Today, we are encouraged to bring our whole selves to work. This should be the standard of course but to do this, we need to make sure we are armed with information, are ready to listen to what is needed, learn how to have difficult conversations and be ready to act. Menopause affects everybody in one way or another, either because you are going through this yourself, or you may be living or working with somebody who is living through this phase of life.

Let’s look at this from a work perspective.

Employee Perspective

Anxiety is listed as one of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. (For clarity, one is considered menopausal when one has not had a period for a year or more).

Anxiety is classified as a heightened state of nervousness with very marked physical cognitive and behavioral attributes which range from mild to debilitating and can be experienced by anybody at any stage of life.

What is important when we look at Anxiety is to understand that it is a natural process to have levels of anxiety, some of which will be hormonal rather than environmental, especially when we are looking at menopause as a direct cause of anxiety. It is also important to recognise that the human body and psyche are complicated and therefore different for every unique person.

Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Palpitations
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.

The person who is living with anxiety may also experience behavioral / cognitive symptoms such as:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling irritated
  • Twitchy movements, nail biting, rapid speech.
  • Heightened alertness
  • Uncontrollable over-thinking
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

As you can see, these symptoms could cause incredibly significant issues when one is working. Not only is there the worry about what is happening in the body as well as all the physical symptoms of peri/menopause, there is also the added worry about how others perceive the individual.

Here are some tips to think about when navigating anxiety at work

  1. Anxiety is part of you right now, but you are not in any danger, even though it feels like you are.
  2. The workplace can help you manage your anxieties by providing space and opportunities for time outs and safe processes, such as going out for a walk or having a quiet space in the office.
  3. Talk to a trusted colleague about your anxiety and let them know when you are having difficulties.

If your anxiety is causing marked difficulties, reach out to your care provider, doctor, specialist and seek advice. There are lots of things that you can explore that will help you navigate this challenging time.

The main thing is to take care of yourself and be kind. Your body is doing something amazing in the big scheme of things and it is important to recognise the process. Acceptance is key to processing.

Employer Essentials

An employer has a legal responsibility to make sure that staff are kept safe at work, and this includes mental health under the Health and Safety Act of 1974. It is important however to look at the individual and their needs before legislation, which can sometimes be complicated. EG, Anxiety could also be listed as a disability under the Disability Act 2010.

Here are the essentials that all organisations need to be aware of when providing support for individuals in the workplace.

  • You have a duty of care towards staff which means that employers must do all they can to support employees’ health, safety, and wellbeing.
  • You cannot discriminate against somebody with a mental health difficulty under the Equality Act and the law is specific therefore research and understanding of the responsibilities that need to be undertaken.
  • You must make reasonable adjustments for your employee, and this means that a close relationship and dialogue needs to be maintained. Always from a position of compassion and empathy please!
  • Get trained! This should not be an HR thing. It is important that the place of work is supportive and empathetic. This means that although training should not be forced, it certainly should be offered and communicated.

There is a lot of information out there that can help you understand your responsibilities in this subject and remember, it’s all about helping to create an open and supportive environment for staff to work in.