Menopause in the Workplace

I stumbled across some shocking statistics recently.

Although nearly 8 out of 10 menopausal women are in work, 10% of them will leave their jobs due to the menopause.

That’s a lot of women struggling so much, without the right support, who leave their jobs and careers – what a huge loss for them, and also to society and the workplace!

Women in their 40s, 50s and 60s have so much to offer; still a way to go before retirement but with all that wisdom, knowledge and experience built up over the years. What a font of skill and capability; mentors, leaders, the backbone of a company’s support, and role models for younger team members.

59% of women say it has a negative impact on their work; nearly 80% experience hot flushes and/or sweats. Many women will be struggling with disrupted sleep and the tiredness and associated stress that accompanies that.

What many people don’t realise is that these symptoms start with the perimenopause; the period of time that can last years as a woman’s hormones are changing, and that lead to these symptoms. This usually starts between the ages of 45 and 55 for most women.

Do these figures shock you as much as they do me?

I love to start conversations about this; it is something that everyone will be affected by at some point – if you are not a woman who will experience this, then you definitely will be related to, living with or working with women who will!

My Empowered Menopause programme helps women who are going through this; it will improve your sleep, and reduce anxiety and physical symptoms through powerful hypnotherapy and coaching techniques.

Book a free Discovery Call with me, let’s talk about how we can make this better for you!

Finishing Things

I’ve done a Thing. In fact, I have done two Things!

I had a great session with my coach this morning; I have noticed that I have a real problem finishing things. I’ve really been beating myself up over it, seeing it as a character flaw, something that really holds me back.

My coach helped me to reframe it – I’m really good at starting things, as I have great ideas and enthusiasm. If I’m struggling to finish something – then reach out for help. Find someone who can help me to finish it. Identify what the block is, and take action to get over it.

This is fantastic!

I have found someone to finish one Thing for me – it needs someone with a greater flair for design than me. I am so glad to hand that job over to someone who will not only do it better than me, but also will enjoy it more than me. That’s collaboration! That is working to one’s strengths. And I am loving that feeling of handing it over to a safe and competent pair of hands.

I have also pushed on through past some tech stuff that I find tricky to finish another Thing. Here it is; it’s my brand new shiny quiz and I absolutely love it – I hope you do too!

Sign up to take my 5 minute Menopause Quiz

Juggling

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”
– Thomas Merton.

Have you ever felt like you just don’t have enough time? 

Like there just aren’t enough hours in the day?

I used to feel that all the time. 

I ran around being busy. And to be fair, I packed a lot into my days. I packed a lot into my life. Looking back, I can see that I was completely in Superwoman mode – you know, when you put your pants over your trousers, fasten your cape and rush around being everything to everyone – just to prove that you can.

And if you’ve ever done any work with me, you’ll know that Superwoman is really great to get things done when everything’s going to the wire, and there’s no other choice; but it’s not a great mode to be stuck in all the time. It leads to overwhelm, stress and anxiety and ultimately burnout. All the things that clients work with me to resolve – because it’s not great to feel like that. 

So, I try to practice what I preach. I do practice what I preach. I find balance in my life. 

That means that I can do the things that I need to do as well as the things that I want to do, without feeling like I’m constantly being pulled in all directions. Of course, life always happens, it always will – extra stuff gets dumped on your plate, things happen that are beyond your control. I don’t have time to do everything, and working out the priorities and how to fit them in was something I really had to work on.

One simple thing that changed for me was just changing that self-talk; my internal story, the monologue of my life. 

I used to wake up in the morning and think “I don’t have enough time”. 

I’d think about all the things that I needed to do that day and immediately tell myself  that  I couldn’t fit it all in. From the moment I opened my eyes, I felt like I didn’t have enough time.

Of course, that gets the adrenaline going right from the start. I’d get up feeling stressed and anxious. I’d go through my day feeling stressed and anxious, with my to do list constantly whirling in my head to the background song of “I don’t have enough time”. All the things that pop up on a day to day basis would appear in front of me and add to my stress. By the time I went to bed I’d be exhausted – but with all that stuff still bubbling through my head and affecting my sleep, I’d wake up feeling exhausted – ready to do it all over again.

