Hot Flashes in the Workplace

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I remember my first hot flash like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful spring day, so I couldn’t blame the weather. I was wearing a lightweight pantsuit for work, so I was not overdressed. My husband and I were in a business meeting and suddenly I felt a flush of heat radiate throughout my body. My whole body seemed to be blushing and then glistening. I began perspiring profusely. When I rose from my chair, I noticed that something wet was dripping down the inner seam of my pant leg. For a minute, I thought I had peed in my pants. I was having my own personal flash flood!

Luckily, I always carry a big purse (I think it makes my hips look smaller). With my purse planted firmly in front of my body and my husband tightly behind me, I made a quick exit to our car after the meeting.  I know I had come from a business meeting, but I looked like I had just finished a 10K run.

Apparently, my body was dragging me into perimenopause and menopause. I was not going to go willingly.

Before you get too hot under the collar, it helps to know that you are not alone.  According to North American Menopause Society, “Hot flashes are reported by as many as 75% of perimenopausal women in the United States.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, “Women comprise 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force. It is important to note that working Moms are the norm with 70% of mothers with children under 18 participating in the labor force. Over 75% are employed full-time. Mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40% of households with children under 18.

As hard as you try, you can’t leave your menopause at home when you go to work. It follows you everywhere!

Before you completely dissolve into a sweaty mess having hot flashes at work, know your options.

First and foremost find a good Menopause Specialist who is up on the latest information and studies to be your partner in this menopause business. Start charting your symptoms with my Menopause Symptoms Chart.  This will help you explain quickly and accurately exactly how you are feeling to your specialist.

Bring in a list of possible options of treatment to discuss with your specialist. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Every women’s health history is unique and must be considered when creating an individualized treatment plan that works for you. Here are a few ideas to discuss:

  • hormone therapy (HT)
  • selective serotonin and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs and SNRIs)
  • acupuncture
  • dietary changes that may help
  • exercise
  • herbal supplements
  • smoking (get help quitting!)

In the meantime, be safe, not soggy, and keep a hot flash emergency kit in your car, your desk, your gym bag, wherever you can access it…in a flash! Here are a few things you might want to include in your kit:

  • Baby wipes (and you thought you were done with these a long time ago)
  • A hair tie (for those with hair long enough to pull up, you’ll find that getting the hair off your neck makes all the difference in the world)
  • Bottled water (the colder, the better, to cool yourself from the inside out)
  • A battery-operated, hand-held fan (not the other battery-operated device…that can actually bring on a hot flash!)
  • A full change of clothes (hey, you never know)
  • Deodorant (not that the sweat from a hot flash smells, but it will leave you feeling fresher)
  • A sense of humor

Whether your office dress policy is business attire, business casual, or casual, a word of advice: Dress in layers. When a hot flash hits, you can peel off the layers like an onion. (But try not to cry as if you just peeled an onion.) I found that sweater sets are your friend. You can take the cardigan off or throw it back on when needed. If you suddenly have the urge to weep -hit the ladies’ room.

If yours is a stress-filled job, I have some bad news. Stress also can induce hot flashes. Balance your stressful day with exercise, meditation, yoga, or any type of relaxation breathing technique that you are comfortable using. For me, moderate exercise helped me to feel better, more relaxed, and, yes, believe it or not, revived! So feel free to give it a try. I, also, meditate every morning before I even get out of bed.  Adding one or more of these to your daily schedule can ease tension from your body and soothe your mind.

Before I found hormone happiness, if I had a hot flash in mixed company, I would just announce, “This is a hot flash and it is definitely not contagious – so please don’t worry!” Everyone laughed and we moved on to business.

Whatever you do, try to stay calm, cool, and collected. After all, you want your coworkers to remember you for your flashes of brilliance, not your hot flashes.

Remember:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN.

For more great tips on how to find a menopause specialist and deal with menopause download my free ebook: MENOPAUSE MONDAYS  the Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.    

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After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

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