How to perform at the same level at work during perimenopause

perimenopause at work

Whether it’s disrupted sleep that’s messing with your productivity or low-level anxiety that your next hot flush is going to hit, perimenopause symptoms can knock your confidence at work. Here, Anna Allerton, perimenopause executive coach, shares her expert advice on surviving and thriving through your perimenopause symptoms at work…

Going through the perimenopause and bossing it at work can feel like an impossible task.

As a testament to this, a landmark report by the Fawcett Society found that nearly half of menopausal women say their symptoms affect their ability to work, with women most likely to find sleeping (84%), brain fog (73%), and anxiety or depression (69%) most difficult. To make matters worse, 8-in-10 menopausal women say their workplace has no basic support in place for them, and 39% have cited anxiety or depression as the main reason for their absence at work, rather than talking specifically about perimenopause.

Okay, enough doom and gloom, talk to me about the positives

The good thing about all this research is that the taboo of talking about perimenopause and menopause at work is gradually breaking down. This stage of life doesn’t have to be a struggle that you keep to yourself and could even serve up a revelatory opportunity to shake off old habits (like taking on too much).

“This is the time to do all the things that you’ve always wanted to do,” says Anna. “As an example, you’ve probably always wanted to delegate more, set better boundaries and be your true, authentic self at work. Well, now’s the time to do it!”

How do I manage perimenopausal symptoms and stay on top of my game?

Here, Anna dives into the most common symptoms and shares her top tips for managing them better at work so that you can keep performing at the same level (or even better).

1. Managing brain fog… 

Delegate more and get comfortable saying ‘no’

We’re all a bit cr*p at delegating – ‘if I want something done right, I’ll do it myself’ and all that. But, if you know that you’re suffering and things are piling up, one of the only things that will truly help is offloading. 

If you’re at max capacity, saying ‘no’ to extra projects is one of the simplest ways to feel less overwhelmed. And you don’t have to justify yourself.

Recent research found that a dose of aerobic exercise could help to stave off the fog and improve your memory

Say it with me: ’Thanks for asking me to be involved, but I don’t have the capacity right now.’ You’ll probably command more respect from your colleagues in the long-run, as they’ll know that when you do say ‘yes,’ you’ll do things really well. 

Embrace note-taking

Curb the anxiety of forgetting what was said or the actions you promised to take off the back of a meeting by taking a notepad and pen or your laptop to all your meetings and take simple bullet-pointed notes.

If you’re digitally minded, dictation apps are a great solution, enabling you to voice your takeaways so that you can refer back to them later. Another tried-and-tested favourite is digital Post-Its on your laptop.

If the meeting is a big one, record it via Zoom or whatever audio app you have on your phone to watch back.

Distract yourself

When things get really foggy, distract yourself by going for a walk or a run –  recent research found that a dose of aerobic exercise could help to stave off the fog and improve your memory.

Find a wing-person

It’s time to work smarter, not harder, so don’t be afraid to lean into your deputy or team at work when the fog drifts in. Find someone who can have your back in meetings, work collaboratively across projects, and who can seamlessly cover you if you have time off for appointments and treatment. You can also use your cyclemapping data to give them a heads up when you know you’re likely to forget or need a little support. 

2. Dealing with hot flushes

Choose where you sit wisely

If you’re able to hot desk, situate yourself near a corridor or exit, so you’re just steps away from a dose of fresh air. Having a fan on your desk can be quite exposing, but if this feels comfortable, then it can be a game-changer – just don’t let your colleagues hog it during the summer months.

Go easy on alcohol and caffeine

There’s no need to deprive yourself of your vices completely – many of us rely on that trusty flat white just to get through the day. However, now’s the time to think more about what you’re putting in your body. 

During perimenopause, it’s pretty much prescribed that you do the things that bring your cortisol levels down and your self-esteem up

A study by the Mayo Clinic found a link between caffeine intake and more intense hot flushes and night sweats, while researchers also found that alcohol can worsen these symptoms. So, on the days you’re in the office and worried about heating up, switch to decaf and opt for low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks at lunch (if you're lucky enough to go out for lunch, that is).

Curb anxiety by giving your team a heads up

The anxiety of a hot flush coming on during an important meeting or pitch is enough to throw you off your game. If you feel you can, be open with your team about what you’re going through. This way, you’ll feel more empowered to be honest and can help you shake off the worry: ‘I’m having a hot moment, I’m just going to take myself away for a minute’. 

Be smart with what you wear

Light layers will give you options, depending on your body temperature. If you wear a uniform to work and it’s too heavy or non-breathable, channel the England Lionesses (who recently changed their white shorts for dark blue ones to make them more period-friendly) and campaign for lighter clothing with more breathable material. 

3. Combatting a lack of confidence or anxiety…

Don’t skip relaxation time

We know that activities like yoga, breathwork and meditation work to keep our anxiety levels down, and yet we’re all guilty of not doing them regularly enough. However, during perimenopause, it’s pretty much prescribed that you do the things that bring your cortisol levels down and your self-esteem up. 

With this in mind, push yourself to go for a walk or fit in some exercise, especially on those days when you’re feel overwhelmed.

Embrace self-compassion

When your confidence takes a dip, one easy way to show yourself some compassion is taking a moment at the end of each week to jot down something that you were proud of or that went well. It takes about 90 seconds, but just seeing it in black and white can be powerful.

4. Balancing the effects of disrupted sleep…

Get to know when you’re most productive

Disrupted sleep can play havoc with your working day, so try to figure out how and when you perform at your best. Is it a case of moving meetings out from 9-10 am, or is it about shifting your day so that you start a little later and work a little later? Tap into your tracking data to understand when you’ll feel more or less knackered and – if you can – plan your hybrid days around that. 

Prioritise your breaks

If you’re going through an energy slump at work, try to duck outside for a walk – even better if you can get to the local park. Connecting with nature can really help you feel more grounded and energised, even when you’re running on empty.

If you’ve had a really sh*tty sleep or you’re working to a shift pattern, you could negotiate with your line manager to spread your breaks out instead of lumping it all into your lunch break. Taking a couple of 20-minute breaks can allow your body the time and space to recoup. 

5. Managing heavy periods or ‘flooding’...

Negotiate some WFH days

Flooding is when your period is so heavy on certain days that you can leak through your tampon or towel, and sometimes through your clothes. Manage the situation by planning to work from home on these days, or at least avoid client meetings or big presentations if you can.

Be prepped with clothing options

Try wearing darker colours so that, if you do leak, it’s not immediately obvious if you’re out and about. If you are commuting in, make sure you take a spare pair of kickers, leggings or trousers so you don’t have to panic.

6. Keeping the rage at bay…

Give yourself a beat

When you feel a wave of irritation or anger, try your best to pause. Ask yourself whether what’s annoyed you really matters and allow yourself some time to process it. You might want to try a mantra-in-the-moment, like ‘This will pass’ or ‘Let it go.’  

Try breathwork for anger

Breathing exercises or techniques that help to alter your mental or emotional state can be very effective for anger. Check out the breathwork practices for rage in the Jennis programmes. There are also HIIT runs that can help to clear your head and replace the rage with endorphins.

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