If that sounds familiar, the first thing you can do is wake up and just tell yourself a different story. You don’t need to over-complicate this; it can be as simple as “I have enough time to do the things that I need to do”. Write it on your mirror. Leave a little note for yourself to see as you get out of bed. Any way that works for you, so you start the day with a more helpful story.

Now of course, it’s not a magic wand solution. You’re going to have to do some work as well. There’s so much we can do to help prioritise what’s important; defend your boundaries; learn to let go of the unimportant stuff, so that your time becomes your own again.

Life will always throw curve balls from time to time; things that throw you off track and make you change course. Recently a lot of upsetting things happened within my wider family; illness, bereavement, some really difficult things to deal with. Those things knocked me off track a little, and that is okay. Because things were happening that were upsetting; it’s okay to feel upset when upsetting things happen. It is okay to feel overwhelmed when lots of things happen at once.

Allowing myself to feel those emotions; giving myself time to process them and turning to people for support meant letting go of some of the other things that I really thought I should be doing. Letting go of any guilt around that was crucial.

And suddenly here we are – well into the new year now (I never do New Year resolutions anyway!) The Chinese New Year has just gone so I’ll take that as my fresh start for this year – because suddenly things are feeling a little bit more like they are going as I would like them to be. I feel more able to look forward, to make plans – and more importantly, carry them out.

I’ve been very clear about prioritising what needs to be done. I’ve been really good at reaching out for support – from other coaches, from various resources, from other people around me, and really getting on top of my scheduling and my planning. 

It’s helped enormously; and now here I am, on a Wednesday afternoon. My to do list hasn’t got way got out of hand this week. I’ve actually ticked things off my list. Today, I’ve celebrated with a wonderful long walk. Although it’s been a cloudy and showery kind of a day I decided to come to a place that means a lot to me. It’s beautiful. It is a bit of a drive from my house, and often I like to stay local because I’m just squeezing the dog walk in between everything else. 

But I took the time to drive over and found that here there’s blue sky; it’s a beautiful February afternoon. It’s quite mild for the time of year, and I’m enjoying a longer walk in beautiful surroundings. It has really made me appreciate the work I’ve done to get to this point; and think how can I help you as well? 

That is what fires me up; helping other people sort their stuff out too. So if you want some help to get on top of prioritising the important things in your life; working out how to meet your needs and find balance; working out how to juggle all the competing demands of your life – then book a discovery call with me and let’s chat and see what we can do.

Letting the Magic Flow

My Sorceress has been hard at play this week. You know how sometimes things just seem to flow easily; you notice little coincidences, little bits of good fortune, things seem to happen at just the right time.

That’s when your Sorceress energy is flowing…. “that part of you that trusts, that dreams, and that brings a little bit of fairy dust and mystery to life”.

In all honesty, life has been tough for the past few months. We’ve been through bereavements and illness within the wider family, some real life-changing stuff; as well as some emotional and mental health issues for other family members. At times it has been hard to remember to look after myself properly though that has been my main focus – if I am okay, then I am better able to look after my loved ones. 

Life has felt a little bit hard, and like my resilience is being tested. I’m more used to life being good, thankfully! Still, at times it has felt like I have been wading through treacle. At times like these it can seem impossible for life to ever feel like it will be flowing with ease and grace again.

This week has seen a real shift. I have started to notice a few little coincidences, synchronicities that remind me of the good stuff in life. Things happening with a certain ease and flow again as if magic is happening within my life.

Last week I finally decided on my word of the year.

Flow.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions; I prefer to work with 3 month blocks for goal setting and planning. It helps to keep things realistic and achievable! I do like to have a word of the year though, something to focus on and come back to again and again. 

Now it has come to me, and that is exactly what is starting to happen. After a great session with my coach – yes, all the best coaches have their own coach. We know how valuable it is – I started to appreciate how my life is truly starting to flow with ease and grace again. 

I noticed the little coincidences – a beautiful piece of music I had never heard before really resonated with me yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon it popped up again in an entirely different place! I found out more about it, and the words really spoke to where I am right now.

