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One way or another, menopause affects everyone at some point. If you’re not experiencing symptoms yourself, you almost certainly know or work with someone who is. That’s why understanding its effects and being able to offer support and compassion is so important.
Women going through menopause can experience a wide range of physical, psychological, and hormonal symptoms. These symptoms often go unnoticed or ignored, which can impact confidence and increase anxiety. Lack of confidence or temporary difficulty in making decisions can lead to organisations losing talented, experienced women who thought they were experiencing cognitive decline. By perpetuating the stigma and embarrassment around menopause, we prevent women from seeking help and support.
But there are resources and solutions available to help women manage their symptoms and continue to thrive at work – and Dr Claire Kaye joins us this week to talk through what we can all do.
It starts with becoming more aware of the symptoms of menopause and recognising when they’re affecting us or our colleagues.
If you’re looking for support with menopause, lifestyle changes like sleep hygiene, exercise, and nutrition can help. There are also medications available, but coaching can have a huge impact.
We can educate ourselves and others about the symptoms and resources available, and seek out support from in-house Menopause Ambassadors, as well as support groups. If you’re experiencing menopause or perimenopause, coaching and medical support is available.
About the guests
Reasons to listen
- To understand more about the physical and mental symptoms of menopause, and how they can affect people’s work and personal lives.
- To learn about the importance of awareness, education, and support for people going through menopause, especially in the workplace.
- For resources and strategies to help you manage menopause symptoms, including lifestyle changes, medication, coaching, and group support.
What is the menopause
What can women do to help themselves?
Caring for yourself
Is it a midlife crisis?
What we tell kids about the menopause
[00:00:00] Chances are, whether it’s you or someone, close to you, you’re going to be affected by the menopause. If you’re a woman in your forties, or sometimes even earlier, you might experience brain fog, low confidence or difficulty making decisions as well as other physical symptoms. And often end up blaming yourself rather than menopausal changes. The important thing is to understand what’s going on. Remember you’re still you, and that support and help is at hand. And if you’re not someone who’s currently going through the menopause then keep listening, as myself and cage and GP, Claire Kaye discuss the menopause, what happens to us, and just why it can make us feel so bad, as well as some helpful tips and suggestions for surviving or even thriving through this difficult period. The more we understand the more we can make space and be compassionate.
[00:00:51] If you’re in a high stress, high stakes job like medicine, and you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, burning out or getting out are not your only options. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, and welcome to You Are Not a Frog.
[00:01:10] Rachel: It’s wonderful to have with me back on the podcast, Dr. Claire Kaye. Welcome back, Claire.
[00:01:14] Claire: Hi, thanks for having me.
[00:01:15] Rachel: Now, Claire is an executive career coach. She’s also a specialist in career development and perimenopause and menopause in the workplace. So that is a big topic, Claire. That’s what I think we wanna talk about today.
[00:01:28] Rachel: I must say, Claire, I didn’t really know much about the menopause, even as a GP, until maybe five years ago when lots of my friends started going through it, and then you’ve had all this stuff on the TV that’s come out about it. And I think, I must say, I have noticed some people going, oh yeah, here we go again, menopause, menopause, menopause.
[00:01:47] Rachel: But it’s such a, well, first of all, it’s an irritating attitude, but I think people, it does sometimes lead people just to ignore the issues, which, like you said, They affect everybody, they will affect you in your work, whether you are identified man, identified as a woman, or are going to go through the menopause, because it’s quite an insidious thing, isn’t it? It’s quite hidden, but it has such a big effect on people.
[00:02:13] Claire: Yeah, and I think the biggest thing is that because there’s been such a stigma for so long and now we’re starting to talk about it, I think you’re right, people do get bored of it, but that’s bored of it without really understanding it. It’s like, oh, I can’t bother to go to menopause training, it’s a tick box. But actually, we’re all working with and living with, as you say, or coming into contact with people who are going through the symptoms.
[00:02:36] Claire: And the biggest thing for me as a career coach is I find it so utterly devastating seeing very capable, accomplished women suddenly feel invisible and unable to do their job. And as a result, a huge proportion end up wanting to leave their roles and leave what they’re really good at. And I think as a community, as the NHS, we need to do as much as possible to support and raise awareness and educate and offer resources to that group of women to, in order not just so that it’s nice for them, but selfishly as well, so that we can maintain that experience and maintain that knowledge in the workforce and allow others to learn from them as opposed to lose them. And I think that’s what’s happening at the moment.
[00:03:27] Rachel: Yeah, so even if you’re not directly affected by the menopause, you’re right, it’s a really important thing for retention of workforce to keep people working, able to do their jobs at the top of their game for as long as possible.
[00:03:39] Rachel: Can we just though, very, very quickly for those people who aren’t that familiar with what the menopause does to people’s brains and how it affects people, can we just talk about the physical, physiological, hormonal thing first and then we’ll talk about a bit of the psychological stuff.
[00:03:54] Claire: Yeah, I think a lot of people think that when you’re going through the menopause, you have hot flushes and night sweats, and that’s true for a lot of people. But for about four or five years before you actually go through the menopause, when your periods actually stop, lots and lots of women are experiencing mental symptoms, which include things like poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, brain fog, low mood, low confidence, which is a massive one that I see, poor memory and then also other things like just sleeping badly, not due to hot flushes necessarily, but just insomnia, and things like joint pains, so there’s lots of other physical things as well.
