In the year 2018 there are about 31 million women in the US workforce who are between the ages of 45 and 64. 80% of these women will experience symptoms related to perimenopause. Of the 80% of 31 million, about 25% will experience symptoms so severe that they will consider quitting their jobs.
Many women don’t know enough about menopause to know how to best prepare themselves so that it is better manageable. Many women don’t know what perimenopause is and don’t know how to identify what is happening when it starts. And, many women don’t know how to manage the symptoms that they are experiencing when they are in perimenopause. Some of the symptoms can be scary and cause one to think that there is a serious medical problem.
You might ask: Why is this important and what is all the fuss about? Based on information from my own clients - women in professional/corporate positions - and from women who have participated in research that I have been doing, women are having a really difficult time of it! If this is you, here is some useful information.
All women go through menopause. Perimenopause can start as early as your late thirties. It usually lasts a few years - 3 or 4. However, if it starts early, it may be over a decade. Some women who have certain medical conditions and treatments experience it very early. The symptoms can include whole host of our body’s systems, the most typical of which are hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, irritability that can escalate to absolute rage, big mood swings, lack of ability to concentrate, poor memory, frustration, lack of libido, heart palpitations, migraines - just to name of few. Our hormones levels - primarily estrogen - are dipping. And because estrogen is located in most our bodily systems, we can experience some pretty unnerving things!
Added to this, we live in a very youth obsessed culture and there is a lot of gendered agism that women experience. Nothing says old woman like menopause in the minds of people in our communities and workplaces - including in our own minds! As a result, there is a big stigma attached to being perimenopausal/menopausal. Most professional women, especially women not in any kind of healthcare organization, are loathe to have anyone know that they are experiencing symptoms.
Many women who have a difficult time with symptoms are often seen by their teams/direct reports, their peers and their bosses as not performing well in any number of ways. This can be very damaging to your career.
What is a woman to do? Well, instead of hiding out or suffering take care of yourself. Little things you can do on your own are:
Be mindful of how you dress - dress in layers
Don’t wear silk anything - dresses, blouses, scarfs - silk holds in body heat and when you are feeling cold that is great. When you are having a hot flash it can be a disaster
If you are doing a presentation, always have a glass of iced cold water handy. It is great to hold in your hand if you are experiencing your own little microclimate hot spell it can help to cool you down. Also, sip the water
Stay away from spicy foods and coffee as they will tend to bring on hot flashes
Get a small battery operated fan for you desk
Try to find someone you can talk to: an understanding manager - female or male, an understanding HR professional - female or male. (Don’t forget that men have mothers and may have wives or girlfriends who have experienced what you talking about! Many of them ”get it” ) Ask about some flexibility in your schedule so that you may be able to come in late if you have had a sleepless night or work from home if irritability has you trapped in a volatile state! You may at least want to give some people a “heads-up” so that they understand that you are experiencing something normal and natural rather than thinking that you have become a problem employee.
Times are changing and some companies or at least individuals with in your company are aware that menopause“is a thing” and deserves some consideration as does pregnancy, or a family illness or other crisis, or your own illness or other crisis. This doesn’t make you a bad person! It is a temporary state of being with an end-point.
In the meantime, some of us are going into corporations to create awareness and support options. Also, turn to genneve for lots of information about what you may be experiencing and how to address the symptoms. We are here for you!
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Copyright 2019: A Time of My Own / Full Circle Institute