The menopause is a physiological change that every woman will experience, yet, until very recently, it was not openly discussed in the workplace or even in society. It is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman's reproductive years.
While it is primarily associated with physical changes, such as hot flashes and night sweats, it can also have significant mental health effects. These effects can impact women in various aspects of their lives, including the workplace.
What happens during (peri) menopause?
During menopause, a women’s body goes through major hormonal changes — decreasing the amount of hormones it makes. It is the oestrogen that has a major impact on all aspects of the body, including the brain and mood. When the levels of oestrogen drop in peri/menopause the effect for the individual can be quite dramatic.
Why is it important?
“I think I may be suffering with early dementia” is a statement made by many individuals aged 40 - 55 years, often not giving menopause a second thought. Symptoms can include memory loss; brain fog; low mood/depression; mood swings; anxiety amongst others.
The result of this, if left untreated, can be catastrophic for the individual and those around them. In a study in 2018 conducted by the Office of National Statistics, suicide rates in females were highest amongst women aged 45-49 years. It is not a coincidence that this is often the age when individuals start to experience peri-menopause.
Other negative experiences related to menopause-related mental health issues include job loss and career interruption; family breakdown and divorce.
With 25% of women saying they consider leaving their job due to debilitating symptoms of menopause, employers need to recognise the impact that menopause has on mental health, and show support by making adjustments in the workplace and providing expert led support for employees.
myTamarin offers 1on1 virtual consultations led by experienced menopause nurses, who support women through their menopause journeys.
What can be done to help?
There are things that can help. Some GPs will reach for the prescription pad but often for anti-depressants which are unlikely to help if the mental health issues are because of Menopause.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is designed to replace the Oestrogen the body has lost and once the dosage has been adapted to an individual’s needs, relief from mental health symptoms occurs.
It can take 3-6 months for symptoms to be managed and the medication may need tweaking, but with patience and understanding from the individual and support from their healthcare professional the results can be successful.
Some individuals may not be able or want to take HRT but that does not mean they have to suffer. There are other resources that can be used to help, either individually or with the advice and support from health experts.
Maintaining a healthy diet is something we should all be aiming for but it is especially important for during the peri/menopause. Fruit, vegetables and wholegrains are essential for regulating mood, along with protein-rich foods like eggs and oily fish will help, too. Eating probiotics, e.g. Kombucha, Kimchi, Kefir, etc and prebiotics, e.g., oats, bananas, beans, etc is believed to help raise mood, as well.
Eat regular, balanced meals, maintain good hydration and avoid caffeine and saturated fats as well as minimising alcohol consumption will all help. Stopping smoking will help overall health, as well.
Increasing and maintaining good amounts of exercise each week will not only help lift your mood but will help maintain a healthy weight which can be a problem in the peri/menopause. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, or “Happy Hormones” which naturally lift mood.
The NHS recommends adults between 18-64 years should undertake daily “exercise” where the breathing and heart rates are increased. This includes your daily walk to work or getting off public transport 1 or 2 stops early, cycling to shops or friends, etc. It does not mean going to an expensive gym every day...unless that is what you prefer!
Recommended duration is 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week is enough to aid health and mood. Strength exercises (e.g., weight training, Pilates, yoga) will help strengthen muscle and bones, aerobic exercise, (e.g., running, walking, cycling, swimming, etc) will help with cardiovascular health and stretching (e.g., yoga, Pilates), will help with relaxation and recovery. All types of exercises will help with mental health issues.
When it comes to managing mood swings linked to menopause, walking therapies, especially Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, (CBT) will provide strategies to help manage these.
It is vital for individuals to recognise these symptoms and/or for family members and friends to notice changes in behaviour and mood and help the individual to seek help as soon as possible. Help is available and will allow the individual to continue their productive, full lives and prevent unnecessary tragedy.
Why Should Employers Care?
It is crucial for companies to understand the importance of supporting women going through menopause, especially when menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace.
The true cost of recruiting a senior member of staff can be up to 1.5x their yearly salary and ultimately the cost of recruiting senior employees lost due to menopause can cost organisations millions every year.
By offering menopause support, employers not only fulfil their responsibilities as ethical and inclusive organisations but also gain numerous benefits, including improved employee well-being, increased productivity, and enhanced retention of valuable talent.
What Should Organisations do?
To address the mental health effects of menopause in the workplace, it is crucial to create a supportive and inclusive environment that acknowledges and accommodates the unique challenges women may face. Some key strategy solutions include:
- Establish a workplace policy: A menopause policy or measures to safeguard employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms. Download our policy template here.
- Talk about the policy: don't stay silent - open up the conversation and educate employees around it - help managers understand how to talk to team members about it and be fully supportive of their needs.
- Outsource personalised support to experts: Menopause affects every woman differently, and the effects on both physical and mental health can vary massively - providing employees with access to expert support via myTamarin will enable everyone's challenges to be listened to and supported.
Mental health effects of the Menopause can significantly impact women in the workplace. To address these effects, workplaces can prioritise education and awareness, offer flexible work arrangements, implement wellness programs, provide individual expert support, encourage open communication and review policies to ensure inclusivity and support.
By creating a supportive and understanding environment, workplaces can help women navigate menopause while maintaining their mental well-being and productivity, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and thriving workforce.