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Why is menopause taboo at work?

menopause at work real women advice

It’s not easy to talk to work colleagues or the boss about it. Even in our liberal and open society, it seems to be one of our great taboos. I have certainly noticed embarrassed faces when I have brought up the topic in conversation. The metaphor of the elephant in the room springs to mind: everyone knows it is there, it’s something really big, but we all pretend that it isn’t there. Perhaps if we ignore it, it will go away.

Some of the areas where women have found the menopause affecting them at work are:

Performance: changes in concentration levels and fuzzy thinking can affect our ability to think and to make decisions. Some people find it more of a challenge to handle the multiple demands of a busy role.

Relationships: some women say that they feel a separation from other colleagues; they feel reluctant to bring up the subject of the menopause in case the other person looks upon it negatively, or might tease them. There is also a concern that bringing up this subject, which is alien to the other person, creates a gulf in the relationship that previously was not there.

Motivation: tiredness can decrease our motivation level. Some people find things which were previously highly important to them change at this time of life. Others might question where they work and what they are doing, for example whether they really want to be in a fast-paced corporate environment or whether they could be doing something else that would make them feel happier.

Self perception: the menopause brings with it a new sense of identity where we learn and discover how this new self fits into our current environment. Where previously we would not have given it a moment’s thought, we consciously start to think about who we are and who we want to be in the world of work.

Energy levels: some of us don’t have the same energy and physical stamina that we had twenty years previously.

Self Confidence: All the above can cause us to question who we are, which makes us feel less secure and sure of ourselves.

Here are some other examples of how it affects women at work:

Jenny tells me that she has been used to being an attractive blonde in a young and dynamic company. She then finds herself shocked to discover that she does not get noticed as much as she did previously, finding it hard to get attention. She dreads the hot flushes. She is 45.

Sarah has noticed that her previously full head of hair is thinner than it was, her waist has thickened a little and she is worried that people will be thinking of her as old and is concerned how that will affect her career. She is 47.

Liz is stressed out, she’s feels as if she is running herself ragged. She says her thinking is foggy and she does not feel the same clarity that she used to feel in meetings. She missed an important meeting because somehow it wasn’t in her diary. She feels scared and insecure as she feels she is not her normal self. She is 51.

Jude completely lost her temper in a team meeting, she raged and ranted at her staff because they missed a key piece of information out of a report. Even as she was doing it, she knew it was a ‘bad idea’ but couldn’t seem to stop. She is 49.

Some things you can do to help you handle the symptoms at work:

  •  When I have a hot flush and I think people may have noticed, I laugh and say in the lightest of tones, “Oh! I am having a hot moment!” and smile, then I carry on as if nothing has happened. I’ve also heard it called a ‘tropical moment’. Besides, in the winter, some of my hot flushes have been a complete godsend, warming me up from head to toe – marvelous!
  •  My favourite tip is counting down from 360. Typically, a hot flush will last for about three minutes. When I’m in a situation where I cannot ignore the symptom, I just count. Surprisingly, I have never reached below 100. I start thinking about other things or doing something different.
  • Remember just to focus on what you are doing and what you want to achieve, work out your priorities and then you know what to pay attention to; reserve some time in your diary to give yourself time to reflect. You might want to get a coach to help you to think it through and make an action plan.
  • Identify potential tricky situations. Decide beforehand how you will tackle them, work out how you are going to handle things and respond. Be flexible; if what you are doing isn’t working, then do something else. Refine your strategy by trial and error.
  • Find someone to talk to who is in a similar position to you, who will support you and help you to keep positive. This could be a colleague but perhaps even better to have someone outside of work who understands your situation. This needs to be someone you can trust and confide in.
  • Get a make-over or refresh your wardrobe so that you feel good about yourself. Make the most of your assets. Perhaps even push the boundaries and do something different, just to see what happens. Take some time out – by yourself, with a friend or with an expert – and refresh.
  • There are times when work can cause us to feel stressed and anxious. So, to help you feel more calm and relaxed take some time to focus on your breathing the final tip is to breathe, consciously, slowly and calmly: breathe in for a count of 2 and out for a count of 4.
  • Take a little walk, a short stroll outside will give you an energy boost and will add colour to your cheeks too.

The menopause is a time of big change for us, our bodies are not quite the same and some of us don’t have the same drive and commitment to things that we previously found highly motivating. For working women, much of our time will be spent at work as we steer the way through our familiar landscape with a new perspective.

Creating a new sense of self in amongst this upheaval takes a lot of guts and determination, but it definitely makes us stronger and we emerge on the other side, reborn with a new sense of power.

Barbara Frodsham’s book Menopause and Me, Handling the Emotional Side is available on Amazon


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1 Comment »

  1. Marie Simmonds says:

    Great article, some of these tips are handy whether suffering from the menopause or not! I do this it is something that is mentioned & that is it, great article. Do keep them coming.


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