Working the menopause this New Year
Author: Jenny T
I’ve been off for the Christmas and New Year break and I’m dreading Monday. I need to reset my brain – and my body – to cope with going back to work and the menopause in the dark months with Summer seeming so, so far away. Even though we’ve been busy entertaining, catering, shopping, clearing up and having to battle with elderly folk, teenagers, and lazy relations, it’s somehow easier to take ‘me time’ at home – to take a nap when the afternoon fatigue hits, to get around the brain fog, to layer up, and layer down, and just walk away from situations that are not conducive to the menopause.
So how can we cope at work and the menopause?
What we call ‘brain fog’ comes from nowhere. I know I am ‘good’ in the mornings, but pretty rubbish as it gets dark. And I know I can’t take a nap at 3pm, I must work through the exhaustion and continue after it’s gone black outside and I just want to go home. So, I try and be as productive as I can be in the mornings, and not stress about lack of productivity in the afternoons. But many of my friends are the reverse and are unable to think straight until 10am each morning.
Prioritise the big stuff, and try not to sweat the small stuff. The most frustrating thing is forgetting words, and I have taken to banging on the table when I can’t remember a word or smiling sweetly when I use completely the wrong word, or even a made-up word. I’m lucky because most of my older colleagues get it, and the younger ones just think I am slightly bonkers and use words they’ve never heard of, so I must be clever! The mantra my parents drove into me “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” has been bent and manipulated into “do what you can, when you can, the rest can wait”.
If you feel the rage building, try not to snap at your colleagues. Walk away or stop and take a drink of water (but don’t throw the water). This is probably the hardest one for me but it’s the most difficult one for our colleagues. Find your own way to deal with it and adopt that. But if you do snap, apologise as soon as you can and explain, if you can.
Know that the enhanced panic and worry or anxiety that you may be feeling at work is not you, it’s the menopause.
We are good, kind, lovely, and we are loved, valued and appreciated. Think of Michelle Obama who spent years suffering ‘The Imposter Syndrome’. I can’t talk, I worry endlessly about being fired, about stupid tiny things that never bothered me before. And I panic about the future (which is huge) all the time. It’s crazy, we’re slightly crazy, but you’re not alone. Try and find your own coping mechanisms but ones that involve good food, hydration, exercise, fresh air, not alcohol and chocolate. If it helps, write things down, or talk to a good friend in the same situation. ‘Get it out’ and you’ll feel better.
Now to the weeping.
Yes, we all weep. A lot. We weep because a dog on Facebook is wearing a poncho, we weep because a cute kid is smiling at their mother in an advert. But weeping in front of your boss? That’s a whole new ball game which never would have happened before the menopause.
If you start to feel weepy, try to leave the room and escape to the loo. If your boss or a colleague criticises you, or your work, and you combust into sobbing, don’t feel bad. Just try and gather yourself away from the situation if you can, as soon as you can. Try and explain, if not, call that friend when you get home and she’ll tell you it’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up. Just know it happens and you are not alone. Just make sure you have a good waterproof mascara, and tissues in every pocket. And don’t let it beat your motivation away, it will come back. The next time you feel energetic smash it. Beat it away.
It’s important to tell someone at work how you are feeling.
Whether that’s HR, your boss, your team if you can – to ask for support and understanding and explain your symptoms. Try asking for flexible working hours or work from home days so you can work around those days you just can’t do it, without letting anyone down. These days most bosses actively encourage working from home – some companies even only have remote working. Your cat/dog will love you too.
So, may I suggest you write down the Big Things that affect you at work, and try and write down ways to cope with them. And find a friend – both in work and out of work – that you can talk to. Or do what I do, talk to yourself. In the loo. Whilst weeping.
Good luck – please write in to BeingEve with your thoughts and stories, we would love to hear from you.