Menopausal women are similar to marines! Adapt and overcome; it can be done!
Ok, some of you may not feel like this now; If you are struggling, then hang in there. I was totally broken, so I completely understand how you are feeling. Some of you may have already overcome, if not then this is food for thought as I work with lots of women, my message to you is you can adapt and overcome! —this is why I think menopausal women are like marines…
Marines are taught to be able to overcome any obstacle, which serves them well in the chaos of combat. This concept is encapsulated in the Marine slogan “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”, which is a mindset that allows Marines to deal with any physical, mental, or spiritual hardship.
Menopause is also referred to as “The Change” and change we must! I had to change how I worked and managed my diary when I was suffering with debilitating symptoms.4
When I was in the throes of peri-menopause I could no longer be in my studio to teach a client at 6.30am—waking at 3am with raging night sweats and anxiety was crippling. Along with painful joints and severe fatigue, I had to rethink my entire day.
I was lucky to be working with other PT’s that were able to take over some of my clients so I did not let them down and the studio still maintained a revenue but personally I took a hit financially, so I had to look at other ways to supplement that lost income. First, I had to accept that I was changing. That wasn’t easy at the beginning—I felt as if I was failing in some way, which is a common for women to feel during this time.
A decrease in hormones; just some of the physical affects
I have always been good with my nutrition, but I knew I had to step it up, taking more supplements such as collagen to support my joints as a decrease of oestrogen affects the collagen in our joints causing pain and stiffness.
A decrease in progesterone means our pain threshold is lowered, therefore taking magnesium helps with both pain management and better-quality sleep; magnesium baths are great after a long day on your feet. Even though I was less active I was still putting my body through stress. So, for a woman in any job these things are a great for pain and stress management.
Remembering to drink more water; we have oestrogen receptors in our brains and sometimes the thirst signal can be blocked compared to 10 years ago, hydration, as you know is so important for many body functions, but loosing more water through hot flushes meant that I needed to up my intake consciously because I just wasn’t feeling as thirsty as I used to; brain fog and fatigue can be so debilitating but looking at hydration and nutrition can help.
As an instructor sometimes we can overlook our own body care, simple stretching at the end of the day will help release the body and mind. So, for anyone, from the most sedentary to a really active individual simple things such as mobility and stretching can help massively.
A decrease in testosterone means we loose muscle mass; at the time I couldn’t go heavier with weight training because of injuries and menopausal pain, but not I am back lifting again and it feels great!
I am glad to say that I am now over the worst, but I know that I could not function with the timetable that I followed a few years ago. I also do not have the desire or the ability to be waking so early and being as busy as I was!
Taking control of my symptoms and injuries and accepting that I was changing was a turning point for me—I really did have to stop and look after my physical and mental health.
I pulled on my years of experience and decided to look at my later slots in the day. They were off-peak, allowing me to catch up on sleep and rest and I could avoid travelling during rush hour.
Then I looked at different demographics that would fill in my off-peak slots, for example, pre- and post-natal women, a slightly older demographic that needed help rehabbing injuries, or perhaps women wanting to get back into exercise again after years of putting family first… Ring any bells?
Looking at your skill set and seeing how you can utilise your talents is empowering: scary at first, but you will be surprised at what you can achieve!
Women who reach menopause can suffer with self-doubt, lack of confidence and anxiety along with physical symptoms. These can be managed by either medication (such as HRT and anti-depressants) or for some, becoming more physically active and making simple changes to diet, exercise and practicing mindfulness. CBT is a great way of working through those negative thoughts and meditation and daily positive affirmations are a great way to reinforce a positive mindset. A strong body really does equal a strong mind—if you already have a strong body perhaps now is the time to take up meditation and mindfulness and making sure you make time for you!
What workplace environment do you work in?
Sharing my knowledge of fitness but also menopause comes in many forms—helping women in my studio in London Bridge, at home SKYPE sessions, social media, my blogs, and during the past year also speaking at organisations to help them look at ways in which they can help their workforce.
Sometimes just making small, reasonable adjustments within the workplace can have a massive positive impact on a woman which will help her cope and maintain her role. A small change can go a long way. In some cases, perhaps changing roles is also an option.
Some women step down from roles with the understanding that it will not be forever—we are working longer than previous generations so it is really important during this life stage to make sure we have ways to cope not just short, but also long term.
I have spoken with and helped various organisations, including the police, nursing home staff, hospitals, the CPS and other government sites. Some of the advice given:
• Police officers—offering more uniforms so women do not have keep continually washing and wearing blouses spoilt from hot flushes.
• Allowing women police officers to take their fitness tests at a different time to younger male officers. This suggestion is not based on performance—the anxiety of being tested against younger male officers meant that women would perhaps phone in sick. Making that small, reasonable adjustment means that an officer will not suffer with anxiety leading up to the test.
• NHS—looking to change the colour of uniforms from dark to light so they do not show sweat marks if women are suffering with many hot flushes.
• How to open up conversations in the workplace by running workshops for mental health first aid. Encouraging men to attend and talking about how menopause affects women’s mental health, as many of workshops I deliver do not have many men and this needs to change.
In the last few years organisations have begun to support mental health at work, thus opening up the conversation and expanding on the other symptoms of menopause.
It is really hard for many women and I know that some organisations have a long way to go. I receive many messages from women each week who have suffered in the workplace, being forced out of their jobs, or just cannot face carrying on. This not only has a detrimental effect on these women, but on their families as well.
If you have a good manager, or someone in the team perhaps it would be a good idea to have a chat—sometimes two heads are better than one. Look at your symptoms and your workplace and decide how your menopause is affecting your work. Then see how you can make some adjustments to make sure your menopause is as smooth as it can be.
Remember, nothing lasts forever and we are all on a journey: sometimes we fear change, but change can bring new and exciting opportunities.
Good luck, it would be lovely to hear your stories—good or bad!