If you're a woman who is either going through menopause or anticipating it in the near future, you might be curious about the cognitive changes that can occur during this phase of life. Menopause affects women in various ways, including physically, emotionally, and even neurologically. In this blog post, we'll explore the cognitive symptoms of menopause, the growing initiatives for menopause-friendly workplaces, and practical advice to help you navigate this transition with confidence.
Understanding the Cognitive Symptoms of Menopause
During menopause, you may experience a range of cognitive symptoms that can sometimes catch you off guard. It's important to remember that these changes are a normal part of the hormonal shifts happening in your body. Let's delve into some common cognitive symptoms and their impact:
Memory lapses: You may notice occasional forgetfulness or difficulty remembering certain details. This can manifest as forgetting names, misplacing items, or struggling to recall specific information.
Concentration difficulties: Maintaining focus and concentration can become challenging, especially when multitasking or engaging in complex tasks. It might take more effort to stay on track and complete tasks efficiently.
Brain fog: Many women describe a sense of mental cloudiness or fogginess during menopause. It can feel like your thoughts are not as sharp or clear as they used to be.
Mood swings and emotional changes: Menopause can also bring about emotional shifts, including mood swings, irritability, and increased anxiety or sadness. These emotional changes can impact cognitive functioning.
The Link to ADHD and Burnout
Interestingly, the symptoms experienced during menopause can sometimes resemble those associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or burnout. It's essential to recognise that menopause-related cognitive symptoms are distinct from ADHD or burnout. However, if you have a pre-existing ADHD diagnosis or are experiencing burnout, menopause symptoms can exacerbate these conditions. If you suspect overlapping symptoms, consulting a healthcare professional can help provide clarity and tailored support.
Creating Menopause-Friendly Workplaces
The recognition of menopause as an important workplace issue is growing, leading to initiatives for menopause-friendly environments. While it's gained traction in the UK, the USA are now paying attention too.
The impact of women experiencing menopause symptoms in the workplace cannot be underestimated.
Menopause brings about a range of physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that can significantly affect a woman's ability to perform at her best. Cognitive symptoms like memory lapses and difficulty focusing can hinder productivity and efficiency. The combination of these symptoms can result in decreased work performance, increased absenteeism, and potential burnout.
It is crucial for workplaces to recognise and address the unique challenges faced by menopausal women, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes their well-being and productivity.
The research shows that menopause affects companies in the following ways:
Lost Productivity: A study published in the journal Menopause in 2015 estimated that menopause-related symptoms could lead to an average reduction of 1.4 hours of work per week per woman, resulting in a potential loss of productivity. However, it's important to note that the economic impact may vary across industries and individual circumstances.
Healthcare Costs: Menopausal symptoms may lead to increased healthcare utilisation and related costs. According to a study published by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in 2018, menopausal women reported higher healthcare expenditures compared to premenopausal women, including expenses related to prescription medications, doctor visits, and other treatments.
Workforce Participation: Menopause can sometimes influence a woman's decision to leave or modify her work arrangements. A report published by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) in 2020 highlighted that menopause-related symptoms can contribute to early retirement or reduced workforce participation, potentially impacting a woman's income and long-term financial security.
Absenteeism costs - The Mayo Clinic published a survey in 2021 estimating that about 10 percent of women ages 45 to 60 had taken time off in the last year in the United States because of menopause symptoms, costing employers about $1.8 billion.
Here are some steps being taken to support women during this transition:
Education and awareness: Companies are starting to prioritise education about menopause, ensuring that employees, managers, and colleagues understand its impact. This includes training programs, informational resources, and open discussions.
Accommodations and flexibility: Menopause-friendly workplaces offer accommodations such as temperature control, access to fans, modified uniforms for comfort, and flexible work arrangements to manage symptoms effectively.
Mental health support: Some companies are implementing mental health initiatives that include counselling services, employee assistance programs, and resources specifically tailored to menopause-related emotional challenges.
Working With Menopause - How To Navigate The Cognitive Impact
To navigate the cognitive impact of menopause, here are some practical tips and coaching strategies:
Stay organised: Use calendars, reminders, and to-do lists to help manage tasks and appointments effectively. Digital tools and smartphone apps can be valuable allies in keeping track of important information.
Practice self-care: Prioritise self-care activities that support your overall well-being, including regular exercise, quality sleep, a balanced diet, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Seek support: Share your experience with trusted friends, family members, or support groups. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can provide validation, advice, and emotional support.
Advocate for yourself: Don't hesitate to communicate your needs to your employer or colleagues. Be open about your menopause journey and discuss potential accommodations or adjustments that can optimise your work performance.
As you work during menopause, remember that you are not alone in this journey. By understanding the cognitive symptoms, recognising the importance of menopause-friendly workplaces, and implementing practical strategies, you can embrace this transformative phase with confidence. Be kind to yourself, seek support when needed, and embrace the wisdom that comes with this new chapter of your life.
Ready to reclaim your productivity and overcome burnout associated with menopause?
Remember, menopause is a unique journey for every woman, and it's essential to approach it with self-compassion and patience. Embrace the changes, seek the support you need, and take pride in your resilience as you navigate this transformative phase.
If you need extra support, why not get personalised coaching to help buffer you during menopause. Contact me today for a complimentary consultation and let's embark on this transformative journey together.
Don't let the symptoms of menopause hinder your success – take charge now!
Mayo Clinic: Menopause Symptoms: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397
Harvard Health Publishing: The Cognitive Effects of Menopause: https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/the-cognitive-effects-of-menopause
Forbes: Menopause Is The Next Frontier In Workplace Equity: https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2022/07/06/menopause-is-the-next-frontier-in-workplace-equity/?sh=3fbc53467cbe