[00:04:33] Claire: But for me as a coach, I see a lot of people coming to see me, a lot of women coming in and saying you know, I just can’t do this job anymore, I find it too stressful, I find decision making too hard. If we take doctors, for example, who I see a lot of, you know, I’m in a consultation, I’m doing something I’ve done 100 times before, And I sit there and I think, oh my goodness, I don’t know the dose of amoxicillin. Of course, I know the dose of amoxicillin, but I just can’t remember it. Or I’m going to name the name of the condition that I think it is for somebody, and I can’t remember the word. Or I go and go to introduce a patient to a member of staff, and I can’t remember their name. Or I’m in a meeting and a presentation, and somebody asks me a question, which, of course, I know the answer to. But I stand there in front of all these people and think, Oh, uh.
[00:05:18] Claire: And I can almost, the embarrassment that people feel, and this sense of loss of who they are, and this sense of invisibility almost, and almost just thinking, I’m not good at my job, and I can’t make decisions, and I’m really anxious, is overwhelming. I see it all the time, but so many people still, still, even with all this noise on menopause, even though we are healthcare professionals, don’t think, oh, could this be the menopause?
[00:05:43] Claire: And I see it day in, day out. I’ve experienced it personally, and I think that actually it’s really important that the mental side of it is something that we address, particularly for healthcare professionals. Because let’s face it, we are dealing with other people’s medical concerns, mental health concerns, and we need to be on, like I always say, you know, got to have your mojo. And during the perimenopause, a lot of people describe that they’ve kind of lost their mojo, they just don’t know, whereas instinctively they would know the answer to a question that comes from a patient, that they’re just not quite so sure, double checking, waking up in the night and thinking, oh, did I do the right thing with that patient? Not having the confidence in their decision making. When somebody else proposes another solution rather than sort of gathering the information from others and then coming to a conclusion themselves, as we were doing a multidisciplinary team, kind of almost feeling like they don’t have an opinion or are unable to contribute to anything and therefore going with somebody else’s view, and sort of discarding all their own experience.
[00:06:48] Claire: And a lot of people even though I hate this phrase, explicit come saying I’ve got imposter syndrome I’ve never had it before but I just can’t do this job and I think all of that, people often just don’t realize how bad it is. I have people that I’ve worked with who are very very accomplished consultants brilliant at their job, who have come to me saying I just can’t work, I am so anxious about the decisions I’m making, I don’t sleep for hours on end because I’m so terrified I’ve made the wrong decision and I’m double checking and triple checking and quadruple checking, and then going to others for reassurance. I’m driving my colleagues mad. I’m driving myself mad. And it makes me sad because it doesn’t have to be like that. And I think the biggest thing I want to get across is, in all of this is there are so many things you can do to help the symptoms. Not just medication, medication 100% great for lots of people, but not for everyone. But there is so much you can do. And one of those things is coaching.
[00:07:48] Rachel: Can I just say that thing about finding words? I was recording a podcast earlier and I was trying to remember the word for intervention or initial, I just could not remember the word and it’s like someone has tunneled out a portion of your brain, you just literally can’t find it. It will come back to you later or some other time 10 minutes later or something, it’s really irritating. Is that all due to the lack of oestrogen in the brain?
[00:08:12] Claire: Yeah, absolutely. But it’s not just estrogen. Testosterone plays a massive part as well. And I’m not sure that today is the right forum to be talking about all the hormonal side of it and the medical side of it because, you know, I don’t want to teach people to suck eggs. I mean, I know a lot of our audience are health care professionals and you’ve probably done a million menopause tutorials yourself. But I suppose it’s really important to understand that it’s multifactorial and it’s not only just the hormonal side of things. But it’s also environmental stuff.
[00:08:42] Claire: And you know, if you think about it, women of this age group, so we’re talking about early 40s. I know they usually say 45. But I, I see a lot of women in their early 40s, early 40s to sort of mid 50s and higher. And that’s the time when women are getting to the top of their game in their careers. And that’s also the time when they probably, if you’ve got a family of that got lots of things going on with the family, and also you’re sandwiched in the middle between also perhaps looking after or caring for an older generation, whether that’s parents, aunts, uncles, relatives, whoever. So there’s a huge amount on people at that point in their lives, as well as going through these symptoms.
[00:09:29] Claire: And it’s very easy, and I see this again all the time, people just go, well, this is just my life. I’m on call half the time, I’ve got to look after my kids, I’ve got to look after my parents, I’ve got financial concerns, I’ve got all these, I’ve got to run a service at work, it’s tough. So people just kind of poo well, this is just me. And they almost forget. Who they used to be and forget what they used to be able to do.
[00:09:53] Rachel: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I think also, you know, often, if you have a family, the kids are a bit older now, so they’re not the little kids that really need you, that respect you and admire you. Often, you’ve got teenagers who, let’s just face it, probably aren’t the best people for building up one’s confidence and esteem, end up thinking you’re just completely lame, end up often just sort of demanding a lot of your time and resources and just to take them places and to give them things. And that’s absolutely fine. That that’s that’s their job. I always think teenagers jobs is to separate themselves from the from the parents and become more and more independent but it doesn’t necessarily make you feel like you’re doing a great job of parenting and then you’re out and like you said, often you are getting to be in a much more senior position towards your sort of mid to late 40s. So you’re right, it’s like the perfect storm of life factors happening at once.
