World Menopause Day 2023

In today’s guest blog, Jeannette Jackson, Director of the Manchester Stress Institute, shares expert knowledge, tips and insights to help school staff manage the menopause in the workplace.  
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World Menopause Day is an opportunity to raise awareness, break the stigma, and highlight the support available for improving the health and wellbeing of those experiencing menopause. 

Although the menopause is a very natural transitional stage in women’s lives, it can have implications on both physical and mental health – primarily due to the depletion of specific sex hormones in the body. As a result, 47% of women surveyed by the British Menopause Society say they have had to take time off work due to their menopause symptoms.

Therefore, it’s important for employers to be mindful of the menopause and how they can effectively support staff through this transitional phase. In today’s guest blog, Jeannette Jackson, Director of the Manchester Stress Institute, explores the menopause in depth, whilst sharing tips and insights to help school staff manage the menopause in the workplace.  

About the menopause

The menopause refers to the time in a woman’s life when her periods stop and her ovaries lose their reproductive function. This is a natural stage of life which affects most women and other people who have a menstrual cycle. This can include:

  • trans people – ‘trans’ is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth
  • people with ‘variations of sex development’ (VSD) – some people might prefer to identify as intersex or use the term ‘differences in sex development’ (DSD)

Usually, the menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK, the average age is 51. In a few exceptional cases, women may become menopausal in their 30s, or even younger. This is then known as a premature menopause, or premature ovarian insufficiency.

During menopause, a shift occurs in a number of hormones connected to the female reproductive system. Two of these key hormones are called oestrogen and progesterone.

Oestrogen levels start to drop during the peri-menopausal stage (before the actual menopause occurs), and this depletion can bring about a combination of ‘hormonal and biochemical fluctuations’ that can lead to changes in the brain and nervous system, leading to a combination of menopausal signs and symptoms.

Most women may be aware of the more ‘well known’ symptoms of the menopause, such as night sweats and hot flushes. But often, they are less aware of the impact of the menopause on mental health. 

Some women also experience emotional and psychological symptoms in the form of anxiety, irritability, poor concentration and low self-esteem. Low mood, anxiety and “brain fog” can also be linked to hormonal changes in the body.

Furthermore, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and painful sex are all potential consequences of the menopause, which, for some, may put a strain on intimacy and relationships. 

So what can be done?

A healthy lifestyle can minimise the effects of the menopause, helping to keep the heart and bones strong. Many women feel that this is a good time to review the way they treat their bodies. Here are some tips to help you or someone you know:

  • Nutrition

The fall in hormone levels (namely, oestrogen) that accompanies the menopause can increase the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. So, a healthy diet is essential at this stage. Try to keep it low in saturated fat and salt to reduce blood pressure, and rich in calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones. Some women take dietary supplements to help get the balance right.

There are lots of menopause-friendly recipes you can try, such as JJ’s Hot Flush Soup. Find the recipe for free at the bottom of this blog!

  • Exercise

Some women experience increased anxiety during the menopause. Regular exercise helps to convert stress into positive energy, while guarding against heart disease. A regular, varied programme is best. Cycling, swimming, running or aerobics are great options that can be practised alone or with friends. 

  • Smoking

Smoking has been shown to lead to an earlier menopause and trigger hot flushes. If you smoke, you also run a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), which is the most common form of death in women. 

  • Alcohol

The combination of excessive alcohol and hormonal instability is a risky one! Alcohol increases flushes and is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Try not to drink more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol per day, and keep at least one day a week alcohol-free.

  • Health Screening

Studies have shown that a late menopause leads to an increased risk of breast cancer. The NHS offers screening, but you should also keep a check on any changes in your breasts, and seek advice if they occur.

  • Practise Mindfulness

Hormone imbalance during the menopause can sometimes result in anxiety and depression. Whilst this can feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that these are treatable conditions. Relaxation techniques and counselling can be very helpful in coping with anxiety, especially if there are other challenges present in your life – whether it’s work-related stress, caring for sick or elderly parents, looking after grandchildren, divorce or bereavement. 

  • Talk therapy

We understand that feelings of isolation may prevent you from sharing what you’re experiencing with friends or family members. You may find it easier to speak with a trained therapist who can help you cope with the challenges you’re experiencing.

If you are struggling with symptoms of the menopause, talk with your doctor to discover what options may be the most effective. NICE guidelines recognise that mental health issues can be part of the symptoms of the menopause and have a series of recommendations about how to deal with them, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be a lifesaver for some women, so please don’t leave it until you are desperate to speak to your GP.

How can you support staff in school?

Symptoms of the menopause can have a huge impact on an employee’s job satisfaction, productivity and performance. Yet, many women are reluctant to discuss their experiences of menopause in the workplace, often due to concerns about discrimination and embarrassment. 

Therefore, it is essential for school leaders to create a positive and open environment, in which staff feel safe to disclose menopause-related health issues and ask for support when they need it. By ensuring every member of staff feels understood, valued, and respected, we can help to prevent individuals from: 

  • losing confidence in their skills and abilities
  • feeling like they need to take time off work and hide the reasons for it
  • having increased mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression
  • leaving their job

Remember – every menopause journey is different, so it’s important for school leaders to tailor their support to each individual. Some may prefer to talk about their challenges during 1-2-1s, whilst some women may feel more confident discussing the topic with others as part of a working group. Whatever the case, organise regular check-ins and opportunities for open discussion to help identify support that can be provided. 

Support can include flexible working arrangements, risk assessments and reasonable adjustments such as additional breaks, access to facilities, fans or working where there are open windows and giving additional time for deadlines or work commitments.

Furthermore, it is good practice to arrange training and briefings on the menopause to help raise awareness – not only amongst senior leader teams but also the wider school staff. This helps to foster a greater sense of empathy and consideration amongst colleagues, strengthening workplace relationships, promoting staff wellbeing, and ultimately championing the success of your school. 

Invest in your staff

As part of our Train the Trainer programme, school staff can become accredited trainers with the Manchester Stress Institute, empowering them to offer support and guidance to leaders and line managers back in school. 

Participants in the programme can specialise in three subjects, including the Menopause. Our upcoming workshop will help you recognise menopause signs and symptoms, consider mood and mental health, and discover strategies for supporting women experiencing menopause in school. 

Find out more and book your place

Don’t forget to try out JJ’s Hot Flush Soup – access your free recipe.

If you would like any further support to promote staff wellbeing and create an inclusive workplace for all, please get in touch with our HR Team at

About the author: Jeannette Jackson is the Director of the Manchester Stress Institute. As an expert in burnout, resilience and the menopause, she delivers coaching and presents to individuals and organisations, supporting staff across the full spectrum of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

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