Lauren Chiren: Menopause expert, coach and life-changer
I meet many interesting people through my work and life and when interviewing Lauren Chiren for a newspaper article, I was struck by how up-beat and excited she seemed about life and her work. She told me she had been forced to leave a well-paid job and a good career path and only found out later that she was suffering an early menopause. But instead of being bitter, she has turned a seeming negative into a huge positive. I decided to ask her more.
Lauren is the founder of Women of a Certain Stage, a company that provides coaching, mentoring and corporate training on a wide range of health concerns, including the menopause. She works in a variety of ways, as an executive coach, an educator on menopause and an international speaker.
But this wasn’t what she imagined she would be doing in the earlier stage of a career. In fact, it was the menopause that sent Lauren, now 50, her on the path to a new coaching destination.
That was then…
Lauren, who has a 13-year-old son, enjoyed a successful and challenging role as a senior executive until her early 40s. She managed global teams, significant budgets and business critical change and transformation programmes.
She says: “It was crucial to my role that I kept a mental flow in my head of what stage all my programmes were at, ensured decisions were made quickly and planning was consistently reviewed and managed.”
But then, for around 18 months, she started to feel increasingly distant from her work.
She says: “I stopped sleeping through the night, I found my energy levels spiking and I started training hard. I ran a marathon without training and I am not a runner.
“I became progressively disengaged from my senior team and I found myself outside the ‘circle of trust’. This meant that decisions were tougher to see through.
“I also started to suffer palpitations, often feeling like I was going to pass out. This meant that I stopped speaking up in meetings and it was mentioned to me that ‘perhaps I had been happier when I was doing that part-time job I’d had before’.”
Lauren suffered further symptoms. She says: “I would claw my skin at night as it became itchier and drier. I ended up looking like I’d been mauled by a cat and I had to wear high-necked clothes to cover it up.
“I got progressively more anxious about doing a good job and not being seen as a single mum at work. I felt I could not confide in my male-dominated team and the one person who I could speak to sadly left for another firm.
In the end, Lauren decided to leave her job. She says: “I actually thought I had early onset dementia.
“I had gone from a strong, independent, confident and top-earning businesswoman to a sole parent staring at four walls wondering how I was going to put food on the table.
“I really thought I was going to have to find someone to bring up my son while I rocked back and forth in the corner of a home somewhere.”
Menopause ‘revelation’ and a new path
When Lauren eventually went to the doctors and they suggested she was most likely going through an early menopause, she said she was relieved.
She says: “I suddenly had an explanation for how I was feeling and it was not dementia. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. It was the menopause and I thought I could deal with that.”
However, instead of a return to her previous career path, Lauren decided to retrain and she now coaches successful female business leaders and entrepreneurs, who are starting to notice that their health is not helping them to achieve the accolades they wish for in their work life. She supports English-speaking clients, predominantly in the UK, US and Australia.
Lauren, who read psychology at university, has a long list of impressive qualifications across physical, nutritional and mental therapies. She is also a personal trainer and has undertaken many courses to understand the menopause.
She says: “I create programmes for each client drawing on their needs and motivations to ensure they are giving attention to all areas of their life, remembering that by putting themselves first they have more to give to others.
“I personally work with up to eight clients at any time so that I can be available and provide the level of support needed.
“Most work is done remotely, by phone and Zoom, and we have quarterly face-to-face days, which usually include a bit of pampering or an adventure experience.
“I also have a global team of health coaches, who support people experiencing health challenges, including emotional eating, pre-diabetes, substance abuse and cardiac and stroke prevention and recovery.”
In 2020, Lauren plans to launch guided, self-paced programmes of support for more than 10 different health conditions. She says: “I want to reach as many people as possible to become the very best versions of themselves – full of vitality and vigour.”
Menopause: A more open conversation
Lauren has seen a growing trend for people to be more open about the menopause. She also sees a change in the support for women in the workplace and a growing recognition that more businesses need to support women in the workplace.
She says: “When I set up Women of a Certain Stage five years ago, I never believed it would ever be more than a hobby. No-one was talking about menopause, especially not at work. Access to trained GPs simply didn’t exist in the NHS.
“In the past two to three years, increasing numbers of celebrities have spoken out publicly about their menopausal nightmares; parliament has agreed that menopause should be part of the sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools; and every month the mainstream media have programmes going out at prime time.
“BBC Breakfast ran a whole week on menopause and the response to the two-minute trailer, which I was in, was so overwhelming. The whole week’s schedule had to be reworked, more filming added in and 10 days later it was still being actively referred to.”
Lauren has seen a surge in demand for her support and advice from companies. She says: “Historically, it took me nine to 12 months from initial conversations to contracting to deliver menopause training at work. Now I have more work from companies calling me to book straight away.
“I have developed a series of webinars and podcasts to cover all aspects menopause at work, so companies can add this to their intranets for everyone to access and learn what is appropriate for them.
“This includes mangers, people working alongside women experiencing menopause symptoms and partners living with someone. Often the partners are the ones who comment that my training may have saved their relationship.
“I am a big advocate that women seek medical and lifestyle advice and choose the path, often a combination, that works for them.”
The post-menopause years
Lauren is now sure she is through the menopause but because she did not know she was in peri and menopause transition 10 years ago she believes she has put her body under undue stress and strain. She says: “I am a former PT and I was super fit. I became even fitter but I did not know I was transitioning through menopause and sadly the flip side is that I hammered my body.
“I have suffered injuries for the past three years. I am a former judo competitor and am used to a very high level of fitness.
“Now I balance my training with a combination of weights, high intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga and the occasional jog around the local park with some friends.”
She has grown to a place where she recognises the need for regular exercise but she has accepted that her four-pack has disappeared. She says: “I am less self critical and, frankly, I like myself more now that I ever have. I have a lot to give and I am enjoying being at this stage of life. I am hugely grateful and appreciative of that.”
The question of mental health
Lauren was not aware until recently that she had been suffering with mental health issues through the menopause. She says: “I was oblivious at the time that menopause has 34 recognised symptoms, split between emotional, physiological and physical.
“I would never have said my mental health was compromised until I was a speaker in panel at this International Women’s Day.
“After we all did our introductions and shared why we were on the panel to answer questions on menopause, I received a question: ‘So, you had mental health issues when going through menopause then?’
“I drew breath, several times, and held back the tears as I realised, that, yes, my mental health had been compromised during peri and menopause.
“As a strong independent woman, I never wanted to be perceived as being weak. I did not want to be seen asking for help.
“I realise now that seeking the right help and support is a sign of self-awareness, strength and helps you prevent the menopausal experience I had. Hence, now, my coaching programmes.”
Lauren’s health mantra in her 50 is: “No more drama.”
Lauren’s health and fitness tips
This tips apply to all stages of life but especially during the peri and menopause.
- Eat well
- Surround yourself with positive uplifting people
- Be social
- Give back
- Move your body
- Overcome self sabotage
- Have ‘me’ time
- Indulge in self-care
- Put yourself first.
She says: “I live a life based on my terms and I recognise that rigid routines do not fit me well. I love intellectual challenge and variety.”
She also ensures:
- Spends quality time with her son
- Visits her folks and brother and sister often
- Remains curious
- Grows veggies
- Reads voraciously
- Hits the media and stages to raise awareness on menopause
- Tidies (“I can’t concentrate in clutter,” she says.)
- Walk barefoot everywhere and anywhere (safe)
- Smiles at strangers
- Is grateful.
To find out more about Lauren’s work and support see Women of a Certain Stage.