[00:10:47] Rachel: I was saying to my other half the other day, we’ve got quite a lot of stuff going on in our family. And, you know, a lot of it’s really good stuff, but it’s just a lot of stuff to remember. And sometimes I feel, even without a slightly menopausal brain, my brain would just be completely overloaded with stuff.
[00:11:01] Claire: And if you layer onto that, not having the confidence in work anymore, plus having physical symptoms in front of people, which people can feel mortified by, which we shouldn’t have to be. But you know, if you’re doing a presentation in front of lots of people or your department or you know, your GP practice, for example, and suddenly you get a hot flush and the whole room is looking at you, that’s incredibly challenging to cope with. And I think just not feeling as embarrassed or knowing that everybody in the room goes, oh, it’s a hot flush rather than, oh, she’s having a hot flush, that in itself dials back this feeling of not really being able to cope with this excessive amount that’s going on in people’s lives.
[00:11:41] Claire: And I suppose the point of today is really to talk about, yes, to acknowledge the sandwiched feeling, and that sense of overwhelm that you’re talking about, but also to give a real sense of realistic hope in the sense that I have seen lots of women who have been feeling almost desperate and ready to leave the NHS, actually find themselves and fall back in love with what they have always loved in their career. And that to me is a massive win for everybody.
[00:12:18] Claire: So I think it’s, it’s important that we touch on. And acknowledge the challenges because they’re massive. But it’s also really important, I think, throughout this conversation to to reassure people that it doesn’t have to be like that.
[00:12:35] Rachel: So for you, what would be the fundamental things that people are getting wrong that they could do to really, really help themselves?
[00:12:43] Claire: I think most importantly is for every woman listening to this to sit down and think, well, is my life just really busy or have I got some things here that I didn’t have before? So that notice bit is really important because it might just be your life is really busy and you’re a bit tired. That’s allowed, but it might be that you thought, oh, you know what, I introduced somebody at work the other day and I couldn’t remember their name. That was weird, because I’ve known them for 10 years. Oh, is that a symptom? Or you might be, gosh, I’m feeling really anxious about my decision making, or I’m finding it really difficult to make a decision. Is that just because I’m busy? Or actually is that, I was busy 10 years ago and I was able to make a decision. So is there a shift in how you seem to be compared to how you were before that seems abnormal.
[00:13:39] Claire: So a lot of people come to me and say, I feel really anxious and I’m not really an anxious person. And I’ve got nothing to really be anxious about. Obviously I’ve got a difficult job and stuff going on, but I’m not really anxious person. And I’m just worried about everything now. And that seems new and difficult. So, that notice bit for me is one of the biggest things and to say, is this new or is this actually something else?
[00:14:03] Rachel: And then when you’ve done that, maybe if you do think actually, no, this is new, this is different, what would be the next step?
[00:14:10] Claire: I think that depends on the individual and that’s really important, because there’s so many things out there that can help. So, you know, I just breezed past it but, you know, for a lot of people, just starting with some really simple things like lifestyle is really good. So, all the things that we already know. Some sleep hygiene, looking at, you know, your diet. You know, have I got a nutritious diet that’s well balanced and what does that mean in menopause? You know, what am I doing from the exercise point of view? Am I exercising? Actually, have I turned into a couch potato? And if I did some exercise, you know, a few times a week and really prioritize that, how would that lift my mood? How would that make me feel about everything from work to home, would that be enough? And for some women, just even those lifestyles measures, those taking control is enough to make them feel a bit better.
[00:15:01] Claire: And also, a lot of menopausal women are deficient in vitamins, and even if they have a good diet, so really thinking about your nutrition, thinking about your magnesium, your zinc, et cetera, really looking at your diet and thinking about, am I getting enough of all the right things is really important.
[00:15:18] Claire: Obviously it’s important not to put everything down to the menopause as well. Like, you know, if you feel different, you can’t just go, oh yes, it’s menopause. Like there is a, it’s very important to not, you know, broad brush this and say that everything is menopause. So obviously just think about actually, is there something else going on and do I need to see a healthcare professional? And that may be yes, it may be no. I’m not going to say that everybody who’s going through menopausal symptoms need to see a healthcare professional. They may, they may not.
[00:15:46] Claire: And obviously on top of all of that, there’s starting medication like HRT. That’s not for everybody. Some people love it, but some people don’t. That’s absolutely fine. But for me, one of the biggest things that everybody can access is coaching. And that doesn’t mean it has to be accessed as one to one. Obviously, I do lots of one to one, but you can access it through group coaching, which I also do, but lots of other people do as well. But you can also do self coaching. So you can start to ask yourself, and we’ve done a whole episode on this, ask yourself simple questions to start to get to know yourself again. And to start to, you know, well, I used to love to go to the cinema. I used to love to meet up with friends. Why am I not doing that? Why am I not reconnecting? Why am I, what is it about? Is it because I’m anxious I’m not going out or if I just got into a rut? And I just actually got demands from the kids, got demands from family. from relatives from work and I just got tired and didn’t go out? And maybe if I’ve got that connection bit I’ll feel a bit better, maybe?
