Struggling to concentrate is one of the lesser known symptoms of menopause, even though it's one that impacts a woman's life on a day-to-day basis. “Concentration” encompasses attention span and the ability to process, store and retrieve information; it's a function that is a lot more essential than many people initially realize. Concentration issues, if left unchecked, can have a negative impact on personal and professional lives. This guide explains why women may experience difficulty concentrating during menopause and gives advice for maximizing concentration levels to help you to function at your absolute sharpest.
Why Does Difficulty Concentrating Occur during Menopause?
Estrogen plays an essential role in concentration. The hippocampus, frontal lobes, and various neurotransmitters in the brain affect the way information is absorbed, processed, and retrieved at will, and the presence of estrogen in the body enhances these processes. During perimenopause, a woman's estrogen levels fluctuate and often become imbalanced. This affects the way these neurotransmitters function, which can result in difficulty concentrating.
Maximizing Concentration in the Workplace
In the workplace, concentration is crucial, given that your income and performance depend on it. To combat concentration issues, create a work environment that's conducive to productivity. Sit up straight as you work, and stand up to shake your limbs every ten minutes to stimulate blood circulation around the body; this will circulate oxygen to your brain to promote concentration.
It can also be difficult to absorb large amounts of information when reading long passages of text at work, so it is a good idea to learn how to read effectively. Begin by skim reading a piece, taking in the titles, subtitles, and bold text to give you an overview of the text as a whole, help you root out the irrelevant parts, and hone in on the information you need. Focus on the relevant passages with a pen in hand so you can underline important ideas without interrupting the flow of your reading.
Bear in mind that, as a rule, each paragraph will contain one key idea which can usually be found in either the first or last sentence. If you've understood the idea in each paragraph, you've most likely understood the pieces as a whole.
Other Ways to Improve Concentration
Exercise - both physical and mental - is key in improving concentration. Working out for around 30 minutes, five days a week will help to strength mental sharpness, and regularly participating in brain-stimulating activities, like board games, crossword puzzles, or playing a musical instrument, has been found to offer long-term benefits for concentration.
Try and avoid overeating during the day because this can invoke feelings of sluggishness that will make it even more difficult to concentrate. At lunchtime, eat a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein (e.g., a ham sandwich on whole grain bread) to keep the mind alert through the afternoon. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help you to stay hydrated, which can also boost concentration.
It's important that those close to you are supportive when you experience difficulty concentrating; explain this menopause symptom to your family, colleagues, and friends and ask that they try to be patient and helpful without becoming frustrated. Let them know that you are doing what you can to improve your concentration before it threatens your personal relationships and professional performance; and remember that, like other functions in the body, concentration can be worked on and strengthened.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Increase Productivity. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/benefits/productivity.html
- Food and Drug Administration. (2013). About FDA. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/whatwedo/
- Kansas State University. (1997). Improving Your Concentration. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/topics/career/concentr.html
- New York State Office of Mental Health. (2012). Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/cogdys_manual/CogDysHndbk.htm
- Purdue University. (n.d.). Depression at Work - Reducing Stigma and Producing Outcomes. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/hr/pdf/DEPRESSION_IN_THE_WORKPLACE.pdf
- University of New South Wales. (2014). Tips for Effective Reading. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from https://student.unsw.edu.au/effective-reading