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Start Building a Strong Support System

Ever since the dawn of civilization, humans have always relied on one another during times of crisis. Our ability to support each other and grow as a community is what helped us to survive and thrive in a world where weakness and vulnerability meant certain death. The world has certainly become a lot safer than it used to be. However, we still need a robust support system if we wish to overcome difficulties and enjoy a stress-free life. In fact, many healthcare professionals believe that social support plays a crucial role in physical and mental health. It can speed up recovery, cultivate hope and improve patients’ overall sense of well-being.

What is a Social Support System?

A social support system represents an essential factor in maintaining physical, mental and affective balance which are often threatened by adversity. It’s kind of difficult to enjoy a pleasant, stress-free life in the absence of social support; let alone achieve personal and professional growth.

A study that was published in Epidemiology & Community Health in 2016 revealed that social support is a predictor of better mental health. Researchers have also discovered that the negative aspects of social relationships may lead to poor mental health.

Aside from contributing to our overall mental health, social support presents plenty of other benefits as well. Your close friends or family members could (for instance) help you find a better job, deal with a tough breakup or even lend you some money when you’re behind on your bills.

The Importance of a Strong Support Group

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. No matter how careful we are and no matter how much we prepare, we simply can’t avoid every adversity that life throws down our path.

That’s why having people around who love and care about us can be a real blessing. We’ve all been there. Down in the dumps, feeling like you’ve hit rock bottom. Social support is what gives you the “push” you need to overcome life’s adversities and regain control of the situation.

For teenagers and adolescents, support systems are especially important. Close support groups (comprised of family members or friends) can create the perfect climate for personal, academic or professional growth. This type of group can also act as a buffer against all sorts of difficulties in life.

A 2016 study, published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, concluded that perceived social support and mental health often go hand in hand. More specifically; it indicated that adolescents with a history of bullying victimization find it easier to cope with anxiety and adjust to college, if they receive support from their families.

The evidence that supports a strong link between support systems and mental health is quite overwhelming. For instance, a study that was published in Social Science & Medicine, specifically evaluated social support for employed and unemployed individuals. This study shed a little light on some interesting findings. It indicated that when we’re dealing with unemployment, social support may actually serve as a protective measure against mental health issues.

Types of Social Support

Let’s take a closer look the main benefits of social support systems.

Emotional Support

One of the key areas where support systems prove to be the most useful is mental health. Problems like stress, depression and anxiety can impact some of the crucial aspects of your everyday life.

It’s difficult to enjoy a satisfying romantic relationship or work on your big dreams when you are under serious emotional distress. For that reason, emotional support represents a definitive factor in both health and success.

A recent article in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, discussed the relationship between support systems and depression. The authors suggested that high-quality social connections with friends and family members was associated with a reduced likelihood of depression in the past year.

There’s no shame in asking for help when your life has taken a turn for the worse. You can always find someone who is willing to lend a helping hand or empathetic ear. It is, however, important that you’re open to letting others be there for you.

Practical Help

When you are dealing with stress and adversity, finding practical solutions to overcome your problems may prove to be extremely difficult. It’s hard to put aside your unpleasant emotions and approach challenges or obstacles with a clear head.

Furthermore, being entirely absorbed by your perceptions could be preventing you from finding original solutions. In times like these, friends or family members can offer an outside perspective. This will allow you to see the problem from a different angle, which could help you to come up with alternative solutions.

A social support system creates the ideal climate for people to share opinions, exchange ideas and tackle challenges as a group. When you are dealing with a tough situation, you need as much input as you can get.

Informational Support

Life has taught us that knowledge is power and that information is the key to any problem. No matter how challenging it may seem.

Being part of a close social support system grants you access to more than one perspective from which you can approach a difficult situation. You can receive constructive feedback, valuable information and practical tips on how to overcome anything that’s preventing you from living a fulfilling life.

Remember, it was through collaboration that our ancestors managed to survive and build a thriving civilization. Regardless of the challenges and dilemmas you may be facing right now, there’s always someone who can offer you insightful answers. All you need to do is ask and be prepared to listen.

Support System

Support System: Benefits for Psychological Health

Let’s explore the ways in which a strong support system could benefit your psychological health.

Decision-Making Process

There are times when difficult situations and personal struggles can affect your judgment and limit your ability to make smart decisions. Problems like anxiety or stress can have a direct impact on your decision-making and the results can quickly turn against you. That’s when you need someone with a fresh opinion who can help you adopt a new perspective. Someone who can guide you towards making decisions that are not influenced by your own mental filters.

