Is Menopause Affecting Your Workplace Productivity? - Ellen Dolgen
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Is Menopause Affecting Your Workplace Productivity?

According to Forbes Magazine, “Employee engagement and wellness are finally taking center stage in the business world. For too long, they have been viewed as the responsibility of the HR department and not an integral part of business strategy. However, it is increasingly clear that unhealthy and unengaged employees are a drag on productivity, innovation, and the bottom line.”

As many of us can attest, there is a direct link between employee wellness and productivity. When your employees are happy and healthy, they are more engaged and have less absenteeism.

Sadly, menopause is not on the agenda at many U.S. companies. It is up to the sisterhood to demand education and support in the workplace. After all, as hard as you try, you can’t leave your menopause at home when you go to work. It follows you everywhere!

According to Carolee Lee, Founder of WHAM (Women’s Health Access Matters):

  • Women are the majority of the U.S. population
  • Women are nearly 50% of the workforce
  • Women control over 60% of personal wealth
  • Women are responsible for over 85% of consumer spending.
  • Women make over 80% of healthcare decisions.

I was in my 40’s when I experienced my first menopausal symptom. My first symptom of perimenopause was brain fog. Suddenly, in a meeting in the middle of a sentence, I completely lost my train of thought and my words. The first time it happened, I sloughed it off. However, this brain fog kept floating in at all hours of the day. It became increasingly embarrassing and began to change the quality of my life.  I started to think twice about speaking for fear it would happen again. It never occurred to me that I was in perimenopause as I was beginning my menopausal journey.  I never received the menopause “conversation” from my mom, nor in health classes in school.

Hot flashes in the workplace can be very challenging. My first flash was in the middle of a business meeting.  Suddenly a flash of heat radiated throughout my body. It was a  beautiful spring day, so I couldn’t blame the weather. I was wearing a lightweight pantsuit, so I was not overdressed. My whole body was hot, blushing, and then glistening. As I sat at the boardroom table surrounded by all men, perspiration began dripping down my face. I felt as though I had just completed a 10K run.  No one knew what to do – especially me! I subsequently became very adept at handling the flash.  I would announce, “This is a hot flash, and it is not contagious – so please don’t worry!” Everyone laughed, and we moved on to business.

Here is a quick primer on how to get your menopause under control so that you can be happy, healthy, and productive in the workplace and your non-work life:

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.  Bring this filled-out symptoms chart with you to your appointment with your menopause specialist as it will help you quickly and accurately explain exactly how you feel.

No need to get overwhelmed.  You can use this simple breathing technique at work, at home, anywhere! It’s called the  4-7-8 breathing technique.  The 4-7-8 breathing technique is based on an ancient yogic practice of controlling your breath.  This has been shown to have many benefits for stress reduction and relaxation. You can do this anywhere.  Even at your desk. Close your lips and inhale through your nose for the count of 4. Then, hold your breath for the count of 7. Then, exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing noise for the count of 8.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Every woman’s health history and the severity of symptoms must be considered when creating an individualized treatment plan that works. Here are a few ideas to discuss with your menopause specialist.

  • Menopausal Hormone Therapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications and Mood Stabilizers
  • Anti-Seizure Medications
  • Medications that treat Overactive Bladder
  • High Blood Pressure Medications
  • New Non-Hormonal Drugs (targeting the kisspeptin/neurokinin B/dynorphin (KNDy) neuron receptor complex – these are in clinical trials)
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, and Acupuncture (helps with sleep, mood, stress, and may help with hot flashes.)
  • Meditation (I meditate for 20 minutes every morning)
  • Dietary Changes (reduce alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, start an eating plan to help you eliminate excess weight)
  • Exercise – (moderate exercise works great)
  • Herbal Supplements (black cohosh, red clover, phytoestrogens, primrose oils, maca, and bee pollen extract.
  • Dress in layers
  • Smoking (get help quitting!)

You want your coworkers to remember you for your flashes of brilliance, not your hot flashes. I recommend keeping 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 bring on a hot flash!)
    • A complete change of clothes (hey, you never know)
    • Deodorant (it will leave you feeling fresher)
    • A sense of humor

It remains frustrating to understand why we are still sweeping perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause symptoms and relief under a rug?! We must work together to break the stigma, embarrassment, and fear and demand menopause education in the workplace. If you want to initiate a Corporate Wellness Menopause Program for your business, club, or association you can reach me at [email protected].  I would love to share the keys to the menopausal kingdom with your company, association, or group. (The picture attached was taken on Military Spouse Appreciation Day when I had the honor of speaking to military families at the Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) about perimenopause and menopause.)

Let’s work together and encourage companies to put menopause on the agenda.  We can do this!

My Motto:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN!

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* does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.



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