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Husnara Begum, associate editor & career coach

The Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. As if a mid-life crisis combined with endless symptoms associated with the perimenopause, including fatigue, palpitations, brain fog and heightened anxiety weren’t bad enough. Bang. Then came lockdown.

Eighteen months of shielding, minimal in-person contact with family and friends, a sub-optimal response to the vaccine and an uncertain future of not knowing if my normal life will ever return resulted in my nerves reaching breaking point. Indeed, my stress and anxiety levels had gotten so bad they resulted in my blood pressure shooting through the roof.

Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, I turned to my GP for help. She was fantastic and with her support and guidance I reluctantly conceded that my blood pressure needed to be treated with medication and then reviewed again in a few months’ time. But I acknowledged that meds alone weren’t going to be enough and will also be starting some talking therapy to help with my anxiety, which I hope will also help improve my blood pressure.

And, most significantly, I’ve forced myself to slow right down. This of course was no mean feat. Anyone who has worked with me will know that I love what I do. But I’m also a self-confessed workaholic. I’m lucky to have a long list of loyal clients who use me regularly for all manner of projects. But, as those of you who are self-employed will know, it’s almost impossible to turn some work away out of fear clients will turn to an alternative supplier. Whilst for any busy lawyers reading this, a reduced workload probably feels like a remote pipe dream.

Saying that, once I put my mind to it, I quickly realised that a lot of the pressure to get work done by a particular deadline was self-imposed. During quite a few instances, in my attempts to keep clients on side I would offer to finish a piece of work much more quickly or sooner than it needed to be done. In other words, I could’ve given myself extra time and spread my work out more evenly across a given month by suggesting slightly later deadlines. Sounds simple doesn’t it? And trust me it really is.

I’ve also started to practice the three P’s I often preach to others regarding effective time management. Plan, prioritise and pace. The latter has been a game changer for me. Taking regular breaks has made me more productive and helps to manage the perimenopause induced brain fog that has in some minor instances adversely affected my attention to detail.

I’ve also incorporated self-care into my daily routine including mindfulness, regular exercise, sitting out in my garden when taking a break from my computer (ordinarily I’d spend this time loading the dishwasher or doing other household chores so hardly a rest!) and eating a balanced diet (including slashing my coffee consumption). I also swear by my beloved essential oils and scented organic candles to lift my spirits and energy levels.

Finally, I’ve booked a follow-up appointment with my GP to discuss HRT. Thank you Davina McCall for giving me the confidence to investigate this further.

For more tips to help ease anxiety check out this blog written by well-being coach Laura Shipp.

Meanwhile, if you’re worried about your blood pressure please follow my lead and speak to your GP for further advice. There is absolutely no shame in admitting you need help. Take it from me, I feel much better about my situation safe in the knowledge that I’m tackling it head on rather than burying my head in the sand. Because for me the related uncertainty of not knowing what was causing my symptoms was exacerbating my anxiety levels.

I hope my story helps others who are having similar experiences during such unprecedented times. Mental health and the menopause are both topics that we should all be trying to talk more openly about. After all, as someone who is going through both at the moment, I know how much simply talking about this sort of stuff is helping me.

Husnara Begum, associate editor & career coach