Do you ever wish you had control over the thermostat at your place of work that’s perpetually set at 70 degrees, which you perhaps feel is much too hot? And, speaking of discomfort, you’d really like to finish an important report today, but your concentration is shot because you haven’t been sleeping well, thanks to recurring night sweats. It also doesn’t help that your brain feels like it’s thick with fog. Or maybe you are feeling so uncomfortable that you’re even considering going home “sick”, and potentially staying there until the menopause transition is over.
If you can relate to any of these scenarios, you aren’t alone, as many women experience menopause-related symptoms at work. In fact, 4 out of every 10 women who endure menopause symptoms say that they have interfered with their performance or productivity at work each week, with as many as 17% noting they’ve quit their jobs–or have considered quitting, because of them.1
Thirty percent of the U.S. work force is made up of women in their 40s and 50s, so it makes sense for companies to consider putting some support systems in place for menopause symptom management during the workday.2 However, while as many as 76% of HR benefit managers claim to have addressed challenges related to managing menopause at work, only 32% of female employees within this demographic say discussions, or the implementation of solutions, have actually taken place.3
Maybe the fact that the number of missed work days by women in menopause translates to an annual loss of $1.8 billion will change things sometime in the near future,4 but since there are so few policies in the U.S. workplace currently–and because many women would appreciate solutions now–let’s talk through some things you can do yourself to immediately manage your menopause symptoms at work.
Dress for Comfort
Hot flashes, one of the most common symptoms of menopause, may be the source of many jokes, but in reality, they’re quite disruptive for those experiencing them. If hot flashes are impacting your performance at work, try controlling the temperature directly around you as much as possible.
For example, dressing in layers will allow you to easily remove pieces of clothing when you feel warm. Also, consider choosing breathable fabrics, such as cotton, and do your best to avoid polyester blends, like nylon, spandex or Lycra, as these materials are known to trap heat. In addition to wearing layers of lighter clothing, consider enhancing airflow in your workspace by moving your desk near an open window, or keeping a fan nearby.5
Take Steps to Manage Disruptive Urinary Symptoms
Bladder issues, such as stress incontinence, which is when the bladder leaks urine due to increased abdominal pressure, as well as sudden urges to urinate, also called overactive bladder, or OAB, are not uncommon for women experiencing menopause. These symptoms are often triggered by weakened bladder and pelvic floor muscles and coincide with both changing hormone levels6 and age.
Some tips to managing accidental urine leakage at work include:7
- Limiting liquids during the workday to reduce urges - consider hydrating extra well while you’re at home.
- Planning for regular bathroom breaks in the event a meeting or call lasts longer than intended.
- Trying Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Kegels may also help to reduce the urge to urinate.
- Wearing incontinence pads to manage embarrassing leaks. Remember, however, to change wet pads frequently to avoid UTIs or other potential infections.
Reduce Stress to Better Manage Menopause Symptoms
Stress and anxiety often arise during menopause, and unfortunately, the workplace can sometimes be an extreme source of stress or exacerbate your existing stress levels. When stressed, your cortisol levels, which is known as a stress hormone, increase, which may trigger or contribute to the severity of a hot flash. If you work in a fast-paced or stressful environment, try incorporating deep breathing and meditation exercises during break times as a pre-emptive measure to help calm your mind.
Here's a quick exercise you can ty: breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and then exhale – repeat this several times to calm your nerves. Incorporating this or similar breathing techniques may also be helpful when you feel a hot flash coming on – it may reduce its severity or help it pass more quickly.8
Get Organized to Support Your Memory
Menopause can affect your memory and ability to focus. This is in part, because estradiol, the type of estrogen that impacts brain function, becomes depleted. Research has shown that lower levels of estradiol directly affect cognitive function and memory performance.9
If you notice that you’re having trouble remembering your co-worker’s spouse’s name, or if you forget various important tasks throughout the day, consider starting to write more things down. You can use any method that makes sense to you: tack up post-it notes in your cubicle, input notes in a phone app, or keep an old-school datebook or journal. Referring to your notes during the workday can help boost your memory and ultimately, your productivity.10
Diet Do’s and Don’ts
The food you eat can have a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being, which, in turn, can affect cognitive function. While eating well during all life stages is recommended, a healthy diet becomes even more important as you enter menopause. Consider incorporating foods that can support your brain health, as well as foods that may help cull other menopause symptoms. Here are some general dietary guidelines to consider:11
- Avoid hot, spicy foods as these may trigger hot flashes.
- Try limiting overly processed foods and sugar. Too much sugar can cause a detrimental blood sugar cycle that spikes and then drops, which can wreak havoc on your energy levels and mood.
- Do your best to limit caffeine and alcohol, as they can interfere with sleep and may trigger hot flashes.
- Drink more water to help manage your weight. Staying hydrated can also help alleviate dry, itchy skin–another symptom of menopause, and keep you cool and hydrated during a hot flash.
- Incorporate foods that support brain health and memory like fatty fishes, whole grains, nuts and berries.12
Try Exercising More and Moving Your Body
Maintaining muscle mass and bone strength during menopause is important because your metabolism tends to slow down and your bone density decreases. Exercise is also good for your mental health, and has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood, which may help in combatting menopause-related anxiety.13
You don’t have to hit the gym to benefit from exercise – there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate movement into your workday. Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk at lunchtime instead of sitting at your desk or in the breakroom.
Movement is beneficial for everyone, but it can be especially helpful for women managing menopause symptoms at work.14
Consider HRT for Menopause Symptom Management
As perimenopause begins, the ovaries start to produce less estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to a variety of symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is sometimes recommended by healthcare providers to manage fluctuating hormone levels and manage some of the more disruptive symptoms of menopause.
Pills, patches, creams, and vaginal rings containing hormones are common prescription options available for managing menopause symptoms. While HRT is not ideal for all women, it may be worth asking your healthcare provider if it’s right for you, especially if menopause symptoms are becoming troublesome and affecting your ability to excel at your job.15
Incorporating Dietary Supplements or Over the Counter Solutions for Menopause Symptoms
Over the counter, hormone-free supplements can be a good option for relieving menopause symptoms at work as well, and they may be especially beneficial for women who are not candidates for HRT.
Some safe, and clinically validated solutions include Relizen®, which offers relief from disruptive menopausal hot flashes and night sweats*, SerenolTM, which has been shown to help reduce mood swings and other emotional symptoms experienced during perimenopause*, and Revaree®, which can help reduce symptoms of vaginal dryness, which may become disruptive and uncomfortable if you’re sitting all day.
Explore Our Suite of Solutions
Read more about Bonafide's suite of hormone-free perimenopause and menopause solutions.
Change doesn’t happen on its own, so if you are feeling that physical and emotional menopause symptoms are impacting your quality of work, consider having a conversation about how your symptoms are affecting your ability to excel at your job with your manager, co-workers, or HR department. Increasing awareness about menopause and its symptoms will hopefully lead to more positive changes, and ideally will make the workplace a more supportive place for other women who are also dealing with menopause symptoms.