Last week we looked at challenges for men over the last twelve stress-filled months. This week we share views from our ten men and ten women on how men can stay well.
One of our ten wahine tells the story of her father, a sheep shearer, who cut his hand open while working. He stitched the gash himself with string and a needle, wrapped it in a bandage and went straight back to shearing sheep.
That’s the ‘old school’ way of dealing with issues – be staunch, take the pain and carry on. Some may applaud but being staunch isn’t working in our modern high stress world.
Instead, communication and connection are top of our list. This means talking about feelings, may be with your partner, a friend, family member, counsellor or helpline. This also means valuing connection with good friends and nurturing relationships. Do it now, don’t wait.
Don’t be superficial in these conversations. If things aren’t going well for you, remember it’s easier to get out of a shallow ditch than let time pass and find yourself in deep hole. You don’t need to struggle alone, the place to start is being honest with yourself.
A consistent insight from our men and women is that asking for help isn’t weakness. The opposite is true, pretending to be strong is weakness while reaching out for help takes strength and courage. It also shows responsibility and love to those who matter in your life.
Rated equally important with communication is being active. Exercise regularly, stay fit and eat healthy. Intuitively you already know these improve your mood.
While communication and being active are easily understood, the next step is harder - find strategies that work for you. It might be meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi or faith. It might be a hobby you’re passionate about that connects with your creative self, like music or writing. Even better if these activities involve others.
Personal strategies include recognising the importance of attitude. Look for the positive in life not the negative. Have daily routines, laugh a lot. Don’t be hard on yourself trying to be perfect – it’s ok to fail especially if you’re learning and improving. Manage your time and be aware of your boundaries between work and personal life.
Think about changes for the year ahead. Be proactive with a ‘well man’ check-up. Remember you can’t eat or drink or inject or smoke your way to happiness. Value your sleep.
When you can’t be bothered doing something active to improve your mood, don’t feel bad. Often doing nothing helps to recharge. Listen to music, watch a movie or even take a nap.
If you’re feeling down it’s important to know that the next guy is probably feeling the same, but you just don’t know it. So go ahead, share your problems.
If you’re feeling fine then check in with a mate, let’s not just focus on ourselves. Good friends and family never give up on us, so let’s never give up on them either.
John Berry is a trustee of Men’s Health Trust NZ. He is also CEO of Pathfinder Asset Management, an ethical KiwiSaver provider which is part of Alvarium Wealth. Several of our ten men and ten women mentioned ‘Five ways of well-being’ from the Mental Health Foundation as a great resource – the five ways being connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.