[00:16:49] Claire: And that’s it another thing to talk about is I find that the women that speak to people not just other women but other people about what they’re going through tend to Be more able to cope with the symptoms. And that doesn’t mean that you have to speak about it ’cause not everybody wants to, but I think that normalization of what people are going through is really powerful.
[00:17:18] Claire: So, I mean, there’s a lot in that, but I think for me it’s about noticing, it’s about awareness. It’s about in the workplace. It’s having that education and that understanding from others. So there’s lots of things happening now on Menopause Ambassadors. But that means that you do need to engage with the Menopause Ambassador, or engage with the group that’s, you know, been set up in your service to talk about the symptoms. But it’s also accessing resources. I mean, there’s loads of brilliant apps, there’s like the Balance app. There’s a massive movement at the moment with the menopause mandate, trying to get lots of changes through parliament. But I think for me, it’s this understanding that it affects so many people.
[00:18:03] Claire: I mean, just some stats, which I think are really important, is that 77% of the 1. 3 million staff in the NHS are women. And of those, a fifth of them, of the workforce in the NHS are aged 45 to 54. Now, to me, that’s a massive underestimation because I see symptoms from people, as do most of us, from early 40s to mid 60s. So, you know, if that’s the case. then that’s an even bigger proportion. So it’s almost guaranteed that we will all be working with people who are going through these symptoms.
[00:18:40] Claire: So I suppose there’s a huge lot in that. And I suppose there’s lots to unpack, but the talking bit is really important. And the noticing bit is really important. And the education bit is really important. And then thinking about what you need as an individual to move forward, what it is for you, because there’s so many resources and so many things that you can access.
[00:19:00] Rachel: It’s interesting that, isn’t it Claire? Because I think there are lots and lots of resources out there. There are things that we can do. There’s lots of coaching available, particularly to staff in the NHS. The biggest barrier I see with women accessing this stuff, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, is them feeling guilty about doing it or then giving themselves permission to do it. Because they often, like you said, they’re in that sandwich time where they’ve got kids that are up all evening. So, you know, when the kids were tiny and little, they used to go to bed by seven and then you’d have your evenings maybe to chill out. But now, there’s lots of stuff going on. You’re often in a leadership management role, so work overspills. You might be looking after elderly relatives or friends might be needed or whatever. So actually it’s just the time and space where you end up thinking, well, actually right now, my needs are right at the bottom of the pile and I come last. And it feels a bit selfish to be saying, actually, no, I could do with a bit of talking therapy right now, or I really need to unpick that, or maybe I should take that time to see a coach. Do you find that with women as well?
[00:20:00] Claire: I do, but I think it comes back to that old thing about you know when you’re on a plane you put your oxygen mask on first and as healthcare professionals we’re rubbish at it, absolutely rubbish because we are so used to caring for everybody else and we’ve… think that we’ll just carry on and oh it’ll be all right and we think that that’s the right thing to do is if we just carry on and it will all be all right, that’s us kind of being brave and what we should be doing, whereas it’s actually the exact opposite.
[00:20:28] Claire: Because there is only as you say even if you’re not going through menopausal symptoms, there is only so much that one person can manage without looking after themselves. And we’ve spoken about this plenty of times before. And I have a, I’m very passionate about something called the self care equation, which is looking about not just wellbeing as being part of your self care, but career growth and mindset and connection and collaboration and all these things being part and values or being part of looking after yourself. And if we don’t look after ourselves, all that happens is we will fall over, guaranteed.
[00:21:03] Claire: So even if we took the menopausal stuff out of this equation, it’s always. Always important to look after ourselves. Even, there is nothing more selfish than not looking after yourself because all that happens is you will then end up in some way in mentally physically stopping because that’s what happens. And that has bigger consequences for yourself and for the people around you and the people you work with.
[00:21:32] Claire: It doesn’t have to be, and I always say this, it doesn’t have to be these big navel gazing sessions. It could just be, Oh my goodness, I don’t think I am quite what I was before. I don’t really know when before was, but I’m just different. Is this environmental alone or is there something else here? And if it’s environmental, then I would direct you to some of all the other podcasts that we’ve done together around, you know, what successes and self coaching and all the other ones we’ve looked at and change, etc. But if there’s something else on top of the environmental stuff, then that’s the time to say, okay, if I might be perimenopausal, maybe I need to be getting some help. And that help can come in all the different forms that we’ve talked about. Lifestyle, medical, coaching, etc.
[00:22:24] Claire: But I suppose for all the people who are not going to go through menopause but are coming across people who are menopausal, the other massive thing is understanding what they’re going through that doesn’t mean pitying or belittling or kind of thinking oh she’s menopausal, a bit like people go oh she’s on her period. You know that, not that. It’s about going Okay, so when she’s missed a word in a presentation or podcast it’s not because she’s an idiot or can’t do her job or isn’t really good. It might just be that she was just having a moment. Let’s just give her a second and let’s not all stare at her while she’s trying to find the word. I mean, that’s just tiny, isn’t it? But it’s enough to make somebody not feel overwhelmed.
