Friendship catch-ups, sporting commitments, family time, job performance, dating games, staying on top of bills… there’s a lot of mental load to handle at the moment. But with articles like these on the benefit of good mental health, how important is it to take care of yourself as a man, really?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), over 20 per cent of Australian males have experienced what it’s like to live with anxiety at some time in their lives. When one-in-five of your mates may be struggling to keep all the balls in the air, we think it’s time to talk about slowing down and taking care of yourselves.
There’s a bit of a stigma of taking time out though, and it comes from multiple sources. There’s our hustle culture, which purports that if you’ve got spare time and a hobby, you should monetise that to boost your net worth on the side. Then there’s the gender-specific one around mental health that men deal with, that it’s not OK to ‘show weakness’ and ‘breakdown’. That stigma is particularly damaging and could be correlated with the fact that only 27.5 per cent of males would access services for their mental health problems compared with 40 per cent of women, again according to the ABS.
Well, we call bullshit.
It’s time to block out a half-day in your diary for you, and use that time with no regrets. Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to involve the capitalist version of ‘self-care’, including meditation, yoga classes, and green smoothies (although there is absolutely a place for them). ‘Time for yourself’ simply means doing something with no goal and no commitment in sight. It’s about allowing your mind to reset through rest.
For you, this could mean shooting hoops at the local ballpark or playing a few hours of video games uninterrupted. It could be driving to your nearest national park and hiking as far as you can with just your thoughts and your Camelbak. It could mean throwing on some music and deep-cleaning the house just because you like it. Whatever that weird and wonderful thing you like doing that calms you, give yourself permission to do that – it will benefit your mental health.
We feel better after allowing space for our mind to rest because this enables our cortisol levels to reduce. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can keep us in a level of ‘fight or flight’ when activated – or leave us feeling ‘wired’ and anxious when high. When this hormone is reduced, we can often breathe easier, and feel lighter in our bodies. This feeling helps us to make better decisions, have better relationships, and even look better.
Now, that’s a reason to take care of yourself.
About the author: BARE Therapy is an Australian-based counselling service. Certified Practising Counsellor, Tammi Sue, enables clients to work through their ‘stucks’ to live better lives. Find out more – @bare__therapy.