If you feel like you’re in a dark place, it would perhaps be wiser to consult with someone you trust before making any big decisions. Making decisions in this state could result in severe consequences for your well-being and personal growth.

Coping With Stress

The studies that were mentioned earlier have clearly shown that social support is one of the key ingredients in the development of robust mental health.

When it comes to everyday stress, having someone who understands your struggles can be extremely therapeutic. In fact, if you are lucky enough to have a reliable support system you are less likely to struggle with everyday stress. Moreover, you also have a smaller chance of developing more serious problems like depression and anxiety disorders. This is not because you are somehow sheltered from life’s hassles but, instead, because you’re surrounded by people who can cheer you up and make life a bit easier for you.

Motivation

It’s virtually impossible to achieve the life you’ve always dreamed of without having the motivation to keep on hustling through thick and thin. This is where friends, family members or life partners come into play. The people who love and appreciate you the most can be your biggest fans. Not just when things are going great for you but also when life has knocked you down.

In the end, we all need someone to cheer for us and have faith in our endeavors.

Things To Consider Before Joining a Social Support Network

Before joining a social support network, make sure the people that are part of the group can:

  • Be empathetic and emotionally available
  • Provide constructive feedback
  • Refrain from criticism and negative remarks
  • Be assertive

5 Ways To Build Your Social Support System

Building your social support group is not always an easy task. Let’s have a look at ways in which building a successful support system can be made a bit simpler.

Really Get To Know The People Around You

A social support system can be made up of virtually anyone. This may include family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers or even people from online support groups. Don’t miss out on really getting to know some of the people who are already part of your life. Take the time to know them better. These are most likely the people who are going to be there for you when the going gets tough.

Seek Out Peer Support

Seeking out peer support is one of the best ways in which you can receive authentic support. No one understands you better than the people with whom you spend most of your time. They are the ones who really know you and they can offer you authentic emotional support along with useful tips. Sometimes, a classmate or coworker can be more supportive and empathetic than a close friend or family member.

Take Advantage of Technology

Nowadays, there are plenty of online support groups where you can find like-minded people who resonate with your struggles; people who’ve been through the same struggles as you. You can look for Facebook groups, chat rooms or forums where people share their stories, exchange ideas and support each other emotionally. The internet opens the door to unlimited possibilities. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

Follow Your Interests

You may be dealing with difficult things in your life right now. Regardless of this, it’s important to stick to your path and never stop following your interests. Sooner or later you will meet like-minded people who share your vision and who wish to contribute to your dream. All you need to do is share, be open-minded, ask for feedback and be open to letting others help you achieve the things you want to achieve.

Expand Your Social Network

The more people you meet, the bigger your chances are of finding someone who can guide and support you. Expanding your social network is all about interacting with others, listening to their stories, understanding their struggles and creating an emotional bond with them. As a result, people will return the favor by providing you with the support you need to live a joyous and satisfying life.

Keep in mind that this strategy works just like a two-way street. In other words, if you want others to be supportive you should also be prepared to return the favor. That’s how social systems evolve.

The Power of Social Support

No matter how smart and adaptable we think we are, life will always find a way to prove us wrong. When that happens, being part of a group that can support you (financially, emotionally or in whatever way) is what will keep you afloat.

Forget about being an island. Focus on building a strong social support system and you will always have someone who is ready to lend you a helping hand when the going gets tough.

 

References:

  1. C. Hakulinen, L. Pulkki-Råback, M. Jokela, J. E. Ferrie, A.-M. Aalto, M. Virtanen, M. Kivimäki, J. Vahtera and M. Elovainio, “Structural and functional aspects of social support as predictors of mental and physical health trajectories: Whitehall II cohort study,” Epidemiology & Community Health, vol. 70, pp. 710-715, 2016.
  2. G. M. Reid, M. K. Holt, C. E. Bowman, D. L. Espelage and J. Greif Green, “Perceived Social Support and Mental Health among First-Year College Students with Histories of Bullying Victimization,” Journal of Child and Family Studies, vol. 25, no. 11, p. 3331–3341, 2016.
  3. A. Milner, L. Krnjacki, P. Butterworth and A. D. LaMontagne, “The role of social support in protecting mental health when employed and unemployed: A longitudinal fixed-effects analysis using 12 annual waves of the HILDA cohort,” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 153, pp. 20-26, 2016.
  4. A. Werner-Seidler, M. H. Afzali, C. Chapman, M. Sunderland and T. Slade, “The relationship between social support networks and depression in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being,” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 52, no. 12, p. 1463–1473, 2017.

