B is for Brain Fog
Covering the A-Z of Menopause and it’s impact in the workplace.
Find out more about the following: Anxiety, Confidence, Diversity, Eye Problems, Fatigue, GSM (Geno-urinary Syndrome of Menopause), Hot Flushes, Ignorance, Knowledge, Low Mood, Memory Problems, Neurodiversity, Osteoporosis, Palpitations, Questions, Reduced Concentration, Skin Issues, Tearfulness, UTI’s, Vaginal Atrophy, Weight Gain, Xena, Yearning, Zzzz Sleep Problems.
Brain Fog goes much deeper than forgetting the odd word. Brain Fog can make some people feel like they are going completely mad, or in my case, panic that early onset dementia may be setting in.
During the Peri Menopausal years, which can start in our early 40’s and last for over a decade, a woman’s hormone levels decline. Estrogen in particular has a big impact on cognitive function and the loss of estrogen reduces the glucose or sugar metabolism in the brain by 20-25%. Glucose is the brain’s primary fuel and it cannot operate as efficiently without it. Key symptoms include Short-term memory problems, Issues in processing and sentence formation, Problems in numerical analysis, Difficulties with focus and concentration. Understandably many women find their work lives are impacted quite severely by brain fog and it’s a condition that can floor even the most competent and confident women. I have actually worked with women who don’t recognise work they produced only days ago, or who cannot find key words to describe the work that they produce daily. Some who have completely forgotten to attend meetings even with reminders or prompts, or who have forgotten how to produce reports they would normally churn out with minimal effort. As a child of a mother with Alzheimer’s, I spent years terrified that this was the start of dementia for me when brain fog was happening so often. I would sometimes feel so unfamiliar in my work surroundings or the work I was being asked to produce that I questioned whether I had accidentally turned up to the wrong workplace. I can laugh about it now, now that I am rebalancing my hormones with HRT and I can think straight again (well most of the time anyway) but at the time, it was overwhelming, and often compounded the situation.
The good news, if there really is any is that it is a perfectly normal response to declining hormones and can improve by either replacing them or adapting other coping techniques. Don’t panic if you forget the noun! Just say, I can’t think of the work at the moment, but it will come back to me at some point. Then explain what you mean without using the elusive word. Announce that Brain Fog may attack before you start a presentation or conversation if you are worried about it happening to you during it. You will find people more empathetic than you realise. It happens to most people at some point in their career, so use your own empathy for others too.
Remember, brain fog is not a sign of intelligence or lack thereof. Just because you forgot a word, or in some cases, why you actually started a sentence doesn’t mean you have nothing intelligent to bring to the conversation.