Guest blogger Dr. Barbara Mark weighs in on the parallels between adolescence and “middlescence,” when we get to ride that hormonal roller coaster all over again. 

I imagine many of you have wonderful memories of adolescence: shouting matches with your mother about how she just doesn’t understand you; long, insightful diary entries about your true love; confusing thoughts and feelings about what’s going on with your body; mood swings flinging you from euphoria to the depths of depression and back again.

Well, welcome to “middlescence” – adolescence with life wisdom and life experience as well as many more questions and a lot more responsibilities!

Symptoms of middlescence

Women I work with tell me they feel they are losing their minds. They fear they have serious health issues because of joint pain, heart palpitations, six-week periods, and daily headaches. They might fire every person who reports to them, they tell me, or quit their job altogether because they haven’t slept in weeks and are so depressed they can’t concentrate.

What’s really happening?

In fact, these women are going through significant emotional and psychological changes – normal changes that are part of being at this developmental stage of life.

Yes, just like adolescence, adulthood has stages, some of which seem impossible to navigate. It is a time of great hormonal transition as well as personal awakening to new aspects of yourself. Midlife and menopause are normal for women, and both resolve in time.

Is this happening in your life? The good news is that – just like adolescence – you will grow out of it!

Managing middlescence

While you’re waiting to “grow out of it,” there are things you can do to make the journey a bit more tolerable, even interesting.

First of all, have a good conversation with your doctor. If your doctor doesn’t have much information about perimenopause and midlife development, find a menopause specialist who can support you. Information about what is happening and why will make the experience easier.

Secondly, share information with partners, spouses, and children. No, they don’t need all of the details, but it will help them to understand what is happening to you and why you seem to be a different person than you used to be! This is a good time to find a third party to talk to if things at home are chaotic. A bit of coaching or counseling can go a long way to relieve the strains on a relationship.

Thirdly, develop workplace strategies. We live in a culture that is youth-obsessed. It can be very daunting for a woman to experience the tell-tale signs of perimenopause – like hot flashes – in a work environment. Perimenopause can make a woman feel old, and that can erode your self-confidence.

Most workplaces in the US are not very aware of or supportive of how to accommodate menopause in the workplace. (Countries like the UK and Australia are ahead of us in this regard.) And, because of very valid concerns about ageism, most women in the workplace don’t want to be identified as “middle-aged.” Having a game plan to deal with signs can help you feel confident and continue to be productive.

Let me give you some tips that I share with my clients:

Middlescence at work

  • Dress in layers so that you can deal with your fluctuating temperature. Avoid wool and silk, especially silk scarves around your neck.
  • If you are doing a presentation, avoid alcohol the night before and caffeine the day of. Stay away from spicy foods, have a glass of ice water handy, and bring your sense of humor along.
  • Get yourself a small fan to keep at your desk. There are lots of battery operated fans available if you don’t have access to an outlet.
  • Taking deep breaths can help you to deal with frustrations that can lead to some difficult encounters. Take a moment for yourself and breathe or leave the office altogether for a brief walk. As you may have experienced, frustration can quickly lead to rage when your hormones are having a party.
  • I encourage you to find someone who understands menopause and the need for a bit of flexibility in your schedule when you have had a bad night because of night sweats and insomnia. If your immediate manager is not the candidate, find a trusted female colleague to talk with. Do some brainstorming together about how to best approach your manager about the possibility of coming in late or working from home.
  • Take good care of yourself. Developing a mindfulness practice can be a valuable tool in general, and can be a very potent remedy during perimenopause.

OK, so maybe you’re not a teenager anymore, and the option to storm off to your room, slam the door, and write angsty poetry is no longer open to you. And perhaps you’re now on the “mom” side of those teen-mom screaming matches. You survived the hormonal roller coaster once; you’ll survive it this time too. Just be sure your strategies and support network are in place so you can thrive through middlescence.

How have you handled perimenopause symptoms in the work place? Do you have any tips for others? If you have a man in your life, how have you explained what’s going on to him? I would love to hear about your experiences! Please tell me about it in the comments below or on genneve’s Facebook page, or join me and many women with experience to share in genneve’s closed Facebook group, Midlife & Menopause Solutions.

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Barbara

Barbara Mark, Ph.D. is an elite leadership, career and life strategies coach and advisor to senior executive women. For over 35 years Barbara has worked with thousands of professional women seeking to maintain inner balance while facing diverse external demands, personal ambition, and the desire to feel satisfied and fulfilled personally and professionally.

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