Finding Your Tribe: Your True Connections Are Out There!

These days we seem to be busier than ever before. In-between climbing the corporate ladder, finding your life passion, doing your laundry and staying on top of your emails; how are you supposed to have time to develop a healthy social network? This article provides some insight into what “finding your tribe” means and how you can get started today.

Finding Your Tribe: What Does It Mean?

When we speak about a “tribe”, we’re referring to a group of people who share similar interests and offer support to one another. In the modern sense, your tribe comprises of the people you choose to connect with. This may include your family, friends or colleagues; and the list goes on. Thus, finding your tribe means finding the people you feel comfortable around, the people you can talk to about your daily triumphs and struggles. Ultimately, finding your tribe means finding a connection between yourself and the people around you (whoever they may be).

Why Do We Need Friends?

Humans need connection. It’s that simple! The drive to seek out social connections is literally hard-wired into our brains. This need for connection likely started with our ancestors, as a way to remain safe while roaming the lands or needing to withstand harsh weather conditions. Despite this fact, it has developed into something else in contemporary times.

Today, we may not depend on each other as much for basic survival, but the deep need for connection is still there. Research has shown that it is just as important as following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Nevertheless, social connection is often undervalued. Ultimately, social connection is related to increased physical and psychological well-being. In other words, it forms a vital part of living a fulfilled life. In fact, social connection can lower depression rates, improve self-esteem and even play a role in immune functioning.

So, why do we need friends? Because friends provide us with this social connection and companionship. Helping us to truly thrive in our environment and live life to the fullest.

Challenges of Finding Your Tribe in Adulthood

In preschool, sharing a toy with a fellow classmate may lead to an exciting new friendship. When you go to school, sharing a classroom with other people of your age allows for easy opportunities to make new friends. Unfortunately, in adulthood it’s not quite that simple.

As adults, we have past preconceptions and busy lifestyles that may hinder us from developing the connections we want and need. Additionally, venturing into adult life may cause us to become disconnected from previous friendships and support systems. For instance, parents and siblings. Because of the busy lifestyle that comes along with adulthood; we have less time and space in our lives to build up and maintain healthy friendships. Things like moving out, having a job, shopping and cleaning all form part of being an adult. However, there are great opportunities for finding your tribe as an adult. It may just require a little more effort from your side!

Connecting With Like-Minded People

We live in an extremely diverse world. There are endless beliefs, identities and interests with which people align themselves. This makes it both easy and difficult to find people with whom you can truly connect. Being in a social situation where you feel like nobody understands you is certainly uncomfortable. If you think about it, no-one wants to be at a party where all the conversations are about things that they’re not interested in or don’t understand. This is all linked to one relatively simple solution. You need to connect with people who are similar to you and with whom you are compatible.

Basically, to find your tribe, you need to actively seek out people who have interests and beliefs that are similar to yours. Connecting with like-minded people not only makes social situations more enjoyable for you, but for them too. Which creates a positive feedback loop all around.

It might seem tricky to find people with whom you can connect, since people don’t share everything on their first encounter with a new acquaintance or friend. However, there are some possible starting points. These could include: meeting people through existing friends or joining a group that enjoys what you do (such as a sport or hobby). Alternatively, you may choose to seek-out people who share your philosophical or religious beliefs. Whatever the case, it’s important to connect with people that you can relate to.

Knowing Who You Are Outside of a Group

Before you can connect with people (within a group), on a deeper level, you need to be confident in yourself. You need to know who you are. Outside influences may easily change your own perception of yourself, which may lead to a change in the way you behave. This, in turn, may leave you feeling inauthentic and (ironically) disconnected from the group.

Furthermore, if you do not know who you are outside of a group; you may feel like you have no individual identity. Which is not true. Therefore, finding yourself is a very important first step to take. It will allow you to be confident in your own identity, which will also attract the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Discovering yourself and partaking in self-reflection will also enable you to understand what you feel is missing. Through self-discovery, you may also start to realize which types of relationships you want to foster. In the end, this will lead to more fulfilling relationships and overall life satisfaction.

Finding Your Tribe

How Do I Find My Tribe?

Let’s cover some simple, practical pointers for finding your tribe.