I was chatting with my husband and friends about a wonderful weekend we spent away many years ago now which had great significance. Pictures of that weekend popped up today in the ‘Memories’ that appear in my phone’s photos and brought a huge smile to my face.

Someone I really needed to talk to suddenly popped up in my life unexpectedly.

Little signs that everything has been good before, and will be again. Little signs that everything will be okay. It is okay for me to trust in that process.

I used to struggle with the idea of magic and flow in my younger days. Goodness, how I worked so hard for all my achievements! It seemed that things weren’t worth anything unless I had struggled to get them. Now, I still enjoy working hard but how beautiful it is to do so with grace and ease.

Let the magic flow.

Menopause Symptoms

Did you know that there are also many others? These include:

  • Loss of libido
  • Anxiety & panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Itching
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Dizziness
  • Bloating
  • Body odour changes
  • Increased sensitivity to smell
  • Brittle nails
  • Itchiness
  • Muscle tension

…..and many more! They are all a result of the changes in hormone levels that your body experiences. You don’t need to simply put up with them, and not all of them are negative.

I would love to hear which ones cause you the most difficulty; and I can help to alleviate many of these. The Empowered Menopause Foundation programme is designed to do just that.

My Perimenopause – the start of my journey

I’m no stranger to anxiety; it has been there at various points throughout my life, and over the years I have learned to recognise it, manage it and not let it dominate me or what I am doing. I have learned to lean into it a little, to let go of it and enjoy life in all its wonder and glory. 

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

It’s not always been an easy journey, but it is one I am immensely proud of. 

A few years ago, in my mid-40s, I suddenly started to notice that anxiety was there again, quite suddenly. It felt different to other times it had made its presence felt in my life; this felt like it came out of nowhere. It was true that some stressful stuff had been going on around me, but even so the anxiety would just suddenly come out of nowhere. It was accompanied by some intrusive thoughts, and some really quite unpleasant feelings.

In a way it wasn’t bothering me too much; all the same techniques and strategies I had learned over the years – the same ones I share with clients who experience anxiety – were working fine and helping me to feel okay. I did feel a sense of curiosity about this anxiety though, and what it was doing in my life.

I am incredibly lucky to have some wonderfully supportive local GPs where I live. I discussed what was going on, around other discussions regarding contraceptive choices – much as I love birth and babies, my family is most definitely complete! The result was that blood tests confirmed that I am perimenopausal. 

This wasn’t too much of a surprise to me, though I did find it very reassuring. I had noticed that I had gone from being the coldest person in the room, always wearing the biggest jumper, to actually not needing quite so many clothes anymore! Seeing this as a positive meant that I have ever experienced ‘hot flushes’ in any embarrassing or unpleasant way. 

One amusing effect was that the night after I received confirmation of the blood test results I suddenly woke up drenched in a night sweat. I went straight into self-hypnosis, using techniques to turn down that heat I was feeling, and taking the opportunity to have a sharp word with myself that as this had not been a problem before I knew for sure, there was no way I was going to allow it to be a problem now! Sure enough, I haven’t been bothered by another one since….

Although my GP talked me through possible treatment options, I have continued to manage my symptoms so far by focussing on my general health, and using hypnotherapy and coaching techniques. I really felt heard, and supported to make the right choices for me at this point in my life.

It makes me angry and sad in equal measure that not all women have access to such understanding and helpful GPs or medical support. So many women struggle on through, not asking for support or not receiving support if they do ask; not understanding what is happening to their bodies and what might help. 

What do you want to know about the menopause? How do you want to be treated? 

Hormone Stories

When I was a girl, I learnt something about hormones. Some were okay – it was fine to talk about things like adrenaline and testosterone. There was even some grudging respect for ‘adrenaline junkies’, and men with a lot of testosterone were viewed with a level of admiration for their ‘manliness’. 

Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash

Women’s hormones were things to be whispered about though. Menstruation and menopause were not for open discussion. The fluctuation of women’s hormones was not only taboo, but were actually a flaw in how women worked. Jokes about ‘that time of life’ and how crazy women went lurked under the surface. Women’s anger and emotion about anything could be flippantly and quietly dismissed as ‘just her time of the month’. 