[00:23:06] Claire: And I think the other thing to think about is once the environment is less threatening, once there’s less shame around menopause and menopause at work, it feels less challenging to say, oh, do you know, it’s just fallen outta my brain at the moment, but I’ll come back to you on that. Or lemme just look that up, or, oh goodness, i, I do know that, but it, I just can’t find the words quite at the moment. It doesn’t feel as embarrassing when the room knows that that’s acceptable in my view.
[00:23:34] Claire: And I suppose that the other thing is lots of tips that you can do as an individual. ’cause obviously not everybody wants the whole room to know that you’re menopausal. But tips that you can do to mitigate some of the symptoms that you have. I think that’s really important, especially if you are in a professional capacity needing to be seen and to lead, which lots of people in this age group are.
[00:23:58] Rachel: I think what you’re saying about your team sort of knowing and cutting you some slack and being compassionate to you, that depends a lot on the relationships you have with them already, doesn’t it, and the psychological safety within the team and feeling able to share it with them, and not everybody will and that’s absolutely, totally fine.
[00:24:17] Rachel: But what would you do differently in a woman coming to you for coaching through menopause or symptoms through the loss of confidence that you wouldn’t do with anyone coming to you with the same thing or is it exactly the same process that you would use?
[00:24:31] Claire: Well I don’t ever have the same process for anyone, because I always think about it’s like being in the fire with someone, you do whatever that person needs, even if they don’t know what they need. It just evolves together as opposed to a set plan. So I think it’s different for everybody, male, female, menopausal, not menopausal.
[00:24:49] Claire: But I suppose a lot of people come to me with, say, symptoms of low confidence or not being able to make a decision or imposter syndrome or feeling like they can’t do their job anymore because it’s just too much. And. It’s through the process and understanding themselves more that they suddenly come to the realizations themselves. Because as you know, with coaching, I would never say, oh, it sounds like you’re perimenopausal. I think, you know, but it’s about them going, okay, well, oh, this has been going on. I’ve been actually feeling like this for about three years. Nothing really happens, but often they go, well, maybe this is menopause. And then they can start to work out what they want to do about it, which might be nothing as far as, you know, they might not want to have medication. They might, which is fine, but they might not, and that’s also fine. But it might be, they say, actually, there’s other things I can put in place, like reading about it, which makes me just have a better understanding, which is enough for me.
[00:25:43] Claire: So the process is completely different for everyone anyway. But I think for some women, it’s just about that noticing and awareness is enough to say, actually, I know this is what’s going on for me. I’m not crazy. I don’t have early dementia. You know, so many women come to see me and say, you know, I thought I had dementia. I thought I was going mad. I thought I couldn’t do my job anymore. And once they connect the dots and realize, actually, their poor confidence hasn’t been going on for years and years, it’s much more recent and it’s not related to anything in particular, then they start to go, actually, if I know that it’s finite and it’s hormonal as opposed to me losing myself, suddenly that is enough to start to build some confidence.
[00:26:28] Claire: And obviously there’s loads of things that we do around strengths and understanding your values, what your purpose is, what success looks like, you know, what it is that you’re trying to achieve, what you want, what you think you should want and what you do want being very different, you know, all of those pieces together help to rebuild yourself, the bit about prioritizing yourself and understanding who you are, which might be somebody that is slightly different from somebody in your 20s, what you enjoy, what’s important to you. All of these things start to rebuild the puzzle and rather than just being that you’re kind of throwing bits of the puzzle everywhere, it’s like the puzzle edges start to form first and then the middle starts to come together, and then people are more able to cope and thrive in their symptoms, and change them if they want to with, you know, the things we’ve talked about, HRT, lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, et cetera, coaching. But they don’t have to, they then have the power to choose.
[00:27:32] Claire: So I had somebody recently who I was coaching through the menopause, and she was going to leave her role. And she was like, I can’t do this anymore. She’s a doctor. I can’t do it. It’s too much. I hate it. I’m exhausted. I’m depleted. I just can’t do it. And when we worked through everything and we spent six months in the coaching room together, she came out having fallen back in love with her career. Yes, there was tweaks and changes that she made. Yes, there was more autonomy. Yes, there was more flexibility. But she’d fallen back in love with it. And she wrote to me saying that she felt empowered to change things that she wasn’t happy with in her life. And that that in itself was life changing, rather than sitting in it.
[00:28:17] Claire: So I suppose to answer your question is, is it different if you’ve got perimenopause or menopausal symptoms? Maybe, maybe not. It just depends onWhat the individual. And does it matter? Probably not. So, there are lots of women that I’ve coached that we haven’t even talked about premenopause or menopause, but they’re clearly experiencing symptoms, but it’s not where they want to go. So that’s fine. And lots of other women don’t know it’s happening, love touching on it, feel empowered by doing so. And other women come knowing that that’s what the issue is and want to know how to optimize it. So it’s completely different for everybody.
[00:28:52] Claire: And I can also get lots of men coming, going, I’m living with somebody who’s perimenopausal or menopausal. What do I do? And how do I cope with that? How do I support them? What’s okay? What isn’t? And all of that is interesting and powerful as well.
