Surviving Perimenopause at the Office
Hot flashes, scattered short term memory, irritability, and crime scene menstrual cycles that SVU Bagdad would be frightened to witness, are all part and parcel of the perimenopause stage which can last a staggering 10 years or more for some women.
Being able to function when you’ve been awake with night sweats, insomnia, and anxiety is a real issue for women in the workforce but not one they are likely to discuss with their employer, especially if it’s a male dominated field.
While men aren’t likely to discuss their need for Viagra at work, women are as unlikely to discuss their need for a nap. What does or doesn’t happen at home in bed remains as privileged as a trip to Vegas.
So what can you do to make it through these challenging years and remain as productive and cogent as you were before hormones erased your memory?
Finding a Good Doctor
First you need a doctor who specializes in perimenopause. Just because you’ve been going to the same gynecologist for the past 20 years and they’ve helped you deliver your babies and taken care of your pap smears does not mean that she’s the best gynecologist for your perimenopausal years.
Caring for moms-to-be is quite different than dealing with women who are at the end of their fertility and struggling with hormonal imbalances in a much different way than during pregnancy.
Finding a doctor who will help you find a way to balance your hormones, tone down anxiety, help you with depression, check for uterine tumors that are more common in this age, and most importantly, not dismiss your struggles as simply something you’ll “just have to deal with as a woman” can be a daunting task.
Your best bet in finding a doctor who will understand your current situation is by going through NAMS, the North American Menopause Society. You can google NAMS to find a doctor near you who specializes in menopause.
Second, and more practically, you’ll need a survival kit you keep in your car and in your office that holds:
A completely new outfit
Plus an extra blouse
A few pair of underwear
Tampons and pads
Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen
A heating pad
A pillow and blanket
This may sound extreme until you have a cycle come out of nowhere and it’s hurricane strength. Staining your pants can easily happen and the hot flashes may make you need a fresh blouse at any time. Drugs for headaches and joint pain, as well as fresh deodorant for the aftermath of a hot flash, a heating pad for your aching back while sitting at your desk, and if you ever have the time to lay down for 15 minutes, you’ll want to get as comfortable as possible as soon as possible and that’s where the pillow and blanket come in. You also might want to keep a yoga mat if you don’t have a couch to lie on.
Not everyone has a private office so a quick trip out to your car at lunch for a cat nap can work.
Check out the app PZIZZ for your smart phone. It will give you a quick guided imagery into a nap phase and then gently wake you back out. You can set it for 5 minutes or even overnight to help get you into a deeper sleep cycle.
A desk fan is a non-negotiable.
Memory Lapses are REAL
Third, write EVERYTHING down.
Brain fog and forgetfulness are not myths. There will be a moment when you look your co-worker in the face for the 1,000th time and for the life of you, you will not be able to recall his name.
Whether it’s the poor sleep or hormones, memory is affected. If you don’t want to forget your meetings and your child’s dental exam, you naturally put it in your calendar, but events and tasks that wouldn’t require a second thought now need a trumpeter and an interpreter.
Where before you might be able to jot yourself a quick note saying “call John,” now your missives will look like a 16-year-olds diary, call John (the one with brown hair) at XYZ (corporate not local), Re: accounting chart page 17 (make copy of page for personal reference).
Depression and Anxiety
Another frequent and problematic symptom of perimenopause is anxiety. Even if you’ve never been anxious before, hormones can cause heart palpitations and feelings of restlessness that may make you feel like you’re crawling out of your skin or having a heart attack.
Learning how to meditate and breathe deeply at the drop of a hat is paramount in conquering these blow ups.
As soon as you feel an attack arise, slow breathing in through the nose and out of the mouth can help center you and get the moment to pass more easily. Try making your exhales twice as long as your inhales, even watching the second hand on a clock to time the breath.
This is an excellent time to take up gentle restorative yoga and meditation to learn how to manage your physical and emotional upheaval.
Remember, at the end of this journey there will be no more periods and you can be more vibrant than ever!
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