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How to manage your wellbeing during menopause Though half the population will go through the menopause, it still remains a misconceived and under-supported stage of life. This guide offers information and advice to help you better understand the transitional period as well as signposting access to support.

What is menopause?

The term ‘menopause’ refers to the natural aging process when menstrual cycles come to an end due to a decline in oestrogen and progesterone levels. It usually occurs in individuals aged between 45 and 55 but can develop earlier or later than this range in some circumstances, too.

There are three types of menopause:

Natural menopause – this occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and menstruation ends naturally as the individual grows older.

Premature (early) menopause – this is when a menstrual cycle stops before the age of 45. It can happen naturally for no apparent reason, or as a result of certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue.

Artificial (surgical) menopause – this is when a surgical operation – such as a hysterectomy or an oophorectomy – causes immediate menopause.  

 

What happens during menopause?

Menopause affects everyone differently. That is, some individuals have no symptoms at all, while others experience noticeable physical and emotional changes that can last for days, weeks or years and may even affect their quality of life. 

Since experiences vary widely, it can often be difficult to know whether any physical or psychological symptoms that arise are directly the result of menopause. Trickier yet, there is currently no medical test that can be used to confirm whether someone is going through the menopause. 

This has resulted in the menopause sometimes being misdiagnosed for anxiety and depression. That’s because the hormonal changes associated with the menopause can also cause symptoms that are generally associated with these conditions, including feeling sad and low, experiencing a change in appetite, and losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed. 

  

While there is no rule of thumb for confirming menopause, there are some common indications to look out for. These include:
  

  • Hot flushes and night sweats 

  • Problems with sleep or concentration 

  • Tiredness and lack of energy 

  • Low mood or irritability 

  • Feeling tearful or overwhelmed with emotion 

  • Loss of interest or enjoyment 

  • Headaches, muscle or joint pain 

  • Heart palpitations and feelings of anxiety
     
      

It’s important to remember that the way you experience the menopause is unique to you and perfectly normal – whether you identify with many of these symptoms, just a few, or none at all

For more information on the signs and symptoms of menopause, please visit the NHS website.

How do I take care of myself during menopause?

  • Check-in with yourself

    Going through menopause can bring on a range of emotions – you may find that your feelings change from day to day and some days can seem more challenging than others.

    Take some time every now and then to assess your mood and make a note of any worries or troubling thoughts you may have. Consider what might be fuelling your concerns – perhaps you're experiencing new and unexplained changes that are weighing on your mind. You may find it helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms and take note of any patterns in thought, feelings or behaviour.

    It's important to acknowledge how you're feeling – increasing your self-awareness will help you to identify where you can make changes to improve your wellbeing and lead a happier, more fulfilling life. 
  • Make sleep a priority

    As your body adjusts to changes during menopause, it's natural to experience a shift in your sleeping pattern or habits. You may experience difficulty with settling in bed right away or find that you wake up early and are unable to go back to sleep.

    Prepare your body for rest by developing and sticking to a bedtime routine – heading for bed at the same time each night and allowing for between 8 and 9 hours of sleep. 

    Avoid using your phone, computer or laptop whilst in bed, as these are common distractions that could interfere with your rest. Wear light, loose clothing – such as pyjamas – to help you stay cool while you sleep, and experiment with having your room temperature between 18°C and 24°C to see what feels more comfortable for you. 
  • Exercise regularly

    Working your muscles not only helps to enhance your mood through the release of endorphins (‘feel-good chemicals’), it'll also go a long way in keeping aches, pains and joint stiffness at bay.

    To get started, choose an exercise routine you enjoy – that might be daily walks, perhaps a jog in the park, or a little Zumba for a fun workout that doesn't feel so much like exercise.

    However you prefer to get active, it's a good idea to pick something that feels manageable and enjoyable – that way you'll find it easier to stick to. Make fitness part of your routine by setting aside 20 minutes a day for engaging in a physical activity of your choice. You may want to block this time in your calendar or create a daily reminder in your phone to help keep you on track.
  • Stay connected with others

    Interacting with others is one of the simplest, but most effective things you can do to support your wellbeing during menopause.

    Having friends around can positively impact your thoughts and feelings – helping you through difficult times. Whether it's via Zoom, WhatsApp or a simple phone call, make a conscious effort to keep in touch with loved ones regularly.

    If you're feeling worried or anxious about the menopause, don't keep it to yourself – share what's on your mind with a close friend or family member. Maybe you've noticed a change in your mood, thinking or behaviour recently. Or perhaps you're finding it difficult to adapt to life’s changes. Whatever the case may be, speaking to someone about it can be helpful. 

Work and the menopause

With people now living and working longer than before, it's vital that staff are supported to stay well in the workplace. Menopause isn’t just a personal issue since it can impact on colleagues both directly or indirectly and should therefore be considered as an organisational issue.

  

As such, more organisations are now incorporating a menopause policy. Speak to your line manager or employee network to find out if yours is one of them and to seek advice and support. You may be able to get help for the symptoms you are experiencing, such as uniforms made from different materials to alleviate hot flushes, desk fans, flexible working, and other reasonable adjustments. 

Where can I get support?

For many, the menopause can be challenging and stressful and you may feel unable to manage the changes alone. Fortunately, there are a variety of organisations you can turn to for support.

Menopause Matters – for information and guidance on the menopause and managing menopausal symptoms.

Menopause Support – for free resources and access to the Menopause Support Network, available on Facebook.

The Menopause Charity – for information, guidance and support with all stages of menopause and managing menopausal symptoms.

Balance – Menopause Support App – for advice and guidance on supporting your wellbeing during menopause, tracking your symptoms, and access to personalised content.

Women’s Health Concern– for information and guidance on managing sexual health, wellbeing and lifestyle concerns during menopause.

The Daisy Network – for access to a support group of women who have experienced early menopause.

When to see a GP

In the event that symptoms are significantly impacting your everyday activity and affecting your quality of life, it’s important to get in touch with your GP as soon as possible. 

 

Your GP can assess your symptoms, provide a diagnosis, and advise on treatment including Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) which can help to relieve symptoms of the menopause. 

  

The aforementioned misdiagnosis of menopause means it’s important to return to your doctor if you feel you’re not getting the help you need. Consistently having your menopause symptoms misdiagnosed means a delay in treatment and could have significant repercussions on your health.  

  

Find out how we can help you

If you work, or have worked, for a UK bank and would like to speak to someone for help with managing your wellbeing during menopause, call our free and confidential Helpline on 0800 0234 834. We’re open 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays).

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