When it comes to thinking about self-care, men may get the idea it’s all about manicures, pedicures and feel-good exercises. Yet self-care is more than just a session at the beauty parlour.
It is about looking after oneself mentally and emotionally, which is an area that men struggle to deal with. There is a gender bias in which men have been brought up thinking that talking about emotions is “unmanly” and that when guys are facing a tough period in their life they need to “man up” and stop being a sissy.
This social expectation about men and their perception of being strong and staunch has seen males struggle with mental and emotional health. In the UK of the total amount of recorded in 2016, 76% of them were by men (the US recorded 69.67% of suicides by men in 2018) and men suffer more from substance abuse and antisocial behaviours when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.
Guys, it’s okay to put yourself first and practice self-care. It won’t make you less manly and self-care doesn’t have to involve lighting scented candles and relaxing in a petal covered bath (unless you want to).
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How to practice a male form of self-care
There are things you can do that allow you to look after your mental and emotional well-being and still hold on to your masculinity. You don’t have to sit over a cup of coffee and natter about your feelings (but, hey, feel free to do so!).
Here are some ways that you can take care of yourself in an “all-man” way so that you can become a better husband, boyfriend, buddy and man.
Have a good work-out
When we exercise we aren’t only looking after our bodies, we are also relieving the built-up stress and anxiety we have faced. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters in your brain.
Getting physical (in a good way) also helps build up resilience against stress as you are stimulating the “fight-or-flight” system in your body and you learn how to push through the response.
Whatever you choose for your work-out, whether it’s a gym session, a run, a game of tennis (which is a great way to socialize with your mates) enjoy yourself and make it a routine.
Write down how you feel
It can be very hard for guys to talk about their emotions, and this can lead to bottling up your frustrations and fears. Eventually, the bottle is going to be filled up and you may find yourself reacting in a way your regret.
As we mentioned earlier, men are more prone to turn to alcohol or substances as coping mechanisms to get through the stress and hardships life throws at them.
If you feel that you can’t talk to others about your feelings, then write them down in a journal that no-one else has access to.
You will be amazed at how therapeutic the practice of journaling can be and you may discover that the solutions to you issues have always been hidden deep inside of you waiting for release.
Make sure that you are getting a good sleep
When we have a lack of sleep it can affect us mentally and emotionally. You will find yourself becoming moodier, it will be harder to concentrate and solve problems. Also, sleep deprivation impacts on your memory.
On top of that, your immunity system is weakened and your blood pressure increases which makes you susceptible to becoming sicker and heading for heart issues.
To ensure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep as well as a good nights sleep, you can create a routine that winds down your body. Avoid using electronics a couple of hours before going to bed, also turn down the lighting in your house 30 minutes before crawling under the sheets.
Your bedroom should have a temperature between 15.6o to 19.4o C (60o to 67oF). Have blackout curtains so that your room is as dark as possible. Finally, make sure you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (this helps in regulating the melatonin levels in your body which influence your natural sleep and wake cycles).
Get in touch with your creative side
Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get all arty and take up painting landscapes and still life pictures (but if that’s what excites you, then go for it!). If you like building things out of wood, then allow your creative juices to flow as you hammer and screw bits of lumber together. If metal is your thing, weld and create to your heart’s content.
Those mechanics out there can tinker and play around with engines and whatever else tickles your fancy.
The whole point in being creative is to immerse yourself in the moment and enjoy what you are doing. Also, by making something you have a sense of accomplishment that will work wonders for your self-esteem.
Hang out with your buddies
When you are feeling down the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself and sit with your thoughts. Catch up with your mates and spend time with them. You don’t have to talk about things, but typically guys will ask each other how they’re doing and then offer advice and support when we say that things aren’t so great.
Humans are social creatures and we need to hang out with our tribe. By doing so you will find that you have guys who care about you and you will find, just by being with your buddies, you have a newfound resilience to push on through the challenging times you are facing.
Treat yourself to a professional make-over
How do you feel when you have gone to the barber and got your usual haircut. Though it may not be something fantastic, you would be walking out of the shop feeling pretty darn good.
But why stop at just a haircut? Go to your barber and have the works! Heck, even change your hairstyle and go for a new look. That will give your confidence and ego a boost.
Have a massage
You might think that being massaged may be a feminine thing to do. Having oil oozed over you as you lie on a bed and someone rubs the tension away from your body, yet a massage session can have a profound effect not only on you physically, but mentally and emotionally.
Endorphins are released making you feel incredible and your stress levels are reduced by lowering the level of cortisol in your body. Such physiological reactions to massage have been shown to contribute to lowering feelings of depression, and anxiety.
Get out in nature
Being in the great outdoors always leaves us feeling great. So make it a regular part of your routine to spend a day heading outside. It could be a fishing trip with your mates, or hiking through the mountains. For the more rugged guys, a hunting excursion is a good way of getting in touch with the more masculine side of your personality while adding in a social component.
Get out there and unwind in nature.
Having things you want to achieve yet not getting them done can hit your self-esteem and self-confidence as you contemplate thoughts of being a failure. Yet you can turn those negative emotions and thoughts around by becoming more organised and committed to your goals.
Sit down and make a list of the things you want to do. Choose which items will be one-year goals, five-year goals and ten-year goals. Then set out how you are going to get them done.
Realize that along the way your plans can hit a snag. That’s life and all men will have times when their ideas flounder. Don’t even begin to think that the hold-up is a reflection on you or your ability. Just work out how you will overcome the obstacle and keep moving forward.
As you cross off your goals once you have achieved them, reflect on how amazing and motivated you feel.
Make a gratitude list
So often we become used to the people and things around us we take them for granted. However, by becoming appreciative of who and what we have in our lives, we find that our happiness increases and the need for wanting more decreases. Relationships take on a whole new dynamic when you tell those around you how thankful you are for that you have them in your life.
But it’s not only about focusing on things and other people, look at yourself and your personality and write down what it is you are grateful for. It could be your ability to make others laugh, or the way people feel comfortable around you. Ask your friends and family what they are thankful for about you.
This isn’t meant to be an exercise that inflates your ego or puffs up your pride. It’s about refocusing on the good things in your life and building up self-esteem.
Don’t be ashamed about self-care
Self-care isn’t solely the domain of females. It’s an area that is gender-neutral. Yet society teaches men that they need to be tough and showing emotion is frowned upon.
That leads to men storing up feelings that require an outlet and, sadly, too many times that release is through men ending their own lives or turning to alcohol and substance abuse.
Guys, you are human and, as such, have feelings and emotions. Self-care is a means in which we put ourselves first and develop ways that allow us to deal with the stress, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions in a healthy manner.
By building up your physical, mental and emotional resources you are enhancing your resilience to face the harder times that come in life. Also, you become a better individual and that will strengthen the relationships around you as well as accepting yourself.
You become a stronger man.
Let us know how you practice self-care as a male and the benefits you have found in your life from it. Comment below.