[00:29:08] Rachel: So what you’re saying really is a lot of it is about your own self awareness, really. And I think that’s a sort of a double whammy in the menopause because A, you’ve got the symptoms of menopause but B, most women have just probably come through an incredibly busy time in their lives, they probably haven’t actually stopped to think about what they want since before they had children maybe, they just sort of got on with life. And you’re right suddenly it’s like 15 20 years later you you’re a completely different person to who you were in your 20s, late 20s even even early 30s, and there just hasn’t been any time or space in life to to examine that, and think what are my values now what do I One, what do I love doing? What do I not like doing so much?
[00:29:55] Rachel: And I’ve realized recently that for me, a really good evening is sitting with maybe one or two people having a fantastic conversation, rather than being out with a massive group of people. That’s really changed. And I was like, oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that about myself. So there’s that awareness, but most of us haven’t given ourselves a time or the space to do that, and I guess that’s true for men as well, who are sort of this sort of age when life has been hectic and kids coming out, maybe some kids are leaving home and your job’s really, really tricky and you’ve got parents you’re having to look after as well. So I think everyone at this time of life is doing a little bit of a re evaluation of what you want, who you are, where you want to go.
[00:30:37] Claire: it’s you know, the age old midlife crisis, isn’t it? And and that’s, that’s something that we’ve all, man or women, go through. Um, and, you know, we’ve always just put it down to midlife crisis. Is it a midlife crisis? I’m not sure. I think it is that we just forget to prioritize ourselves. We forget to notice who we are. We forget to notice what we need. Because as you say, you know, you’ve gone through the early stages of your career, maybe a family. You have changed as a person, but perhaps not taken the time, maybe since uni or from before that at school, when you might sort of thinking, well, who am I? What do I like? What do I not like? And, uh, that’s tough, that is tough.
[00:31:20] Claire: But I think it doesn’t have to be a feeling of loss of control, a feeling of losing yourself, that feeling of invisibility. It can be an incredibly empowering, it can be an incredibly motivating, and dare I say it, exciting time. Because it’s about recognizing who you are and And embracing that. And also recognizing that you’re not mad.
[00:31:46] Claire: I mean, just from a personal point of view, I remember in my early 40s, trying to drive to a very good friend’s house. And not only could I not remember where she lived, but I couldn’t remember the name of her road. I couldn’t even remember what letter it started with. So I couldn’t put it into my sat nav. And I genuinely thought, genuinely, that I had early dementia. And I was even as a doctor too scared to tell anybody, because I thought they will think I am mad.
[00:32:15] Claire: Now if that’s a doctor saying that. And I just thought, oh, lost my navigation skills, definitely early dementia, that’s what it is. How am I gonna address this? Well, I’m not gonna address it right now. And I just think if doctors are feeling like that, if healthcare professionals are feeling like that, what’s the wider population feeling like? It doesn’t matter about it. It often feels like it’s not going to happen to you. And so I think that’s the important bit.
[00:32:39] Claire: And, you know, and another story that I think is really important is my son came home from school recently and said, oh, Mrs. So and so, oh my goodness, she stood at the front of her lesson and she couldn’t remember, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, how old is she? And he went, oh, I don’t know, yeah, just muffled through it. Anyway, it turns out that she was clearly in her late 40s, early 50s. And I said to him, do you think that it could be anything else apart from the fact that she’s rubbish? Do you think it could be? And he went, no. And I said, well, how would it be if it was something that perhaps you hadn’t thought about, like menopause? And he kind of looked at me like, what’s menopause? And I thought, isn’t it sad that our children don’t know about menopause? And I thought, if he is judging her, and he’s a great kid, don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant kid, likes all his teachers, but if he’s judging her to this degree, what’s happening in the workplace when adults are judging each other, but they’re just not verbalizing, they’re thinking, she’s a bit rubbish. She can’t do her job? Really? Should she be promoted? I don’t think so.
[00:33:39] Claire: Whereas actually, with the right support, with the right networks, with the right understanding, there’s no reason why we need to lose as many women as we do at this point in their careers, when they’ve got so much experience so much to give to the workplace, but also to people younger than themselves. And it’s just that sort of education, awareness and support networks that really help.
[00:34:02] Rachel: That’s a really interesting story about your son. We don’t tell the kids about it, unless it’s sort of just joking about it. Oh, mum’s having a menopausal moment or a hot flush or something like that. It’s so, so important.
[00:34:14] Rachel: I’m interested in this feeling of invisibility, because I have certainly noticed that, being in places where five years ago people would have come up to talk to me and chat to me and included me, but now, because I’m a little bit older, I have felt that people won’t speak to me because I am an older lady, they’re just not very interested. Now that might be rightly or wrongly. So in your experience and talking to people, is it that we have that assumption ourselves and it’s actually not true, or do you think people genuinely do treat older ladies differently and see them as invisible?
[00:34:49] Claire: I think there’s a little bit of both. But I think the truth is we need to take responsibility for how we act because I think that as individuals, if you are feeling more anxious, if you are feeling like you’re not so good at your job, you’re not so good at home, if you’re feeling like you can’t make a decision or you can’t find a word, we hang back. We don’t promote ourselves in the same way. We don’t connect with people in the same way. We think we’ve got nothing to add to the conversation. We think that we’ve got nothing of interest for people, so why would they talk to us? And as a result of that, I think, it makes it harder for other people to engage with us, and we then take that to be confirmation of our initial assumptions, which then feeds into the negative feedback cycle.
