Note To Self
It’s a concept that revolves around the preservation, even improvement, of health; the practice of actively working on your well-being, especially when life proves stressful or when times are uncertain. Yes, self-care implies a concerted effort that is applied to the body, mind and spirit. It is intended to balance the pressures of work, your external community and your inner circle (valued friends/much-loved family/esteemed colleagues/cute pets), and the pandemic that we’re living through has never made the striving for such balance more crucial.
If you’re in a committed relationship, you’ll see that your (female) partner is likely to be handling the recent pressures slightly differently than you. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that women tend to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression when times are tough, while men typically respond with substance abuse or antisocial disorders. According to researcher Nicholas Eaton of the University of Minnesota, the treatment of women should assist them with coping and cognitive skills to prevent their overactive thoughts from sky-rocketing into clinical depression and/or anxiety; while treatment for men should focus on curtailing impulsive behaviors – i.e. rewarding planned actions and re-focusing certain aggressive tendencies.
Make chill time
If you’re one of those hotshot, always-on-the-go entrepreneurs – and consequently often work at night – it’s time to change your tune. Be sure to take at least two nights off every week (say, a Wednesday and a Saturday) to unwind and catch your favorite movies in that cosy TV lounge at home. I know, I know – the big screen rocks, but this virus is till a threat out there. Staying home all you can is definitely safer. Flip a coin with your housemate or partner to select one of 14 popular genres – action, animation, comedy, crime, drama, experimental, fantasy, historical, horror, romance, sci-fi, thriller, western or casino-inspired; then scroll through the offerings on ShowMax, Netflix or Channel and enjoy slipping into a world completely different from the reality with which we’re currently faced. You deserve it.
Schedule some grooming
The advice of psychologist Sally Spencer-Thomas, who is co-founder of ManTherapy.org, is that self-care involves creating a regimen that “renews your soul and rejuvenates your engagement in life”. And while it may feel off, at first, to book a monthly barber’s appointment (just like your late blue-tinged grandmother did with her valued hairdresser), just think how much you relish the laddish chats while you’re there and feel oh-so smart and ready to mingle when emerging all shaven and shorn. This point applies especially to the guys who have been working from home over lockdown and may not have taken a recent glance in a mirror. Mountain man!
Attend to your toolbox
If that barber’s shop visit seems frivolous, think again. Spencer-Thomas argues that self-care “provides reservoirs of resilience”. She says that investing in the concept doesn’t just serve to benefit us each day, but when the shit hits the fan we are likely to bounce back more easily. The self-care tools to nurture are robust relationships (yes, even with your barber!), healthy distractions (movies, hobbies, sport, bird-watching, wink wink) and, of course, strengthening your emotional intelligence for when decisions need to be made or challenging problems solved. Your regimen can extend to fitness, nutrition and sleep, with each getting a little attention on a regular basis: say buying a Men’s Health to check out fitness routines, researching a few high-protein meals and/or hitting the sack a little earlier than you normally would.
Reach out warmly
But you’ll also need to take a feather out of the cap of that happily married old dude, a neighbor, say, in his 70s or beyond, who continues to socialise up a storm. Spencer-Thomas believes that the critical item in that self-care toolbox – especially for men – is human connection, advising that “the health of your friendships is the best gauge of your mental and emotional health”. Even over the COVID-19 lockdown that we’ve all endured, the most stable among us have focussed on relationships at every level – from youth (the kids) and elderly (the parents), to the romantic partner and professional contacts. An authentic approach is best, and it includes plenty of Zoom meetings, FaceTime chats, Microsoft Team webinars and WhatsApp flirts. You may also wish to step back from an unhealthily competitive vibe at work or in society at large, to focus on what has most meaning for you and ultimately makes you happiest. It’s really not about how many hours you put in or the weight of your earnings.
The rewards of taking a little me-time each day, say 20 to 30 minutes, can also not be underestimated. You could invest that time in any of a range of popular wellness practices designed to bring about a calm and collected mindset. Download a yoga app from a 10-best list online (Glo gets a 4.9-star rating from Women’s Health, and is suitable for iOs and Android). Or invest your precious me-time in a mindfulness app – Calm and Headspace ranked highly in a recent Independent review.
Don’t think just because you’re a typical guy who prefers flinging weights around or boxing that these practices aren’t for you… Supple as a rhino? Yoga will extend your range of motion, improve breathing and create balance, aid relaxation, and even improve your sex life as a result of improved blood flow to the genital area.
Is mindfulness seeming a bit airy-fairy for that macho self-care routine? Think again. It’s powerful and life-changing. Forget downward-facing dog: this is about zoning out from your surroundings so you can tap into your inner truth. It will increase your compassion for the self and others, and make the judgemental and impulsive among us that little bit less reactive. If you’re a nerd, you can even read up about the power of mindfulness to reshape the brain so that it follows the neurological pathways that veer away from depression and towards renewed vitality.
Self-care is about trial and error, until you’ve collected a “backpack” of delightful go-to pastimes that allow you to tap into and celebrate your unique and authentic identity. So seek out those pastimes that fulfill you deeply and bring you ultimate calm, and you’ll begin winning at life beyond the external trappings.
Some guys might joke about the idea of “Self Care” as something simply sexual and why that might be true, self care for men is much more than just that.