Why we must talk about menopause and its impact on leadership
Let’s talk menopause
Yes! I’m going there.
Why? Because your ability to lead effectively and confidently relies on you being at your best – both physically and mentally.
And let me just say, from my experience, the transition through perimenopause and into menopause can be a pretty rough ride. Sleep disturbance, foggy brain and the unexplained aches and pains (or whatever curve ball your body wants to throw up for you)… can all take a toll on your ability to think clearly and to have the energy required to tackle the demands of a leadership role.
Until recently, menopause was a taboo subject.
It wasn’t widely explored in the media and it’s not something that was spoken about at home let alone in the workplace. Thankfully that’s starting to shift. More and more public figures are speaking about their experiences and women are becoming more willing to share their stories within their social and business circles.
To say I was in the dark about what to expect and how to transition gracefully through this natural stage of life would be an understatement.
All I knew about menopause until recently was that I could expect a few annoying hot flushes and look forward to the monthly bleeding to stop. I thought it was just a short phase of a year or two that needed to be endured and then it would be done.
I was clueless and misinformed, even though I’m probably about 5 years into this crazy transition.
In recent weeks I’ve begun a journey of exploration to get an understanding of what’s happening to my body and how to take back some control and make peace with the changes.
I want to be able to lead bravely and contribute in a big way – and feel confident in my body but that’s almost impossible while I struggle with the sleepless nights, weight gain, hot flushes, migraines, aching joints and forgetfulness.
So yes – being a great leader AND finding the best way for YOU to gracefully transition through the stages of menopause go hand in hand.
So, what have I learnt so far?
That this period of a woman’s life can take on average 7 years from the first signs of perimenopause through to menopause. SEVEN YEARS! Who knew!
I’ve learnt that many GPs don’t have the time or the expertise to help us navigate this experience. I’ve sought support and assistance on 3 occasions from different GPs and have come away each time even more confused and with nothing more than a list of drugs to consider.
I’ve learnt that keeping in shape once our hormones begin to shift takes something different from the regular advice about calories in versus energy out and that high intensity exercise that raises stress levels may actually be having a negative effect.
I’ve learnt that skipping my beloved daily coffee and few drinks over the weekend have been a sacrifice worth making to restore my sleep patterns and my sanity.
And most importantly I’ve learnt that this is not a time to be endured. There are lots of options (medical, herbal and lifestyle changes) for relieving the mental, emotional and physical impacts.
Here are some things to think about if you too are in this phase of life.
1. Find the right health provider for you. Sadly, many GPs don’t have the time, inclination or the knowledge to provide you the support and advice you are looking for. If your usual GP is unable to provide you with the answers to your questions – seek advice from another GP or health provider.
2. Get educated. Go in search of experts in this field. Read their books. Listen to their podcasts. Sign up for short courses and workshops. Speak to your girlfriends. Talk to your mother about her experience. Remember – knowledge is power.
A book I’ve found helpful is: Hormone Repair Manual – every woman’s guide to healthy hormones after 40 by Lara Briden.
3. Don’t settle. This is NOT a time to endure. It’s a time to reconnect with your body. Notice what’s shifting and changing. And then go in search of answers. Life is too short to be struggling. You have too much to give and contribute to settle for feeling less than fabulous.
4. Embrace the change. Remember that this is a normal process that all women transition through. Embrace it. Honour it. Use this time to focus on you, ensuring you have a happy and healthy body to support your professional and personal goals for many years to come.
I am by no means an expert on Menopause – but I am an expert on what it takes for mid career women to step up to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition. To lead effectively, confidently and with impact requires you to be at your best – not struggling through a range of vague, life sapping symptoms going unchecked.