[00:35:36] Claire: And I think as top of that, I think people see somebody that is older. I see an older woman and think, well, rather than thinking, there’s a really high powered individual, I’d love to go and speak to her and get her experience, which some people think about some way. I’m not saying that everybody thinks this, but I think some people look at older women and go, well, she’s probably passed her best, and maybe she’s not got much to add. And I think that is different when people look at older men in the same environment, they would presume that an older man was perhaps more powerful than an older woman, which of course is nonsense, absolute nonsense.
[00:36:11] Claire: So I think there’s a bit of both and both mindsets. Need to change. We need to rebuild our confidence and to take control and take charge of how we interact with people, even if we’re not feeling it. Sometimes you have to, you know, have a go even when you’re not, you know, fake it before you make it sort of thing. And we also need to help to change attitudes towards older women.
[00:36:40] Claire: So if you look at, you know, in the workplace and if you see a woman running a meeting, for example, does she command the same respect as a man running that meeting? In some environments, yes, a hundred percent. In others, no. And that shouldn’t be the case in today society. But we also, rather than just going, well that’s rubbish, I hate that, that’s so sad, we need to take as women control and be empowered enough to change those attitudes. That’s my view anyway. And that doesn’t come alone. That means that we need to do it as a group of women, but also as anybody that supports that.
[00:37:23] Claire: And I think it’s also twofold that we, it’s not about women being more important than men, it’s the opposite, I believe very strongly in equality. And I think that it’s important that we do not belittle men in any way, but we do build up women so that there’s that equal playing field.
[00:37:38] Rachel: And we can only change our own behavior, can’t we? So we need to sort of own it and take responsibility for our behavior.
[00:37:44] Rachel: But Claire, we’re nearly out of time. What tips do you have then for people wanting to support women, but also how women can support themselves?
[00:37:52] Claire: Well, let’s do the second one first. I would say the first thing to do is to work out what’s going on with yourself. Notice that awareness bit. But then if you know, for example, that your, I don’t know, that your memory is terrible, and you’ve got to do a big presentation, think about the things that you usually forget. So it might be the names of medications, it might be the names of difficult things that you’ve got, you know, difficult conditions. It might be that you find questions the time that get you all fuddled and you can’t, you know, get your head around it. So you might say to yourself, okay, on my slides, I’m going to put all the things that I find really tricky to remember, and I’m going to shape my talk around things that I know that I really know, rather than things I’m a little bit vague on. And if I am doing something that I’m a bit vague on, I’m going to have all the information in front of me rather than having to remember it. And that might also be that you write it down in front of you rather than just having it on the slides. So, you’ve got those different ways of doing it.
[00:38:51] Claire: If you know that questions are really tricky for you, it’s okay to limit the amount of questions or to get the questions sent to you beforehand so you can prepare an answer. And having that confidence to say, actually, I’m not going to do 20 minutes of questions at the end of my talk, but I will do five. And when you’re chairing it, actually, I might say to you, well, I’ll come back to that later, or would you like to speak to me afterwards about that? Just having those phrases that you can say. To sidestep a tricky situation. And so just in those sort of moments when you’ve got to stand up and present or lead a meeting, just having that information. So that preparation bit, I think is really important when you’re going through the perimenopause and the menopause. So that would be one of my big top tips.
[00:39:34] Claire: As far as confidence goes, there is a bit about faking it till you make it, and starting to know that you’re not crazy, that you’re not losing it, that there is nothing wrong with you, that you’re still the same person, but just your body is going through a change. And start to say to yourself, okay, well, what would the old me have done in this situation? Would I have stood on the sidelines, hiding behind everyone, waiting for someone to talk to me? Or would I’ve just put one foot in front of the other and gone and said, hi, I’m Claire, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So almost mimicking the behaviors that you used to display, whatever they are, extrovert or introvert is really useful and it works really well in people that have forgotten who they were. So those sort of things are really good.
[00:40:21] Claire: As far as things like imposter syndrome, I don’t believe that as a whole of a conversation, but I think that it is part of what a lot of women go through in the perimenopause and the menopause, but I think that a lot of imposter syndrome comes from the systemic environment, and it’s important that that changes. So it’s important to look at the issues within the environment as opposed to the individual and thinking it’s all me, I’m rubbish.
[00:40:52] Claire: There are other tricks around our inner critic. Our inner critic is massive at this time in our life. You’re rubbish. You’re not good enough. Don’t be ridiculous. Why would they pick you? They’ll go for the younger one. What have you got to add? There’s nothing you bring to this table. And just starting to use techniques to shut the inner critic down. And that could be something as simple as going, be quiet, just shut up to your own inner critic and say, okay, if I thought about this differently, if I reframed my thoughts, how could I think about this? And that, if we just take something really simple like, it’s raining. Your inner critic might go, oh, you hate being out in the cold and the rain, don’t go for a run, don’t go out, you hate it, you always like complain about it afterwards, nobody likes being around you when you’ve been in the rain. If you reframe that and you took a slightly more, not toxic, positive stance, but just a slightly more positive stance, you might say, oh, it’s raining, but you know what? Exercise is a time that I find is really helpful for making me feel better and more like myself. I’m not gonna melt, nothing bad’s gonna happen to me, and maybe it will just still give me that sense of space that I’ve been craving. So just reframing some of the things that your inner critic likes to throw at you during this time particularly is really useful. So that would be another area just to, to have a look at.