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

If you don’t risk venturing outside of your comfort zone, you’re not giving yourself an opportunity to grow and develop. So, try something new. Be adventurous! You’ll never know what you may end up enjoying unless you try it. Take risks! Sign up for something you usually wouldn’t sign up for (such as a new sport or activity) and you may just discover that you really like it. Go to a new talk, event or meeting. Even if you don’t, at least you’ve narrowed down what you don’t like!

Find a Group Online

In the world of digital communication and constant technological advancements, there are so many online groups to join. These range from local cooking groups to local bloggers, local moms, people who share similar medical conditions or mental disorders to people who are interested in charity work. The list is seemingly endless. Search online for a group, forum or website that you would be interested in joining. If you don’t know where to start, search for your interests and hobbies and find a group from there. Consider going online to start connecting with a range of different people with similar interests. What a great way to find your tribe!

Take Part in Things That Interest You

This is a relatively easy way to connect with people who share similar interests. Sign up for surfing, dancing or any other activity that interests you. It’s guaranteed that the people you meet are there for the same reason: to do what they love. This is a great way to connect with people, whilst partaking in an activity that you enjoy.

Volunteer in Your Community

Supporting a cause you care about (such as social equality or animal welfare) is a great way to meet people who have similar values to yours. This ties back into meeting like-minded people, all the while making a difference in an area that you deeply value.

Sign Up For a Class

This is a great way to not only learn something new and exciting, but also connect with people who are on a similar journey to yours. Signing up for something (such as a cooking class or learning to play a new instrument) may prove to be rewarding; both personally and socially. This setting may also make it easier to start conversations with others and set-up future opportunities to socialize.

Can I Have More Than One Tribe at a Time?

Of course! Why limited yourself to only one tribe? Many people have different tribes for different aspects of what they love and desire. One tribe may offer you comfort while another may offer some adventure. A specific tribe may offer you personal advice, while another may be more business related. You do not need to limit yourself to only one tribe. Branch out, explore and find the connections you need in all aspects of your life.

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

As cliché as it may be, the idea that “your vibe attracts your tribe” can be quite truthful. What you project out into the world is what people will perceive and this is what they will begin to engage with. They will recognize certain aspects that they may want to connect with. So, allow yourself to be yourself. Open yourself up to the possibility of connection.

Finding your tribe may seem daunting or, perhaps, even impossible. You may feel that your busy lifestyle is always getting in the way. It’s important to remember that connecting with others is a central part of human nature. Busy schedules can be tweaked in a way that allows for this healthy connection. So don’t wait any longer, find your tribe today and start thriving instead of simply surviving!

What Are Some Alternative Forms of Male Bonding?

Being able to form strong bonds with other men is often essential to protecting a man’s well-being. The problem, however, is that a lot of men struggle to form deep, emotional, and meaningful connections with other men in their lives, including those people they love or care about the most, such as their father or best friends.

In contemporary society, men find it easy to bond in an active or competitive way, whether that’s in the form of sports, martial arts, the military, competitive games, or outdoor activities. Men will also traditionally bond in ways that confirm their masculine identity, such as partying and drinking together, and in a business setting.

However, not all men are passionately interested in these kinds of pursuits. They may want to form deep, genuine connections with men that don’t depend on masculine norms like competitiveness, winning, dominance, violence, primacy of work, or pursuit of status. And there’s nothing wrong with having these preferences. They don’t make you any less of a man. They just mean you might have a certain personality type or inclination that attract you to some activities and not others. For example, if you’re a highly sensitive man, you may prefer quiet one-on-one conversations to partying with your friends in a loud and busy bar or nightclub.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of social situations and contexts that allow for these kinds of conversations. Here are some examples of non-traditional ways that men can bond.

Going Out to Eat

The bro-date or man-date is extremely underrated. They are crucial to any bromance. Two guys might feel uncomfortable going out together for lunch or dinner, unless (God, forbid) someone thinks they’re a gay couple. Which really goes to show how unhelpful and ridiculous masculine norms are. One of the 11 masculine norms that men feel expected to conform to is disdain for homosexuals. The way this manifests is that many men will avoid behavior, interactions, or relationships that – in their eyes or anyone else’s – might be perceived as or mocked for being ‘gay’.

Women don’t really have to contend with this issue. Two straight female friends don’t meet up for dinner and worry about being perceived as gay, nor are they likely to care if they were. This is a generalization, of course, but the masculine norm of disdain for homosexuals really does affect the kinds of relationships men have with each other. Which is a shame.

