For me - Menopause is funny and exasperating all at the same time. For all women who suffer it I think the worst symptoms by far are forgetfulness and sheer cotton wool brain! I’m blogging about this because it affects huge numbers of us in the workplace and it’s about time employers recognise this.
I am therefore going to bear my all and share my recent experiences with you – many readers will, I hope, laugh and totally understand where I’m coming from. Some men will think this whole thing utterly bizarre but read on for help and guidance!
Things come in 3’s don’t they:
It all started on Saturday when, after a fabulous family gathering, on my way home, I inadvertently lost my work phone. After my initial doom and gloom, I thought to check my “find my iPhone” app which, surprisingly, I had actually remembered to initiate! Fortunately, it clearly showed my phone in a block of flats near to where I had been the night before in Sutton!! After many phone calls, a visit to the local police station, and even more phone calls, I discovered that my phone had been handed in to the taxi company whose offices are at the bottom of the block of flats!
Outcome – reunited with work phone!
Being self-employed I rely on technology just about as much as I rely on my heart and brain to keep me alive. I am also smug that I back things up! However, this was all tested to the limit when my PC crashed and died this week. After 4 days of being at the IT hospital it is still there so I have been relying on back-ups, cloud technology, very understanding clients, and my own back-up which, as it turns out, isn’t as reliable and easy to access as I had previously thought. This has been a lesson in adaptability, overcoming adversity, maintaining a sense of humour and, seriously, not bursting in to tears!! I realise that this portrays me as less than resilient, but this is the point; occasionally, that is exactly how “It” hits you. It makes you feel anxious and you can lose all sense of perspective as well as wanting to cry/shout/scream!
This is so ridiculous. I went shopping, purchased some goods, put my card in to the machine and, whilst blethering away to the lovely shop owner, attempted to enter my PIN. After 3 attempts it locked me out! Now I know my PIN so why I didn’t concentrate like I have done on countless other occasions I can’t answer! Also, on its own, this would not have been a problem, but on the back of “Tragedies 1 and 2” above, which all happened that same week, and the fact that I’m going away on holiday in less than 48 hours, this just made me feel like I AM EVEN MORE STRESSED!!
Why do I feel these issues are linked?
Well, part of this is just purely down to mood and memory changes and my ability/inability to cope with such bumps and scrapes from time to time, which I do put down to the menopause because I recognise these are common symptoms of menopause and also, these things didn’t used to bother me at all!
But why, oh why, does this time of life have to happen to me now when I’m trying to run a business, be a wife and mother, and a helpful citizen?!
Why do I find life so challenging at times?
Well, I am not alone. The average age for in the UK is 51. There are approximately 3.5 million women over the age of 50 in the workplace many of whom are also experiencing this challenge to their body – both physically and mentally – as part of “the change” which could span as many as 5-10 years. The effects on emotions can clearly affect how a woman does her work, as well as relationships with her boss and colleagues – for me, it is how I interact with my clients too.
In 2011, the British Occupational Health Research Foundation published research by the University of Nottingham that explored women’s experience of working through the menopause. It showed some interesting facts of which here are a few:
- Hot flushes, mood disturbances, fatigue, poor concentration and heavy/painful periods all posed significant and embarrassing problems for some women leaving them feeling less confident;
- Some women said they worked extremely hard to overcome their perceived shortcomings;
- Many women found they were unprepared for the arrival of the menopause and even less equipped to manage the symptoms at work. Over half had not disclosed their symptoms to their manager!
The research also showed that many women had developed strategies for coping with the symptoms at work such as working flexibly, wearing layers of clothes, changing their diet, trying to sleep longer at weekends, maintaining a sense of humour, etc.
So, what can employers do to support their employees through “the change”?
I fully believe that we should encourage open discussion at work and enable managers to understand more fully the change of life, its impact on women, and the sort of things that can be done at work to enable a woman to function as effectively regardless of how she might be feeling that day/hour/week.
I read a fabulous article recently, shared by Rachel Weiss @Menopause_Cafe. This movement created spaces for conversations about menopause. Within their first year the Café, based in Perth in Scotland, have had 38 Menopause Café events, 1 Menopause festival and 482 attendees. That’s a lot of talk about menopause.
I am therefore encouraging my clients to adopt a policy on the menopause as well as trying, via social media, to support and help circulate the huge range of ways through which we can access information about our health and wellbeing in the workplace, to help us ease our way through “the change”.
The main thing is to keep a sense of humour but that can seem very hard when you feel the world is against you as I did at times this week.
I hope this has been a laugh and enlightening. I’m happy to share my secrets to (mostly!) keep sane, and comfortable, through “the change”. Let’s hope my husband and family would agree with me!!!
Thanks for reading and good luck to all you lovely women out there.