years was suddenly beyond her. “I struggled to retain information, and I was making silly mistakes,” the Coventry, UK resident recalls. It was a mutual parting, but Ridley felt that if she hadn’t left her job she was going to get fired. It was only when she requested a memory test from her doctor that she discovered it was not dementia, but a quite severe symptom of menopause. HRT therapy and the adjustment of other medications restored her to herself: “The doctor I saw happened to be a specialist in menopause. I was very lucky.”
Ridley’s experience is not uncommon. A 2019 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found 59 percent of women said menopause had a deleterious effect on their work. Of almost 1500 women surveyed, 65 % said they were less able to concentrate; 58 percent said they were more stressed; and 52 percent reported they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
There are less serious matters, too: the sudden hot flashes, the weight gain that may make buying a new office wardrobe more of a necessity than an option. Stephanie Betts Grubbs, a real estate broker in New York city recalls heat rushes so severe “I would start stripping in my glass walled office for all of the internal and external Upper West Side to see.”
Clearly, nobody likes to say to their boss or employees “Sorry you heard me sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom for no reason, my bad.” Perimenopause and menopause can be embarrassing to talk about, even for those of us who are forthright. “Ageism in the workplace is very real, and so going through the change may not be something we want to call attention to,” says New York therapist Jane Greer, Ph.D. “But we all need to face the issue head-on, because it can be a big disruptor.”
How some workplaces are accommodating menopause
The US trails behind the UK in addressing perimenopause and menopause in the workplace, but fortunately some companies here are at least beginning to confront the issue. “Our People Ops team just did a big awareness campaign about menopause in the workplace, and honestly it’s the first time I’ve seen any company care—so much so that I thought they were joking at first,” says one executive at a Colorado tech company. “They created a flyer, linked to books and articles, talked about the ways in which women experience it.”
How to manage menopause symptoms at work
But even if your company is not that forward thinking, if you are suffering menopausal symptoms, there are certainly some steps you can take.
Says Greer, “I tell people the best thing you can do is the preemptive strike – let people know ahead of time that if you are more short-tempered or anxious than usual, if you are having some forgetfulness or problems with word retrieval—not remembering names, for example—telling them you are having menopausal symptoms will allow them to not take it personally. “We have to normalize what is, let’s face it, the most normal bodily change in the world.”
More times than not, you will find out you’re not alone. “I remember sitting in a business meeting having a hot flash, and people asking me if I was ok,” recalls Randi Weber Fine, now a certified health coach. But then Weber Fine caught the eye of her boss, who was smiling. “She was having one too.”
Try to remember that no two women are the same. "It’s as if we all go shopping at the perimenopausal store, but each woman picks up a different symptom and puts it in her basket," says Kourtney Sims, M.D., a board-certified integrative gynecologist based in Houston, TX, certified member of the North American Menopause Society, and Phenology’s Chief Medical Advisor. "Plus, your menopause journey is shaped by many highly personal factors: Lifestyle, sleep, stress, genetics, toxic load, and nutrition all play a role." This all means that your symptom management will be highly personal to you, too.
Making lifestyle changes and improvements can help with symptoms. For example, hot flashes can be exponentially worse for women with unhealthy BMIs. Taking a holistic approach to your wellness and consuming foods and supplements that support your menopause transition is best, says Dr. Kourtney.
"Consume foods or supplements that contain phytoestrogens such as genistein, an isoflavone found in plants such as alfalfa, soy, or red clover, that gently stimulates your body’s estrogen receptors, helping to alleviate effects of hot flashes," she says. To try: Phenology Morning+Evening Gummies, which include a patent-pending combo of saffron extract and genistein to soothe symptoms of menopause while enhancing health.
For more in-the-moment relief—like when you're about to head into a meeting and suddenly can't remember what it's about—try a rescue product like Lucid Lift Clarity Mints. Formulated with B vitamins and L-theanine, these mints combat brain fog and keep you feeling sharp with ingredients that alleviate mental fatigue and exhaustion brought on by menopause.
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