Alternative Forms of Male Bonding

There’s nothing wrong, effeminate, or abnormal about two guys going out for a meal. Yet, if you’re ever in a restaurant and see two people together, it’s far more common to see two female friends than to see two male friends catching up with each other over some food.

The benefits of having a one-on-one meal with a male peer or friend can’t be overstated. Often, when men are in groups, it becomes difficult to have open, honest, and heartfelt chats because the dynamics change. Men are more likely to be competitive and jokey when they’re amongst a group of guys. If there’s something you want to get off your chest, it may seem inappropriate to do it in this kind of context.

When it’s just two guys hanging out, on the other hand, men may find it easier to talk candidly about their emotional life. This is especially true for introverted men, who may prefer one-on-one conversations to larger group interactions since the former more easily allow for deep, meaningful conversations. Introverted men thrive on these types of conversations and may feel more drained by and less interested in surface-level or frivolous topics. (Which is not to say that introverts are a boring bunch who shy away from banter, of course.)

So, if there’s a friend or male peer you’d like to have a more honest dialogue with, make plans to eat somewhere together. Turn that into a regular thing and you can build a male bond that can act as an extremely crucial and unique part of your support network.

Road Trips or Long Car Journeys

A long car journey can be an ideal time for men to connect, as it’s a situation where it’s just two men. There are no outside influences you have to worry about judging you. You have complete privacy. Also, a lot of guys feel more comfortable speaking about deep issues when they’re not looking at each other since it can be a bit unnerving to have someone look at when you’re exposing your vulnerability or tender emotions. Being in a car allows you both to look straight ahead and talk. When you’re in a car together, you don’t have an excuse to escape. Many men find that their most serious conversations with other men, including their fathers, take place during car journeys.

Traveling or Going on Vacation

Traveling with a guy friend can be another way to really get to know each other. Often, when you travel with a friend or go on vacation with them, that’s the true test of friendship, as you will get to intimately know each others’ quirks, tastes, and eccentricities (for better or worse!)

When it’s just the two of you traveling together, you’re going to spend a lot of time in each other’s company – certainly for longer periods than you would ever hang out back home. If you don’t drive each other crazy abroad, then, hopefully, you can form an even stronger bond. The unforgettable sights, activities, mishaps, and chance encounters you both experience can be something you both cherish and look back on fondly together. Think of a guy who you honestly think would make a great travel partner and start planning an awesome trip together.

Therapy

It can be difficult for men who are struggling with their mental health to reach out and seek professional help. But a lot of men find it’s easier to speak to a male therapist because they feel they will truly understand their struggles as a man; how their mental health issues have become so tightly wrapped up with modern notions of masculinity.

The bond between a therapist and client can often be a very close one. Which is unsurprising, after all, since the client is bearing their soul and revealing their innermost secrets. In order to do this, a man has to feel he can trust the therapist he is speaking to, and feel assured that the therapist genuinely cares about his hardship.

The advantage of talking to a male therapist, as a man, is that it may help you to form a genuine male bond when, perhaps, you feel this is something you are lacking. Opening up to a male therapist can help you to realize that it doesn’t have to be humiliating or embarrassing to reveal your vulnerable side to another man. The therapeutic relationship can allow you to see that men are entirely capable of responding to your suffering with empathy and compassion.

Your therapist is not your friend, of course, although relations may be friendly and lighthearted. What your therapist may teach you, however, is that it’s okay to trust other men when it comes to sharing intimate details about your life and that it can be an invaluable thing to have a man in your life who you can have a heart-to-heart with.

Support Groups

Support groups, whether they’re male-only or not, are another sanctioned setting in which men can be totally open with each other, without the fear of being judged or put down. When men feel a burning desire to get something painful off their chest, they may grapple with the worry that, if they tell another man, or a male peer finds out, that it will forever ruin their male pride. Once the dirty secret is out in the open, it can never be a secret again.

