Men’s Health Month
When it comes to talking about men’s health, and in particular mental health, there has been a lot of silence. This makes sense, because as men we haven’t exactly been encouraged to open up about our feelings, our needs, and our struggles. There are several reasons for this silence: societal norms, perceived lack of resources, fear and anxiety of what may be found, or simple gender stereotypes dictating we just “sort through” our issues by ourselves. However, there has been a shift in recent years with regards to talking more about men opening up about our struggles. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 4 out of every 5 suicides are male, and further research showing that we are just as susceptible to depression as women. The difference is in how that depression, or any other mental health issue, is managed and communicated.
When we talk about opening up about mental health, a big driver of that kind of communication is being vulnerable. If I’m honest, there are few words that come up during a session that elicit a more pained expression from men than vulnerability. It is typically seen as a weakness and something to avoid at all costs, since it could make us seem less in control. This couldn’t be farther from the truth; in fact, vulnerability is a strength. It takes strength to admit we can’t manage something on our own, strength to talk about it openly, and strength to make the necessary changes in our lives in order to feel better. Being vulnerable and making these connections isn’t easy, but it is a crucial step in becoming more self-aware and on track to achieving better mental health. As Brené Brown says, “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Self-care and the wellness industry are typically aimed at women, so it makes sense that we would feel hesitant about exploring them. The reality is that we deserve and need self care just as much as women in order to better manage their lives and our emotions. When we talk about self-care, it can be helpful to divide it into two distinct categories: the body and the mind.
Taking Care of Your Body
They say our bodies are temples. Ok then, how do we want to treat it? The expectation here isn’t to become an Adonis, but rather to move in meaningful ways and better understand the relationship between input and output. A large pizza will likely make you feel sluggish and irritable afterwards. A chaotic sleep schedule has a detrimental effect on decision making and mood. Lack of fresh air can make you feel cooped up. There are small ways to take better care of your body:
• Walk 20 minutes per day.
• Meal plan for your week. (yes, healthy men cook)
• Put the screen away 30 minutes before bed.
Track any changes in mood after you start being more physical to see if its working for you. If not, don’t be afraid to try something else.
Taking Care of Your Mind
This can be tricky for a lot of us. As mentioned above, being in touch with our emotions doesn’t always come naturally for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t make it any less important. With the last year being emotionally draining for the vast majority of people, it is crucial to be even a little more aware of how our emotions are processed and regulated. There are a few new things you could try:
• Try a 10 minute meditation every day.
• Keep a journal.
• Open up to a trusted friend or family member.
The tide is turning with regards to men’s mental health. The less negative stigma attached to it, the more we will reach out and ask for help. Keeping it inside can do nothing but increase fear, worry, and anxiety, so if you feel like you want to talk, it is up to you to make that call.
Robert Baker, MA RCC