Ah… menopause. That time in a woman’s life when her monthly reproductive schedule comes to a grinding halt. After years of menstruation followed by the precursor, perimenopause, the monthly cycle stops and after a year, we are in full menopause. But that’s not all. For many women, menopause is just the start of hormonal estrogen imbalances, the dreaded hot flashes and mood swings as their bodies adjust to their new dynamic. For those who are lucky, it just means that their period or menses stops and they get on with their lives.
Depending on your individual genetic makeup, perimenopause can start as early as your late 30’s, with menopause beginning in your late 40’s. As more and more women are in the work force as well as juggling family life, adding menopause to the mix creates a cauldron of stress, anxiety and power surges. Learning to cope with these symptoms and continuing to multitask is not an easy thing. In a recent study, it was found that of the 961 female executives surveyed, 95% reported symptoms and 40% considered them emotionally problematic. Other women reported that while they took some medicine they often stopped it. Almost all revealed gaps in their knowledge of how menopause worked and were lacking in ways to adjust to this new life path.
Even though we are affected differently, many of us suffer with severe symptoms such as mood swings, embarrassing sweats, forgetfulness, bloating and sleep deprivation. Medically, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), Vitamin D, or other medications are often recommended to combat the various symptoms and aid in memory retention. Checking with a doctor and asking about more homeopathic solutions can also alleviate symptoms so that they don’t interfere with your career trajectory.
How do we cope with menopause at the work place? Dealing with menopause requires significantly higher emotional stability to work through all it entails as well as keeping abreast of one’s career, home and family. First of all, knowing that you are not alone and that the person you work with may also be suffering with similar menopause issues helps relieve some of the anxiety. Reach out to other women and talk about the changes you are encountering. Keeping hydrated is extremely important at work when you are dealing with the sweats and may help lessen the symptoms. Dressing in layers will enable you to remove or add clothing depending on your body temperature at the moment. Post-it notes can really help with memory lapses. When you feel yourself getting irritated, especially in the work place, remember to stop, take some deep breathes and try to calm yourself, realizing that the irritation might be as a result of your hormones, and not the actual situation. Time management is also vital to avoiding any added stress.
At home, there are things you can do to help get you through some of these symptoms. When you walk in the door after a long day at work, we often grab that glass of wine to help relax. However, alcohol can increase hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia can become worse. So consider if that glass of wine is worth it. Some nights it might be, so consider a wine spritzer to dilute some of the alcohol. Research has demonstrated the positive effects of exercise and physical activity on reducing menopausal symptoms. Exercise may help control a number of physical and psychological problems and changes associated with menopause and midlife, including depression, weight gain, loss of muscle mass and bone density, the risk of coronary artery disease, and possibly vasomotor symptoms. Menopausal women also encounter cravings for sweets or savory, depending on the moment. In order to avoid crazy weight gain, keep only a few small pieces of chocolate in the house, fruits or berries with honey on top, and popcorn (no chips). If you feel yourself being extremely irritable or depressed around your family members, try to find a few minutes alone to separate and take a breather. Believe me, your family will thank you for it! Before bed, a tepid bath with some calming scent like lavender to help relax and get you in a sleepy mode, will help to prevent insomnia. Stay off those electronics and turn off the television an hour before bed.
Women have dealt with menopause since the beginning of time. They avoided speaking about it and had absolutely no medical remedies. Don’t be afraid to discuss it, learn all you can about it and you control it; don’t let it control you. As women, we are strong enough to P.O.W.E.R. through this.