According to a survey of 21,000 American men, 1 in 10 men experience anxiety and depression, but less than half of them seek treatment. 6 of every 10 men undergo at least one traumatic incident in their lives, especially since men are more prone to experiencing physical trauma like accidents, injuries in combat, or witnessing death. Men are two times more likely to binge drink, and 49% of men feel more depressed than they would admit.
Although good mental health practices shouldn’t be separated by gender, there are specific things men can do to improve their mental health and well-being, especially since men are more likely to try to sweep these conditions under the rug. Here are some practical ways men can improve and protect their mental health, especially those who live alone during the pandemic and the upcoming holiday season.
Don’t sweep your feelings under the rug.
Experts say that avoiding or bottling up our emotions can lead to anxiety, depression, anger, and aggression. In the long-term, it can also increase the risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. When you sweep your feelings under the rug, you break your heart, quite literally. Even though it might be uncomfortable or difficult, try to acknowledge your feelings by writing it down in a journal or talking it out with a trusted friend. Even the simple act of naming how you feel (using specific words like “disappointed,” “rejected,” or “hurt”) can go a long way in protecting your mind and body from more serious problems in the long-term.
Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Though it can be tempting to reach for the bottle or some cigarettes when you’re under a lot of stress, doing so won’t do you any favors. They might make you feel better for the time being, but they won’t actually allow you to sort out your problems. Statistics show that alcohol and tobacco are among the top causes of preventable deaths in America, and mood and anxiety disorders are a risk factor for people dependent on them.
Deal with stress in healthy ways by talking it out with someone you trust or even having a good cry. You can also blow off steam by taking some online boxing lessons or anything that can help you deal with the pent-up frustration in healthy ways. For every unhealthy coping mechanism, there is a healthy alternative that you can choose to do instead.
Make physical fitness a priority.
Multiple studies have already shown that exercise is extremely beneficial, not just for our physical health but also for our mental well-being. It is such an integral part of mental wellness, but one that is not often talked about. Make time out of your day to do some simple stretching in between work tasks or even brisk walking. Other physical activities like gardening, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing have also been proven to reduce depression and anxiety.
Surround yourself with good and helpful content.
A study found that watching horror films can trigger symptoms that are similar to those of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). If you live alone, make a habit of surrounding yourself with positive and helpful content. There is no shortage of encouraging music, uplifting films, and educational talks by expert speakers about important topics. Scour the internet for helpful content and apps that can help you deal with specific issues. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, you can download apps and services that can help induce sleepiness and relaxation. If you need some good laughs, check the comedy section of Netflix. While films and content with distressing themes have a place, especially when you watch them with friends, they might not be the best option for when you’re trying to improve and protect your mental health.
Stay connected with your loved ones even when you’re self-isolating.
Living alone is not an excuse for social isolation. Even though you’re self-distancing, you don’t need to detach yourself from people you love and who love you. If you have a good relationship with your parents, check-in on them every once in a while via video call. Invite your siblings for a virtual game night. Host a drinking party with your friends via Zoom. You can do so many things to stay connected, and if you want to stay mentally healthy, staying in touch with your friends and family is a must. Extensive evidence shows that excellent relationships help us live longer and can reduce our mental health problems.
Awareness is Key
Being in touch with your emotions doesn’t make you less of a man; on the contrary, it might even help you be the best version of yourself. So if you want to survive this crisis, acknowledge your feelings, and deal with them in healthy ways.