Read any self improvement or mental health book/blog long enough and you’re guaranteed to come across the words ‘self care.’ It typically delivered with nurturing words and sweet acknowledgements of the struggles of life. The ‘self-care’ tag on Tumblr unleashes a cavalcade of calming pastel colors and uplifting platitudes. There are about as many guides to self care floating around the World Wide Web as there are cat pictures. These blogs tend to be very popular with women, but the copious yet constitutive advice is often lost on the other 49% of the world’s population. These self care guides get plenty of page views from double-X chromosomes, but we need a few more Y’s in the mix.
Devil May Self Care
Before we dive into the sociopolitical hurricane that is gender dynamics, it’s important to establish the importance of self care for everyone. You don’t need a random blogger to tell you the modern world heaps a mind-numbing amount of stress on our minds (some legitimate and some avoidable). A noisy mind is just the tip of the iceberg. The delightful fusion dance of stress and depression creates a wonderful cornucopia of physical side effects including but not limited to heartburn, insomnia, ulcers, compromised immune system, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, muscle tension, and erectile dysfunction.
Taking some time to chill out and give yourself some love decreases the risk of all of those things occurring. A little bit of stress will not trigger all of those ailments described, but the accumulation of days upon weeks upon months of problems will. Think of it like a debt that continues to grow with an irksome interest rate, and some personal love is the way to pay on the principal. A few hours (or days) of self care not only stops the accumulation, but knocks some of those nasty weights off of your back in the process. It allows the mind to refocus on goals, see positivity instead of an endless cycle of problems, and discover new possible solutions to the stressors that plague us.
Not Too Manly
Self care isn’t a hot topic for men, but it’s more important than we realize. The National Institute of Mental Health determined that as many as six million American men suffer from depression or other mental illness. Despite this, males, as a whole, tend to be less likely to disclose these ailments and seek treatment. The problem is obvious: How can one solve a problem if they to box it away and pretend it doesn’t exist? Try applying that logic to a mold infestation in a house and the place will be destroyed within months.
As a reward for our ‘fortitude,’ men experience much higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, and substance abuse on average than women. It’s that old masculine stigma at work: “Depression is for wusses, I gotta man up and soldier through it!” We try to box our woes away rather than examine or acknowledge them. ‘True’ masculinity values independence, emotional control, and perseverance. To address or even acknowledge stress and depression is an intentional expression of vulnerability, something supposedly very un-manly. Protecting one’s self and family is considered a masculine value, so shouldn’t protecting one’s mental health be just as manly?
This is why it is important for men to admit they need some nurturing, even if it is just to themselves. A little bit of self care can help manage the emotions of stress and doubt that cripple the strength and fortitude that masculinity values. It boosts our confidence. It empowers us to be there for the ones we love. It clears our minds to focus on our goals. Relief of stress frees our bodies from the physical ailments of stress. Aren’t true strength, resilience, achievement focus, and physical health considered cornerstones of being a ‘real man’?
Self Care Strategy Guide
Tips and tricks on self care are not a one-size-fits-all affair, and some of the things that are effective for women are not as effective for men, and vice versa. With that in mind, here are a few guy-specific tips for giving yourself the personal R&R you need to be the Burn Heal to the singes of life:
- Trust in your squad: Strong friendships have been observed to be especially therapeutic for male mental health. A close group of friends lifts feelings of isolation and with the right ones, gives a safe space to express woes and frustrations without judgment.
- Hit the gym: Drive away that stress with some of those sweet, sweet endorphins released by strenuous physical activity. Self esteem boosts from improved physique are just an added bonus.
- Journal or meditate: Journaling and meditation give the mind an outlet to not only slow down from life’s chaos but also catalog, analyze, and nail out solutions to our woes.
- Be selfish: Take a vacation day at work, set aside your obligations to others, and spend a day doing what you want to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s something social like a night on the town with friends or a day on the couch binging Stranger Things. It’s your day, use it as you choose to do it.
- Learn something new: It can be a new skill or just a topic to learn about. Learning new things expands your worldview and gives us something to think about when it seems like the things that bother us boxing our minds in. My coworker’s blog Guess What I Learned Today is a good place to start.
- Cultivate a positive outlook: “Be more positive” is easier said than done, but not as difficult as you might think. Go out of your way to compliment someone, seek out good news instead of bad. It’s amazing how therapeutic a little extra shot of positivity can be.
There are many, many more tips and tricks for self care that are just a Google search away. Consider this a starting place, the first step to a journey self care. Forget the stigma and cultivate a habit of giving yourself the love you need and deserve. No one is ‘too manly’ to care about their own wellbeing. ‘Man up’ to admit your vulnerability, find true strength and independence, and be the best man you can be.
Chicken stock photo by Fir0002
Header image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.