This worry, nonetheless, is often misplaced. While some insecure and narrow-minded men may criticize you for showing vulnerability, true friends wouldn’t do that. One way to get over this worry and feel comfortable expressing your emotions is by attending a support group. Whatever your problem, be it related to your mental health, drinking, or drug use, there will be other men in the room who are also struggling. And they will try to understand the turmoil that you’re going through, offering an empathetic ear, their life experience, advice, and support. Ron Tannebaum, the co-founder of intherooms.com, a social networking site for people in recovery from drugs and alcohol, said:

“12-step meetings. It doesn’t get any more real than that, and I’ve never felt closer to men than I have in those rooms. Throughout my life I thought I had strong male relationships, but it was only when I entered recovery that I found out what true male bonding was all about. I, by the grace of God, found men who reached out to me and taught me how to become a real man. A man with integrity, a loyal, trustworthy and monogamous husband, a good father and role model, brother, friend, employer, sponsor and a responsible member of society. My male friends are the cornerstone of my success in life, they helped me become the person I always wanted to be, me.”

Alternative Forms of Male Bonding

Men’s support groups, in particular though, may be ideal spaces for men to open up about their emotions. In a male-only space, men are probably more comfortable being vulnerable, and less likely to ‘man up’, compared to if women were present. A mixed gender group could make you feel a bit more awkward about expressing more intimate details or discussing specific topics, such as relationships.

Deep down, men want to feel that they are understood, especially when it comes to their masculinity, which is why male-only mental health support groups may be best suited to this discussion. There is likely to be a widespread understanding of how gender impacts mental health. This helps men to know they’re not alone, which can feel like a huge burden has been lifted. It’s a relief to know you’re not suffering in isolation.

Fred Rabinowitz is a professor of psychology at the University of Redlands in California and he has outlined some of the benefits of men’s groups. For example, he argues that male support groups help men to trust other men again. In the competitive, macho culture that we live in, men may find it hard to connect with each other in an emotional and non-judgemental manner. But in a men’s support group, you can talk about who you really are. In this unique kind of environment, you can drop all of your personas and facades and find acceptance from other men.

Find Your Tribe

If you’re just yearning to connect with another man who shares the same interests as you, then consider joining a group dedicated to that interest. These are usually organized on Facebook or on sites like Meetup.com. You may be passionate about all kinds of hobbies or interests, such as debating, writing, books, art, philosophy, science, politics, and spirituality. By joining a group based around a common interest, you can meet men who you can connect with easily and quickly.

Most guys love electronics, gadgets, and technology. For this reason, a lot of men have some of their best bonding experiences when talking about tech-related stuff. Whether you’re straight, gay, or bi, there’s a good chance you’ll have a fascination with technology. Men, after all, tend to display a natural preference for things over people, so when you have a bunch of guys surrounded by hi-tech things, it’s a chance for them to express their common interests and connect on that level.

Bonding with other men in sport may not be for you. And that’s alright. You may not be really into sports – or you might be, but perhaps interested in more solitary physical activities, such as weight lifting or running. If this applies to you, consider the above options as ways to bond with men. If you can foster these kinds of situations and relationships, then your general well-being will improve massively in the long run.

7 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

The holiday season is fast approaching, and while it is widely billed to be a time of peace, harmony, and ‘good cheer’, it can be a period of many pressures and lots of stress.

The Most Stressful Time of the Year

For many people, the holiday season can actually be the most stressful time of the year. There are many reasons for this. It may be that you are a long way from your family and will be spending the holidays alone. For others, the stress may arise from being in close contact with the extended family. Some may have been through a divorce and are facing the difficulties of organizing and dividing up the time with their children. Others may have lost a loved one and are dealing with their first holiday season without them. At this time when everyone around appears to be happy and having fun, it can be extra stressful and difficult to cope.

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Why Men Avoid Self-Care

Self-care has become quite a trendy term, promoted by mental health bloggers and advocates. Simply put, self-care refers to actions that individuals take in order to take care of themselves. And taking care of yourself means developing, protecting, maintaining, or improving your well-being. According to the mental health charity Mind, positive mental well-being is associated with:

  • Confidence and healthy self-esteem
  • Feeling and expressing a range of emotions
  • Building and maintaining positive relationships with others
  • Feeling engaged with the world around you
  • Living and working productively
  • Being able to cope with the stresses of everyday life
  • Adapting and managing in times of change and uncertainty

In this way, we can see that self-care is not a luxury but is often essential to keeping yourself stable, functioning well, and happy. Nonetheless, it seems many men avoid self-care. They do not take care of their overall mental well-being in the same manner that women do. This happens for a variety of reasons, the first being that men are simply put off by the notion of self-care and its connotations.

