Some might cringe at the expression, but whatever you choose to call it, self care for men is now a thing, and more people are taking an interest in their wellbeing. The term ‘self care’ only cropped up recently, when mental health became a hot topic. Mental health is also high on the government’s agenda, and since the government is eternally strapped for money, we are encouraged to exercise ‘self care’ to prevent illness. Well, it kind of makes sense. We can find time to look after cars, gardens, houses, children, coin collections, online profiles, and so on – surely we can find some to look after ourselves? Here are seven ways that you can increase your sense of wellbeing. Some are easy and some need considerable willpower – but it is all worth it in the end.
1. Check in with yourself
It’s the equivalent of that tap on the shoulder – “You’re alright?”. Find a moment at different points in your day where you just stop and ask yourself: how am I feeling? Am I feeling tired, cold, hot, comfortable, excited, melancholy? Of course, this allows you to address any issues further, should you choose to, but even taking that minute to recognise how you feel makes a huge difference. In an age of distractions, taking a moment to think about yourself is an act of kindness towards yourself. And once you get used to checking in on yourself, you will be quick to notice if anything is wrong. This is a form of self care many men tend to neglect.
2. Sleep is a form of self care
According to latest research, if you are regularly getting less than 7 hours a night, you are sleep deprived. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker has ‘blackout’ hours that are reserved for sleep and sleep only, but we might not have that luxury. However, the least you can do is take yourself out of the constant cycle of activity on a Sunday and have a kip. Your brain will certainly thank you for it, as will the rest of your body.
- Read more on sleep in FT’s interview with Matthew Walker
3. Take your time to enjoy a drink
Does this sound strange? Well, it won’t once I explain it. A drink often signifies a break – a ‘tea break’, ‘cocktail o’clock’. However, we don’t actually take a break. If you’re anything like me, the morning coffee is consumed whilst scrolling through e-mails, a cup of tea is a permanent fixture on your working desk, and the 5 o’clock cocktail is sipped whilst chatting to a friend. Next time you make yourself a cuppa or mix yourself an Old Fashioned, sit down and take that moment for yourself. Learn to give yourself that. Of course, drink is more symbolic than anything – there are many different ways how you can take a small break, so feel free to experiment.
4. Talk to somebody who asks you questions
Social interactions can be functional, frantic or competitive. Have a conversation with someone who is genuinely interested in what you have to say, where no one has to raise their voice, speak out of turn or ‘win’. It can be a real luxury in a world where our attention spans are shorter than ever. If you cannot find someone like that, ask yourself why. Perhaps it is a good time to revise your circle of friends. Friendships are not eternal, and as we change and grow, sometimes we need to look for new people who are more compatible.
5. Therapy is for everyone
You don’t need to have serious psychological problems to see a therapist, and you don’t need to commit to weekly sessions. For some people, seeing someone every two weeks is ideal, or possibly even less often. You might be looking to increase your emotional resilience, understand your relationships with people you know, or even just to talk matters over with someone who is impartial and there to help you. Sometimes you have to change a few therapists to find a good fit, but good therapy can act as a ‘shortcut’ to your life experience. You know how some things in life took you years to figure out? Sometimes therapy can point you in the right direction and help you get there, faster.
- Search BACP for a therapist in the U.K.
6. Get sweaty (and not only in the bedroom)
I can just hear the sighs as I’m writing this. Are you on the “tried, tested, gave up” camp? Go back to that time. Why did you quit? Here are the two most common mistakes: pushing yourself too hard and assuming that “falling off the wagon” is a failure. Set yourself exercise goals that are easy, but have a small challenge built in. As long as you break a sweat, you’re doing fine. On days when you are tempted to increase difficulty prematurely, add an optional add-on (e.g. push ups to failure). It will raise the difficulty bar for that session.
And always assume that you will fall off the wagon. The trick is to throw yourself back on when you do it. It’s not a failure, it’s a point in a cycle. During the length of your training, you will start and stop a lot of times, allow yourself that. That’s fine. The trick is to keep on starting.
7. Self care is also about letting somebody look after you
Is this difficult for you? We are often fiercely independent, and letting someone else take over might feel like it goes against your nature. But consider this: at the most basic level, you already do it. It happens when you let a restaurant host pull up a chair for you, or when you have one of Touch of London masseurs work on your stress knots. Now you just need to learn to bring this to situations where you are not paying for the service. Accept offers of help. Hell, ask for help. “I could really use your help with _____” is not an imposition. It is an opportunity for other people to participate in your life and give back some of that care you’ve shown them. It is also something that will make you feel that life is a little bit kinder to you.
Final word on self care for men
As with everything, there is a certain gender bias within our society when we are talking about mental health. Until very recently, women were seen as needing “looking after” and “taking care of”, whereas men were often seen as fragile or feminine if they tried to talk about their feelings. Happily, this is slowly changing, and looking after yourself is now seen as a “life hack” or a way to “optimise your performance” rather than as an emasculating preoccupation. Finally, self care is high on the agenda for men and women alike.
- Londoner? Read our tips for relaxing in the capital. Or let one of our masseurs show you a truly relaxing time.
Main photo courtesy of Sven Kucinic via Unsplash.