When I was 12 I started my periods. This coincided with my mother starting the menopause, and my dad leaving home (for the first time – he came and went over the next decade or so, it was pretty chaotic). Our house was awash with hormones that we couldn’t speak about. 

What I did learn though, was how the menopause meant that my mother felt she was no longer a real woman. She was diminished, finished, completely without worth. I didn’t realise I was internalising her beliefs and perceptions; those stories stayed with me, without question, for a long time. This was backed up by the seeming disappearance of women on our TV screens once they reached their 40s; and how the male romantic leads continued on our screens, but with younger and younger women as their female leads.

When I reached the perimenopause though, I realised I’m not ready to disappear. I see a world that is changing, slowly but surely. Women are stepping into their power all around me, realising we can change the stories. 

What stories did you internalise about women’s hormones? How have those stories changed? 

Judgement – who is judging who?

You know how you were a really great parent – before you had kids? 

Did you get that too? When you looked at other people’s kids and knew for sure you wouldn’t do it that way; when you were so clear that your kids wouldn’t act that way, or you would do it differently, so much better.

That, my friends, is where most mum judgment comes from. From those who have literally no experience and no idea what you are going through; and from your own leftover internal judge who was so clear on how things would be, and had no idea how hard it was actually going to be.

It is so important to remember this, and re-frame those thoughts and feelings of judgement.

Ask yourself, ‘Does anyone really care how I’m doing this? Does it really matter what they think anyway? Or is this just me judging myself?’

The answers you give yourself to these questions can be quite surprising. One thing I have noticed as I practice this more is how much less judgmental I am of those around me, not just myself.

It is almost as though when I am caught up in feelings of being judged by others, I am more likely to project that outwards and think less kindly of people around me. I find myself more likely to label people, and assume the worst about them. I am likely to think the worst about what they are thinking about me.

When I am kinder and less judgemental to myself, I find it naturally spills over into the world around me. If someone ignores me, or sounds short-tempered when speaking to me, I am more likely to cut them some slack too, and think that perhaps they’re having a bad day or have some tough stuff going on instead of imagining that they are angry with me for some reason.

How wonderful that inner kindness becomes outer kindness, and makes the world a better place!

Imposter Syndrome – A New Perspective

Over many years of personal and professional development, I have come across the idea of Imposter Syndrome as something that continues to hold women back. I have felt it; most women I know have felt it; some men say they have felt it too, but I have always largely considered it to be a problem within women. Something that needs fixing, a flaw that can hold us back if we don’t sort it out.

How startling it is to suddenly confront my own fixed biases; ideas and beliefs so deeply rooted that I don’t even recognise that they are part of a story that has been woven throughout my life. A story of my own unacknowledged and unnoticed whiteness; a story of the patriarchy that I am truly a product and a part of.

This article on Imposter Syndrome has made me literally stop in my tracks, and look at the issue with fresh eyes.

“Imposter syndrome,” or doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud at work, is a diagnosis often given to women. But the fact that it’s considered a diagnosis at all is problematic. The concept, whose development in the ‘70s excluded the effects of systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, and other biases, took a fairly universal feeling of discomfort, second-guessing, and mild anxiety in the workplace and pathologized it, especially for women. The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals, but to create an environment that fosters a number of different leadership styles and where diversity of racial, ethnic, and gender identities is viewed as just as professional as the current model.”

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Maybe my feeling that I don’t deserve success; that I don’t really belong; that my ideas don’t fit with the culture within the workplace; maybe all along, these weren’t internal feelings at all. Looking back, these were ideas reinforced by the people I was working with – often on a subconscious level, hinted at – but sometimes said out loud. Like when I would routinely challenge the older, white male colleague for his blatant racist remarks directed at the children in our care. His response was to call me a ‘Stupid woman’, in front of the pupils; he would openly sneer at my ‘wishy washy liberal’ values; he would goad me and taunt me. I left, and went to work elsewhere.

What did I take with me though? Further evidence that I was not worthy of success within that culture. My ideas were unacceptable – even though this was directly contradicted by a focus on diversity and inclusion which said that he was wrong, and I was right – the cognitive dissonance confusing and disorienting, further adding to my feelings of anxiety and discomfort.

