You don’t have to struggle in silence.
When it comes to mental health, many men are apprehensive about recognizing when there’s an issue beyond their control. Taking a step further and admitting that there is a need for help is even harder for a lot of men. After all, societal influences are constantly hammering away with phrases like “man up” leading men to believe it’s somehow frowned upon to need help. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and with that in mind, these are some tips for unapologetically prioritizing your mental health.
If you ever feel like other people are asking too much of you, it’s easy to feel burnt out after a while. You may end up thinking to yourself “It would be really nice to not worry about anyone but myself for once.” It’s easy to want to help people out when they ask, or reluctantly say yes to a few drinks after work even though you’re exhausted. You have to realize that you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Saying no takes practice for some people. You don’t want others to be let down or upset with you. Remember, they’ll be fine! Trust your gut when it’s time to say no and take time for yourself, and don’t overthink how other people feel about your choices.
There are so many obvious health benefits to exercise, but people are often less aware of the benefits of exercise on mental health specifically. You may have heard of “runner’s high” which is a short-lived burst of euphoria after a strenuous workout. Exercise releases endorphins that help relieve pain and stress, and raise your serotonin levels to improve your mood. You may even find yourself improving your body image as you lose excess weight and gain muscle over time, which can help when you feel negatively about your physical appearance. Thinking of exercise as an act of self-care can also make you feel like you are actively taking control of your physical and mental health, and give yourself something to feel proud of.
Pick Up a New Hobby
Depression can trick people into thinking that they don’t have interest in things they used to enjoy. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, picking up the same old hobbies just doesn’t give the same satisfaction that your depressed brain is yearning for. However, it has been shown that hobbies can improve your mental state, so maybe try looking for a new, exciting hobby. It can give you a sense of excitement or adventure that can make you feel invigorated. If there’s anything you can think of that you’ve always wanted to try or wished you could do, it’s never too late to start! Say for example you have always wished you could play guitar. Just learning a few beginner chords can give you a sense of gratification and pride that can be effective in improving your mental state.
Lean on Other People for Support
This is often a difficult step because it involves shifting away from trying to handle things on your own, and requires you to admit that you are struggling to others. Once you get past the initial vulnerability of being honest about it, treatment and healing can begin. Mental illness often leads people to retreat inwards, especially men who are concerned with appearing strong. Strength has many definitions, however, it takes strength to admit that you need help. When there aren’t the right people around you this can be especially difficult. Your family or friends may not be supportive or potentially even be a trigger for you. If that’s the case, you may consider joining a support group or online forum where you can meet people who are going through similar struggles and can understand and support you.
Talk to a Professional
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there comes a time when you need to involve a professional for help. Think about your mental illness like any other health concern, would you try to treat yourself without a professional? There is no reason to think that a mental illness is any less “real” or any less important to treat than other illnesses. Sometimes there is a sense of anxiety when involving a professional. Not knowing what to expect, or fear of opening up to a stranger is completely normal. Remember a professional therapist or psychiatrist is there to help you, not judge you. Check with people who you know go to therapy to see if they can refer you to someone, or if you’re worried about working around your busy schedule speaking with a psychiatrist online may help with scheduling flexibility. There are many options for finding the right person for you.
The hardest part of treating mental illness in men specifically is often the leap of faith in admitting you need help. Men usually don’t want to feel vulnerable, they want to feel independent and masculine. Whether you are struggling with mental illness yourself, or can think of men in your life that might be, it’s up to men now to raise awareness and shift the narrative to help others feel comfortable reaching out to get help.