Wellness? Well that’s for women isn’t it?
What’s that got to do with men? Real men don’t take classes on breathing, practice yoga in Lycra or do that silly mindful meditation stuff.
Well maybe they should.
Studies show that more men than ever are breaking down physically, mentally or both. Men are falling apart.
There’s been a lot of media coverage recently of sportsmen suffering from depression, especially when they retire. Whilst such coverage is only a good thing, what gets less exposure is that many, many less famous men suffer in exactly the same way.
Studies show that men are 3 times more likely than women to take their own life. They rely on only their partner for emotional support, but fear asking for it in case they appear weak and vulnerable. So they end up bottling it up.
Men are in crisis, struggling to cope in a world of always on pressure, balancing work and personal life, dealing with emotional strains and struggling to find their identity in a world where the stereotypical male is less and less relevant. It can affect you regardless of age. Depression among young men, those in their 20’s and 30’s, is at an all time high.
So what are men doing about it?
Unfortunately studies show not a lot.
Men are much less likely to seek help than women experiencing the same issues.
We men have a negative view of counseling and therapy until the issue becomes a crisis. But even then we remain much less likely to see a doctor about depression or dependencies. We seem to have a view of ‘I’m fine, I’ll work it out or it won’t happen to me’.
The problem is it might, and the chances of it happening are rising every day.
Men have a lot to benefit by taking their wellness seriously.
We don’t need to go to a retreat in the middle of nowhere, drink only out of the ground water, eat leaves and sit chanting with our eyes closed, but we do need to do something if we are going to be the best we can be.
Let’s start our wellness journey by covering three areas; fitness, diet and thoughts.
It’s fine for a male to be lean and fit, the threat of ridicule is minimal so lets start with fitness.
Where you begin depends on where you are. If you consider yourself to be reasonably fit, do more, do it more regularly or add other workouts to your current routine.
If fitness is all completely new, or if you haven’t done anything for a long time, start simple. Walk more. Go for a stroll at lunchtime. The exercise and fresh air will provide a welcome relief from the pressures of the workday.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator (I mean up!)
Do anything that quickens your heartbeat and shortens your breath, but do it more frequently. And yes, I do include a ‘bedroom workout’ so long as it’s with someone else.
As your fitness improves go for a run 2 or 3 times a week. Lift some weights. Studies show that as we age our muscle deteriorates more rapidly placing more pressure on our joints and bones and reducing our ability to burn fat. You don’t need to lift like Arnie, but incorporate some resistance training into your workout and you’ll feel the benefits. But make sure you get someone to show you the correct form for each exercise.
Of course what you eat and drink is also important. Many men are put off healthy eating by the thought of having to spend a lifetime in the kitchen preparing and cooking fresh ingredients. ‘When am I going to do that?’
Make time and make it fun. I know loads of men who love rustling things up in the kitchen. They treat is as an art or a time to de-stress.
It doesn’t have to take ages. Smoothies are simple to make and can boost your inner health massively. A healthy omelet is almost as quick.
Let’s now think about what we drink. Did you know that when a GP asks you how much alcohol you consume they will typically multiply your answer by at least two?
Our culture has us believe that drinking is good, something to help us relax after a stressful and busy day. Something to celebrate with or cheer us up if things haven’t gone so well. We might even believe it’s good for us. Remember the Red Wine Diet?
Government guidelines state that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. That’s just 6 glasses of wine or pints of beer. But, increasingly, studies show that complete abstinence is far, far better for you. If this scares you have a read of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. It will make you think again.
Men of a certain age are renowned for silly behavior during the midlife crisis. So why not make it more productive for you by moving more and eating better? A slimmer waist and more muscular definition are a much better way of dealing with ageing than dyeing your hair or buying a flash watch or car.
But it’s not just about the body, it’s the mind too. Men of all walks of life and across a wide span of age groups are increasingly becoming depressed.
Negative self-talk in all its guises takes us down and down into a spiral of depression. If you’re not ready to talk to someone about it yet, read a book or listen to a podcast. I’ve learned a lot from authors such as Tony Robbins. It’s not only helped me tackle negative thinking, but also encouraged me to set and reach bigger goals than I thought I could ever achieve.
Opening up can be difficult, but one place you can do this is in the world of social media. There are loads of closed Facebook support groups that can help. Some are targeted at specific issues and some more broad. You’re safe in there. Nothing is public. No one in your real world needs to know about it. It can be your little secret. But you’ll soon discover you’re not alone and you’ll be able to get advice, help and support from a network of strangers who’ve gone through exactly what you’re going through now.
A Well Life
The world is changing and many men are struggling to come to terms with their role in it. Taking care of yourself should be your first priority but unfortunately it rarely is. It’s time we men took more responsibility for ourselves and started to treat ourselves as our number one priority. We can’t do much for others if we’re not in a fit physical and mental state to do so.