Top Mental Health Self-Care Tips for Men
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, and nearly 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions. Despite its wide prevalence, mental health is still often stigmatized and misunderstood, leading to many forgoing treatment or practicing proactive self-care.
While mental illness affects every demographic, men in particular often do not seek out support for their mental health struggles. This may be due to commonly held misconceptions of mental health and masculinity. From depression being perceived as a sign of weakness to the belief that having a mental health disorder makes it impossible to succeed professionally, men must frequently navigate a web of myths, misinformation and prejudices while addressing their mental health.
In light of these trends, and following World Mental Health Day, it’s time to highlight how men can better practice self-care for their mental health. The following tips can serve as a helpful beginner’s guide for any man seeking to take a positive first step.
Changing the Mindset
Life is busy, and many men place their mental health last on their list of concerns. The results of such a mindset can be deadly. On average, men live five years less than women. Substance abuse is far more common with men, occurring at a rate of 3 to 1. Additionally, the American Foundation for Suicide notes that men are 3.54 times more likely than women to die by suicide and account for 70% of all suicides in the United States. Such tragic statistics underline the urgent need to grapple with this prototypical male mindset regarding mental health and ultimately change it for the better.
To begin practicing self-care, then, men must accept that their mental health needs to be taken seriously. Think about how achieving success in major areas of your life - whether that be school, work, family or friends - is contingent on your continued well-being. Just like how a decline in your physical state can complicate how you perform in relationships or at a job, if your mental health is in a precarious place, there will be negative consequences. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.
Choosing Positive Behaviors
After recognizing the importance of prioritizing one’s mental health, consider how you can start implementing more positive behaviors that can move you toward that goal. You can take up running, yoga or meditation, which can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even adopting a small mindfulness practice into your day can have fantastic benefits. Mindfulness activities can consist of simply spending five minutes a day focusing on the current moment and trying to accept the moment without judgment.
“Studies have shown that implementing mindfulness practice can increase resilience, improve mental health symptoms and even bolster physical health,” says William White, LCPC, Clinical Director of Mood & Anxiety Residential for the Eating and Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center.
Additionally, you can cut back on things like alcohol, a depressive drug, and swap out nights at the bar for nights volunteering with a local non-profit. It’s also easy to make small dietary changes that can support mental wellbeing. Multiple studies, for instance, have discovered a connection between a diet high in refined sugars and worsening of symptoms of depression.
Taking a hard look at one’s social life is an important step for any man concerned about their mental health. The social circles for many men shrink throughout their life, particularly once they age out of school and move into their respective careers. Also, they are far less inclined to speak openly about their fears and worries. Men can and should push back against this tendency.
There is nothing wrong with admitting to your support circle that you are feeling burned out or afraid about the future. “By showing that you are not perfect and displaying some vulnerability, you send a safety signal to others, and you can create lasting and enriching relationships,” says White.
Lean on relationships where you have built up a baseline of trust. If you don’t feel as though you have these relationships, seek out additional resources. Support groups of every type exist, and even during COVID-19, it is possible to find robust support by joining a men’s group online.
Consider Professional Support
One of the most essential acts of self-care is recognizing when you might need professional help. Historically, men don’t seek mental health support for a variety of reasons. Some refrain due to socio-economic reasons. Others shun treatment if they hold highly traditional views of what constitutes masculinity. The trick to overcoming this mindset lies in redefining mental illness. Mental health is not a reflection of character or willpower. It is just like any other sickness. As with cancer or diabetes, you cannot wish away mental illness. Sometimes you need to go see an expert.
There is an incredible amount of mental health resources available for men. Information and data related to symptoms and treatment options for many afflictions are readily available online from world-renowned health agencies. The internet is also a valuable asset for finding a therapist that is well-matched with your symptoms, as well as your geographical location. Lastly, Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center takes a comprehensive care approach to addressing mental health conditions. From offering virtual outpatient care to providing an extensive support group network, Pathlight’s services can help facilitate a lasting recovery.
A Happier, Healthier Life
Mental health remains a serious public health concern, its negative impact exacerbated by widespread stigma and misconception. Although men can be disinclined to get help for what ails them, they can take control of their mental wellbeing by first prioritizing it and then adopting more positive behaviors. Finally, progress can be made by recognizing that it is ok to seek support and ask for help. By doing so, a happier, healthier life can be right around the corner.