Self-Care is Not Seen as Very Masculine

While it’s important for all of us to take of ourselves, self-care is seen as something effeminate, reserved for women only. This is because the concept has become stereotypically associated with pampering and other activities aimed (mostly) at women, such as spa and beauty treatments. Self-care conjures up images of manicures, getting your nails done, aromatherapy, bubble baths, and facials.

Men may avoid self-care simply because of these connotations. They will avoid talking about self-care because the whole concept itself is seen as ‘girly’. But self-care is so much more than self-indulgence. Of course, treatments such as massage can be effective at alleviating stress, but self-care encompasses many other beneficial activities, including:

Why Men Avoid Self Care

  • Spending more time with friends and family
  • Socializing more
  • Taking a break from work
  • Regular exercise
  • Regular sleep
  • Walking more
  • Spending time in nature
  • Improving one’s diet
  • Meditation
  • Alone time
  • Spending more time on one’s hobbies

Men may automatically avoid taking self-care seriously because of the way it’s wrapped up with pampering. It’s crucial, therefore, to emphasize that self-care stands for taking care of yourself and that there is nothing fundamentally effeminate or emasculating about this. We all have physical and mental health. When we look after both, our lives can improve dramatically.

Certain activities, such as yoga and massage – while practiced and enjoyed by men – seem to be primarily marketed to – and dominated by – women. Men may avoid yoga classes for fear of standing out. It may feel emasculating to carry around a yoga mat. But the truth is that men have been practicing yoga for thousands of years (in fact, those who founded the practice were men).

As well as being a spiritual discipline and involving meditative aspects, yoga is also a form of stretching and exercise associated with improved strength, posture, balance and reduced stress. More men, on the other hand, are starting to see how beneficial yoga is to their well-being, and are starting to care less about whether the practice is perceived as feminine.

It can also be difficult for some men to view massage as being something other than a form of female pampering. Massage studios displaying only images of women may not help in this respect. Nevertheless, massage can effectively help anyone manage stress levels and increase feelings of relaxation. For men who engage in sports or intense physical activity, massage is also a helpful way to treat injuries and related pain. Physical health and mental health are strongly linked. When men don’t take steps to look after their physical health, their mental health suffers as well.

Not Too Many Men Are Promoting Self-Care

Self-care is also seen as for women only because it tends to mainly be women who promote it. This is due to the fact that most mental health bloggers and advocates are women. So looking after your well-being becomes perceived as effeminate. And this perception may be enhanced by the kind of posts you see on social media or on blogs, where self-care is presented in a gender-specific way, perhaps using images of flowers and hearts, or with self-care written in ‘girly’ font or in pink.

It’s no surprise that this kind of content will put many men off from considering the importance of self-care. Men would probably be less likely to avoid self-care if they saw that male mental health advocates, influencers or role models were promoting the concept. Fortunately, men’s magazines are increasingly covering the topic of self-care for men.

Indeed, self-care can be promoted in a way that appeals to men, by promoting self-indulgent activities like getting a fresh haircut and buying new clothes, pushing oneself in a sport or at the gym, and being disciplined. Self-care is more likely to attract men’s attention when it is framed in the form of self-improvement. The psychologist Konstantin Lukin, in writing for Psychology Today, says:

“When you think of the term “self-care,” a woman in a bathrobe lighting candles and painting her toenails might come to mind. While this may seem amazing to some, most men would probably have different desires.

The truth is, men need to work especially hard to take charge of caring for themselves. After all, is there anything more manly than being independent in your ability to care for yourself, not just physically, but emotionally and tangibly?

 

We also need to change the way we think of “actualized manhood” in modern times. Instead of defining ourselves only in terms of work, productivity, and the overall “get” mentality, we must embrace other parts of ourselves that make us who we are and most importantly, make us happy.”

Lukin recommends different ways for men to practice self-care. He argues that self-care should include:

  • Setting aside time to do things you enjoy, such as listening to your favorite music
  • Engaging with others; spending time improving the relationships that matter most to you, such as your romantic partnership and those with your friends and family
  • Looking after your physical and mental health
  • Doing activities that fuel your passion, motivation, and interest
  • Recognizing burnout signs (e.g. increased irritability, anger, and exhaustion) and giving yourself a break so you can recharge

Prioritizing Work

Certain conceptions of masculinity often prevent men from taking care of their emotional health. For example, many men have a tendency to overwork or to prioritize work over other aspects of their life. This relates to cultural expectations about manhood. The Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI) identifies the primacy of work and the pursuit of status as two masculine norms.