[00:42:14] Claire: You know, obviously there’s the practical stuff about if you know you are getting hot flushes, don’t wear a polar neck. If you know, if you’ve got a uniform, then speak to your teams, your supervisors about whether there’s a better uniform for you to wear. I know there’s been a whole talk recently and policy about fans and things. Well, fans aren’t enough, that’s not going to be good enough, it’s not enough, but there are other things that we can do to help, you know, if you’ve got a very heavy bleeding, for example, make sure you’ve got enough protective sanitary wear with you or make sure it’s available where you’re working. Speak to your supervisors, make sure that these things are in place. And if it can’t come from you, think about does your workplace have a menopause ambassador, which is becoming more and more common. Link up with other women who are going through what you’re going through. Read about it on well documented resources like things like the Balance app or NHS website. Understand about what you’re going through. And share your experiences as much as you can with others.
[00:43:14] Claire: And I suppose to come on to the men bit, what can men do? The first thing is just understand what other people are going through, and to not belittle someone in that situation is probably the two biggest tips I would say. So it’s not really that you have to do anything in my view. It’s just about respecting the person just as much as you always used to respect them. And If not even more, because they’re going through potentially something very difficult but still standing up there and still doing their job. And just having a little bit more leeway so if they’ve not slept all night from hot flushes and insomnia, maybe they do need to where you can work from home or start a bit later, or, you know have that flexibility or whatever it is without them feeling like you’re being a bit rubbish and a bit pathetic because it’s not pathetic.
[00:44:11] Rachel: It’s interesting when you talk about the inner critic, I think a lot of us have to recognize actually, There aren’t just inner critics, there are often some outer critics too. Like often your family are not the most understanding of you. Sometimes when you’ve been with your partner for a very long time, you might have not invested so well in your relationship and you might not understand each other so well. So just investing a little bit of time with your family and your partner and just explaining what you are going through can be really helpful, and it’s totally okay for you to do that. I think we feel like we don’t want to burden people, do we? But actually just, if people don’t know, then they can’t make allowances, can they?
[00:44:52] Claire: no, and I think, but for me, the biggest thing in all of this, and obviously I’m biased, but I do think that coaching helps you to work out what you need. Because you’re bringing up some really important points and that might be so useful for some people, but other people are going, you know what, I don’t want to speak about it with my partner, I just need to get on with it. And it’s really important, that coaching gives you the forum or allows you the space to work out, okay, I’m going through this change in my life. I want to thrive in the workplace. What do I need to put in place to allow that to happen? And suddenly control starts to come your way. And suddenly you have access to thriving again, which often feels impossible for people.
[00:45:34] Claire: So that bit is where group coaching or coaching allows you, and self coaching, allows you just a little bit of time to work out what do I need? What do I need to put in place to get it? What resources do I need to help me? What’s out there? What do I know? What do I not know? And who do I need to help me to do that?
[00:45:54] Rachel: I totally agree. I think any sort of thing that will give you back that control so you can do those changes for yourself is so, so important. And we’ll put the link to the self coaching episode in the show notes. And I know that you did a lovely exercise where people can sit down and do some self coaching themselves there.
[00:46:11] Rachel: So I think after I’ve been jotting notes furiously out of everything you’ve said, I think my top tips are, yes, get some help, get the help that you need, whether it is medical help, whether it is coaching, whether it is therapy, you know, it is okay to look after yourself. It’s not just okay, actually, like you said, it is your responsibility.
[00:46:28] Rachel: And I think recognizing that you are now a different person to who you were 15, 20 years ago, and take some time to understand how you are different and how you are similar. So it’s just some self awareness and understanding.
[00:46:41] Rachel: And finally, just don’t forget the basics, right? Sleeping well, getting some exercise, looking after your diet, probably more important now than ever before, right? Because when you’re younger, you can sort of get away with not sleeping and eating absolutely rubbish, but it’s so important at this age and as you get older, isn’t it?
[00:47:00] Claire: Yeah, definitely. And I think for people who are listening who aren’t at that stage in their life, the real top tips are just educate yourself, notice and be as respectful as you would be to that person if they were going through the menopause or not. just just remember that they are, um, tackling lots of things that perhaps they are not telling you. And that’s, and, and lots of people go through that, but it’s particularly common in the perimenopause and menopause.
[00:47:30] Rachel: Great. Well, Claire, we’ve covered an awful lot there. It’s been really helpful. If people wanted to you, find out more about your work, how can they do that?
[00:47:36] Claire: Yeah. So I am obsessed with social media, so, um, you are welcome to contact me, people do all the time on social media. So I am at Dr. Claire K coaching on Instagram, um, I’m also on LinkedIn and all the other, um, social media networks. My website is also a way that people can contact me which is drclarekay.com. And do feel free to get in touch with me if you would like coaching or group coaching, because I do do that for lots of women who are suffering from these symptoms who want to thrive in the workplace.
[00:48:09] Rachel: Well, Claire, thank you so much for being on the podcast and we’ll have you back again to talk to us about something else if that’s okay at another time, because I think these things are all really very helpful to us, so have a good day and we’ll speak again soon,
[00:48:21] Claire: Thanks for having me.
[00:48:22] Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.