Although feelings of uncertainty are an expected and normal part of professional life, women who experience them are deemed to suffer from imposter syndrome. Even if women demonstrate strength, ambition, and resilience, our daily battles with microaggressions, especially expectations and assumptions formed by stereotypes and racism, often push us down. Imposter syndrome as a concept fails to capture this dynamic and puts the onus on women to deal with the effects. Workplaces remain misdirected toward seeking individual solutions for issues disproportionately caused by systems of discrimination and abuses of power.

Maybe, this isn’t our problem to resolve at all, as individuals.

Every journey starts with small steps

How is your post-natal body doing?

Mine is fine. 

Well, I say ‘fine’. It has been 9 years since my second c-section birth. My body is doing okay. I can do most things I want my body to do. I don’t usually leak, my pelvic floor is okay.

I have known for a long time – well, probably 9 years! – that my body is only just ‘fine’. My c-section scar has continued to be a little sensitive and sore when touched; so I just don’t touch it. My core strength has never been great; I’m strong in my upper body and that has always allowed me to get away with not using my core muscles properly. That has only got worse with two c-sections. I get niggles in my lower back, hips, knees and ankles, especially when I try to implement a proper running routine. In fact, my knees and ankles always start to hurt or get injured every time I get back to a proper exercise routine, but it’s fine.

Until I decided it is no longer fine. I actually don’t have to put up with those niggles. I deserve to feel better than ‘fine’. I deserve to feel great! My body is amazing – it has done amazing things and taken me to amazing places. And I want to maintain fitness and strength as I navigate these menopausal years and beyond.

For many years now, I have been recommending Libby Phillips, a local chiropractor at S1 Chiropractic, who specialises in pre- and post-natal work. I know she is great because so many of my colleagues, acquaintances, friends and clients have recommended her, so I recommend her in turn to my clients.

Finally, I thought, ‘What about me?’ This summer, I decided to focus on my physical health with the aim of getting beyond ‘fine’, to a place of ‘really good’.

I realised I needed to go back to basics, so I decided to try out the Mutu system. I am loving it; I love the fact I can fit the exercises in around everything else, and it builds up slowly so I can create better habits as I go along, instead of trying to make huge, overwhelming changes all at once. I can keep track of it all online, and get the motivation from seeing it all building up.

Finally, I also booked in to see Libby – and she really is great. Even after the first session I started to feel so much better. Many of my questions about the little niggles over the years were explained. The treatments, alongside the Mutu core exercises, and those that she has recommended are really helping me to feel so much better on a really basic level. I honestly can’t recommend her enough!

But there are two things going on here: firstly, my willingness to spend the time, energy and money on myself – in really prioritising sorting out my health and seeking out Libby’s expertise to support me. But the second, equally important thing, is for me to keep investing the time and energy to prioritise the exercises and little adjustments I need to make in order for this to really be successful; for me to really make sustainable and long lasting change.

Of course, the first couple of days were great – I did the exercises without fail, really kept noticing what my body was doing, and what it should be doing and making those adjustments. 

Then it all started to slip a bit.

Having Libby to reassure me that it is all okay, and that changing habits does take a long time, is priceless. She believes I’m worth it, and it helps me to believe I’m worth it! I keep taking these small steps, with my eye on the bigger picture, and the future where I don’t have to have painful hips and knees. 

But I need to keep doing it. Every day. And that feels great! Keeping my physical health in the forefront of my mind feels wonderful. It doesn’t have to be for ever. It won’t be forever. Pretty soon, if I keep going, all these things will become my new habits; my new way of being. They won’t require the energy needed right now to make sure they become new habits.

As a coach, this is what I want to offer you. I know you are fine just as you are. I know you want to make changes to be that bit better at being who you are. 

When you come on a retreat with me; work with me online or face to face; in groups or as individuals; I know you feel good in that moment. It then requires effort from you to keep with it, to keep the focus on yourself while you make those changes that become your new habits.

Watch out for all the new ways I will be supporting you taking those tiny steps – so you can make small, manageable changes without the overwhelm!

Keep going, beautiful souls.