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Simple wellness strategies to manage perimenopause at the workplace

Hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause can severely impact women's careers. Understanding the phase and its symptoms is important to find solutions

Perimenopausal women can experience hot flushes, mood swings and insomnia.
Perimenopausal women can experience hot flushes, mood swings and insomnia. (Pexels/MART PRODUCTION)

Menopause marks an important milestone in women's lives. A woman is considered to be on menopause when she hasn't had her period for a year. In India, this process usually occurs in women around the age of 50. Natural menopause, however, is a slow process. In its early phase, it manifests as perimenopause, where women experience the symptoms of menopause, before their period actually stops. This phase may last anywhere between 3 years to as long as 10 years and usually happens to women in their 40s. 

Also read: Navigating breast health during late 30s: Essential tips for mothers

Due to hormonal fluctuations, perimenopausal women can experience hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, mood swings, cognitive changes and insomnia leading to fatigue . The symptoms may vary from one individual to another, but generally speaking, perimenopause tends to affect the quality of life of women, including their performance at work. The 40s are mostly when women are at the peak of their careers. Be that as it may, it is not the end of the world. Instead, understanding the phase and its symptoms can help devise strategies to manage perimenopause better at the workplace. Here are a few easy solutions that can help: 

Awareness and understanding the problem:  Most times, women undergoing perimenopause are themselves unaware of it, owing to inconsistent symptoms caused by changing hormone levels in the body. Perimenopause is the transitional phase when the body produces less eggs and hormones. Getting a professional diagnosis and gaining clarity about the condition can help you chalk a plan for how you want to tackle work pressure and deadlines while taking care of your health. 

Communication: Understanding the condition can make it easy to discuss the issue with your manager, especially when the symptoms of perimenopause are overwhelming. As uncomfortable as it sounds, having a candid discussion with your manager (s) may lead to them offering solutions – such as flexible work hours or hybrid work – and help to manage this unpredictable phase. 

Stress management: Perimenopause is the time when women are highly stressed. Work and family pressures only add to the problem. Sign up for well-being initiatives such as yoga classes and mindfulness training. Seeking counselling is another good recommendation. Also, do not hesitate to take frequent breaks at work. Relaxation is not only good, it is necessary for you.   

Prioritise self care: Eat your meals on time, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly and make sure to make time for your hobbies that help you relax. If your workplace has a gym or offers access to free healthcare consultations, make full use of them.  

Make your workplace comfortable: If you are experiencing hot flashes regularly, ensure you have a fan or AC nearby. At the least, carry a cold water bottle. Get an ergonomic chair that supports your neck, back and hips, and keeps you comfortable. Take planned breaks through the day to stretch your legs or take a walk. Doing that can leave you feeling less tired and more productive.

Reach out to close ones: It's always a good idea to talk to your family members, friends and colleagues and ask for their help. For one, it offers you tremendous emotional support. Also, knowing that others have been through a similar experience can leave you feeling less alone. 

Consider medical support: If symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, disordered sleep patterns and mood changes are severe and are affecting your quality of life, consider going in for Menopausal Hormonal Therapy (MHT), but only if other non-hormonal treatments have proven ineffective. Do note that initiation of MHT should be done only after discussing risks and benefits with your health practitioner. MHT can be given in the form of pills, skin patch, sprays, gel or cream forms or vaginal oestrogen. 

You may also need to undergo a pap smear to rule out cervical cancer, a pelvic ultrasound to detect any problems in the uterus and ovary, and a mammography or sonomammography to rule out any issues in the breasts. Also add calcium supplements to your diet as prescribed by your family doctor. 

Managing perimenopause with a job can often be challenging. However, with a little understanding, self care, and a lot of support and empathy from family and friends, you will not merely survive, but thrive, in your workplace.  

Dr. Asha Dalal is Director – Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Well Woman Center, Sir H N Reliance Hospital, Mumbai. 

Also read: How overwork is impacting tech professionals’ health

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