A lot of men hold onto the notion that being work-obsessed and gaining status is central to their masculine identity. Anything that could get in the way of these pursuits – relationships, leisure time, and one’s mental and physical health – has to be sidelined. Working less than your full potential may be seen as a sign of a weak character or lack of determination, ambition, or competitive edge. These expectations about masculinity mean that men are more prone to overwork, stress, burnout, tiredness, isolation, and all the emotional problems that these can lead to – depressed mood, anger, and irritability.

When a man’s identity and self-esteem is so strongly to into his work, he is less likely to take a break when he needs it. He may fail to see how his attitude to work is impacting his relationships and mental health, or – if he does – he will ignore the seriousness of these consequences or play them down. A man may compare himself to his productive male peers and convince himself that any kind of self-care would show weakness; proof that he cannot persevere and cope with challenges.

Being Busy

In modern society, we are addicted to being busy. We have to always be on the move, have events scheduled in, and never rest. But this seems to be a masculine attitude, in particular. Men feel they constantly need to push themselves, take action, and achieve. The idea of slowing down and stopping, for a while, may seem out of the question for many men who pride themselves in their busyness. A lot of men may fear that self-care may give other people the impression that they’re lazy and unambitious. As a man, you may worry about male peers or potential romantic partners viewing you in this way.

Why Men Avoid Self Care

If we can emphasize that self-care is not about being passive, but about taking action to solve a problem, then this could help many men to take it seriously. In the grand scheme of things, self-care practices allow you to rejuvenate and be the best version of yourself, be that at work or in your family life. Well-being is inextricably linked to productivity. And this is why some of the most successful men on the planet make sure to put time aside for self-care.

Self-Reliance

Self-care can also involve seeking support from others, such as friends, family members, or a professional counselor or therapist. We can often look out for our well-being by having a heart-to-heart with someone and getting stuff off our chest.

However, many men strongly identify with the masculine norm of self-reliance. The result is that these men do not seek help from a support network, as to do so would feel unmanly. Real men, they believe, should be able to handle all of their problems on their own, without any outside input, help, advice, support, or guidance.

How Men Deal With Emotional Hardship

Self-care is of paramount importance when we try to get through difficult times in one piece. Emotional hardship calls for self-kindness, as well as positive actions, habits, and relationships. But a lot of men feel expected to deal with emotional pain in a narrow and unproductive way. When experiencing distress, they might tell themselves to just grin and bear it, suck it up, deal with it, man up, grow a pair, and stop being such a wimp.

Many men believe that the manly response to pain is to push through it, bottle it up, ignore it, deny it, or diminish it, rather than fully accept that pain and take steps to alleviate it. Being stoic, all the time, and having a stiff upper lip when it comes to emotional hardship is seen, generally, as a sign of strength.

But actually, this approach to hardship tends to worsen pain. It prevents you from learning how to cope in an effective and sustainable way. Indeed, staying silent about personal issues is one of the biggest threats to men’s mental health. In contrast, self-care is about taking an open and honest stance towards difficulties in your life because this is the most effective approach. It works to lessen pain and help you get on with your life.

Upbringing

The way that we are taught to deal with stress and difficult situations comes from our parents. A lot of men today simply did not grow up with fathers who know how to look after their emotional well-being. Many men today weren’t raised by a role model who placed a high importance on self-care. Our fathers – our primary male role models – instead focused the conversation more on work, money, and success.

When a father communicates to his son that working hard, financial success, and getting on the property ladder is what matters the most, this is what he will remember as he grows up. These aspects of life are important, of course. However, if they are not balanced with lessons on self-care, then it becomes difficult to lead a full and happy life.

The Role as Breadwinner

Even though there is more gender equality than ever in Westernised countries, a lot of men still find themselves under pressure to be the sole (or primary) earner in the household. Men feel an expectation to be a provider, which means making sure they are earning as much as possible and protecting their job security. Being able to provide for your family and offer them security is obviously a noble thing to do; yet taken to its extreme, it can become unhealthy.

In light of this discussion, it would be helpful to reframe self-care in a way that speaks to modern men. For example, we can think of strength and self-reliance as an individual’s ability and resourcefulness to take care of him or herself. There is no reason for men to feel emasculated by the desire and decision to practice self-care. Knowing how to handle the emotional dimension of your life is a sign of maturity. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you will find it more difficult to handle the inevitable struggles of life. When you prioritize your well-being, on the other hand, you give yourself the best chance of growing as a man and staying happy in the long-term.

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