In this article, Lesley Salem, founder of Over The Bloody Moon tells us how surrounding yourself with like-minded and united women, and keeping track of your self-care can help you to own your menopause.
Studies by anthropologists and scientists have found that one of the traits that unite people living in Blue Zones is their strong ‘tribe’ culture, along with belonging to a variety of communities that provide supportive relationships, outside of family and work.
‘Redefining Menopause’ is the most comprehensive piece of research in the UK to understand the factors that determine whether someone will thrive or suffer in menopause. The sample included 1,000 nationally represented women, aged 35-65 years, covering natural, early, and induced menopause experiences, including those with pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities, spanning perimenopause through to post menopause, across the UK.
Networks and communities are key to helping women thrive through menopause, so their experiences feel normalised, and they don’t feel marginalised. Women living in households, communities, or working in environments where menopause is taboo, are more likely to feel shame, worthlessness, or lack confidence that can trigger physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. Conversely, those with a variety of networks, outside of work and home, are more likely to describe their menopause symptoms as manageable or light.
The study found that women at the beginning of their menopause journey are more likely to find symptoms unbearable or severe. This is likely to be due to a lack of education and preparation which mean many women feel their arrival into menopause is on the backfoot. It can take most a year before they finally feel they are ‘on top’ of their menopause. The quicker women act through conducting their own research, talking to a specialist, and taking hormone replacement therapy, or natural and lifestyle interventions, the more likely their symptoms will dissipate.
The ‘C’est La Vies’ segment who were 55-65 years were the cohort where HRT was a dirty word, surrounded in false myths and scaremongering who as a result were a generation left to ‘grin and bear it’. As a result, they were less likely to lean in on others to share experiences. The ‘C’est La Vies’ are the segment whose menopause experience was most negative across our sample with symptoms likely to span decades without more radical management and action. Conversely, the ‘Change Champions’ who were making significant lifestyle adaptions with a broad toolkit of management options were the ones talking most to different networks about their menopause. The study found the more people share their experiences and stories, the better their experience of menopause will be.
However, there were women in the study from communities that avoid discussing problems, dominated by a ‘tough it out’ culture. These women are more likely to suffer in silence, causing stress and negative attitudes towards menopause which exacerbates symptoms’ severity, frequency, and longevity.
The study also discovered that working women are more likely to feel supported through their menopause than those who are not working. Women living alone or not in relationships, were also more likely to feel unsupported.
So, the more sociable a person is, the wider their networks, and the greater they advocate for menopause, the better their menopause will be.
Sadly, the study found that taboo still exists in the workplace, despite ‘The Menopause Revolution’ happening in the UK, currently. Only 21% discuss their experiences with colleagues, 3% with managers, and 1% with HR. Unless companies train their people to spot the signs, be empathetic, and reward vulnerability from those impacted by menopause by cultivating safe, open, and protected cultures, we will continue to lose 1 in 10 people, temporarily from the workplace. Allyship is crucial when it comes to menopause and should also include other women’s health issues, alongside andropause that affects 30% men.