World Menopause Day is held on the 18th October every year to raise awareness of the menopause, break the stigma, and provide supportive options to help improve the health and wellbeing of all women going through the menopause.
In 2022, the theme for World Menopause Day is cognition and mood. Many people associate the menopause with physical symptoms such as hot flushes, headaches or migraines which are worse than normal, joint pains, or difficulty sleeping, but there are many psychological symptoms which can also be challenging.
Research from The Fawcett Society found that at some point in the menopause transition:
- 50% of people suffer with low mood or depression
- 70% of people experience brain fog
- 40-50% of people experience memory and concentration issues.
What symptoms of the menopause can affect cognition and mood?
Many women say that they can cope with the physical symptoms of the menopause, but symptoms that affect their mood and cognition can have a wider impact on their wellbeing, how confident they feel in life and work, and have an effect on their family life.
Symptoms of the menopause affecting cognition
- Brain fog
- Loss of concentration
- Inability to multi-task
- Loss of focus
Symptoms of the menopause affecting mood
- Mood swings
- Feeling low
What lifestyle changes can I make to support my transition into menopause?
Some people can experience menopausal symptoms for months or years, or the symptoms can change over time. There are some lifestyle changes you can make to help support yourself through the menopause:
- Make sure you get lots of rest and keep a regular sleep pattern- read more about the importance of sleep on your health.
- Eat a healthy diet; making sure you include calcium rich foods like cheese, milk, leafy green vegetables such as curly kale, soya drinks which have added calcium and breads made with fortified flour. Ensuring you eat calcium rich foods will help to keep your bones and teeth healthy.
- Make sure you get regular exercise, in particular, weight-bearing or resistance exercises, which are good for bone health. Some weight-bearing exercises include running, skipping, golf, hiking, brisk walking, or dancing. They help to strengthen your muscles, ligaments and joints which can help to prevent osteoporosis.
- Take a vitamin D supplement and get out in the sunshine, as this will also help to keep your bones healthy, and getting outside can help with mood too.
- Try doing relaxing exercises like meditation, tai chi and yoga, which can all help to make you feel your mind by making you feel calmer through sitting in a quiet space and breathing deeply.
- Try talking to other people who are going through the same thing, this could be friends, family or work colleagues. You might also like to try cognitive behavioural therapy or other talking therapies which can help with feelings of anxiety and low mood, and even assist with improving any sleep problems.
What Abbeyfield is doing to support our female employees
Earlier this year, Abbeyfield achieved accreditation as a menopause friendly employer from Henpicked, who champion this through their Menopause in the Workplace campaign.
At Abbeyfield we employ a high proportion of female employees (over 80%) and over 40% of our female employees are over the age of 50. It is essential that we support our female employees through the menopause.
We want to raise awareness and are passionate about supporting our staff through this part of their lives, through encouraging open conversations about menopause amongst our teams, and hosting virtual sofa sessions where staff can grab a hot drink and connect with colleagues to talk about the menopause. These sessions are friendly and relaxed and everyone is welcome, from those experiencing menopausal symptoms themselves, to those who want to find out more, perhaps to support a family member.
We’ve also put in place a menopause policy, have a dedicated section on our intranet which has a wide range of resources on the menopause for staff to have access to, and encouraged staff to share their story.
Gail is Human Resources Director at Abbeyfield, here she talks about her experience of menopause:
“I think I’ve had a relatively straightforward experience of menopause and count myself lucky in that regard. I expected the hot flushes – the windows were flung open in December and I was often in a t-shirt when temperatures were close to zero! My family complained about the cold but that wasn’t too bad. It was the less-well known facts of menopause that caught me out as I was so ill informed to be honest, and no one had ever really talked to me about menopause. Mostly I just became so anxious about the smallest of things; I could be close to tears about an upcoming phone call or a conversation that I imagined would be challenging (although these were usually conversations about pretty mundane stuff that I wouldn’t have given a thought to previously). I worked myself up into a real state sometimes. And then, the mood swings. I’m a calm person, but my goodness I got angry about some pretty minor things to the point that I felt I could explode over an unwashed plate left on the side. It was like this anger bubbling away inside. The brain fog I never attributed to menopause, until I got more educated about it. I recall one day being asked to do a relatively simple piece of work, but I just couldn’t process what I needed to do and this stress ball rose up inside me until I burst into tears in front of a colleague - embarrassing! Luckily she was very kind and helped me through, but it wasn’t until much later I realised it was menopause brain fog. Once I started talking to friends I became aware of the far ranging impact of menopause. Since Abbeyfield has decided to become a menopause friendly workplace I’ve taken the opportunity to educate myself and it’s been an eye opener. My advice would be – find out what you can, talk to people and get the conversation going. You are not alone.”