According to Brooke Faught, a nurse practitioner and the clinical director of the Women’s Institute for Sexual Health in Nashville, TN, women can absolutely continue to be as productive as they were before menopause with simple adjustments and extra support. “Addressing the symptoms and providing proper intervention can help women attain their best efficacy and output,” she explains.
But how do you kickstart that for yourself and your office? Here are our suggestions:
1. Normalize talking about menopause at work
Every woman—no matter her position in your industry’s hierarchy—goes through this transition. So, let’s move away from all the secrecy and embarrassment toward transparency, allyship and mentoring. If you’re in a leadership position, speaking out about your experiences is a significant and effective way to prompt change in workplace culture. And if you’re in a position that dictates policy, advocate for the creation of formal menopause guidelines to govern paid leave, flexible work options, and onsite modifications (such as adding fans to employee workspaces or permitting a more relaxed dress code).
2. Nourish yourself
Information about menopause diets is everywhere, but it’s really about figuring out what works best for you. Consider limiting caffeine and increasing your intake of hormone-balancing nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids from fish (particularly salmon and mackerel) or walnuts, flax and chia seeds. Other key strategies for maintaining your well-being while balancing work and menopausal symptoms: Regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and meditation.
3. Find Support
Navigating menopausal symptoms at the office (and in the rest of your life!) is easier with friends. If you suspect a colleague is in a similar life stage, suggest getting together to share your experiences informally or by creating a support group.
If you’re an employer, provide female employees with a list of local women’s health clinics, naturopaths and menopause educators who offer services to menopausal women. Another possibility: Offer employees a session with a Health Coach who can direct them to the correct local experts in your region, and invite a Certified Menopause Practitioner to your site to share information and wellness strategies with your team. (The North American Menopause Society maintains a database or trained professionals, which makes it easy to find one near you.)
4. Model empathy
Maybe it’s not you who’s dealing with menopause symptoms at work, but rather a colleague or supervisor. Try hard to understand their situation and cut them some slack. If you feel comfortable, consider saying something like, “I may not fully understand what you're going through, but I recognize that it’s really bothersome and intrusive.” And hope that folks are similarly empathetic toward you when it’s your turn.
It’s time for women to stop hiding menopausal symptoms at work, and for workplaces to support women during this life stage the same way it does during others. “We've used modern medicine to extend the quantity of women’s lives,” concludes Faught. “And now it’s time to focus on the quality of life during those extra years.”
Navigating Menopause While You Work? We created an encompassing guide to help.
Audrey D. Brashich writes about women’s issues, parenting and lifestyle topics for outlets including The Washington Post, Yahoo, Giddy and HealthCentral.com.)