A lot of men I know (including me) struggle to show their emotions or feelings, no matter how bad things get. I know this may sound old fashioned but men like to be the strong ones, the breadwinners and the ones who can protect their family against anything.
Many of ‘us blokes’ keep a lot of our emotions and feelings close to our chests, but this can sometimes be devastatingly detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing in the short and long term. Bottling this stuff up causes stress and anxiety which can contribute to high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity and more serious mental health problems, which in some cases can sadly lead to suicide.
Sometimes those that are the most energetic and happy on the outside can be in the darkest of places on the inside. Take Robin Williams for example. A beautiful, kind hearted and funny guy, but no one ever realised that he was fighting his biggest demons on the inside.
I like to be seen as strong and in control of my life, but I’ve actually experienced some pretty dark times and been through a lot of shit. Depression, loss, divorce, stress, anxiety, doubt, fear and even bullying. Yes you read that right. I was mentally bullied at work at the age of 46 and it was one of the reasons I chose to leave the Army. Did I talk about it? No, not for a long time.
These are the 7 main reasons why men don’t talk about their feelings:
– I don’t want to appear weak.
– I’m too embarrassed.
– I can deal with it myself.
– I don’t want to admit I need support.
– I don’t want to be a burden to my family or friends.
– I don’t know who to talk to.
– What would others think of me.
Sound familiar? I want to try to specifically target helping the men, guys, lads, blokes, dudes out there who may be struggling to talk about their feelings during challenging times. Perhaps the ones who are sat at home in isolation worrying if their business is going to go under. Those who have suffered a trauma that they can’t put behind them, or the ones who have dealt with that many knocks they find their zest for life is just slowly disappearing.
Here are my 5 tips to get back in the game and live a life filled with positivity and passion:
1. RECOGNITION. You must be honest and open with yourself and recognise that you aren’t in a happy or good place. It took me 6 months to realise I needed to do something about how I was feeling. They were the longest and loneliest 6 months of my life. Once I realised there was nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, I started to feel like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
2. TALK. Once recognition has been identified and acknowledged, you must talk to those people who know and care about you the best. For me it was my wife. I clammed up for 6 months and just wouldn’t tell her what was wrong at work. I kept my feelings to myself, tried to act ‘normal’ and thought it would go away. It didn’t. How could I tell my wife I was been mentally bullied and felt depressed? I just put a pretence on that my work life was wonderful. Once I opened up I felt so much better and realised she had already guessed what was going on.
3. GET PHYSICAL. I love exercise but found I was finding excuses not to train and basically sat in my scruffs (ok pants!) watching TV. This was negatively contributing to how I was feeling. Doing daily physical activity will boost your energy levels and put you in a better frame of mind. Pick a physical goal or aim and focus on it through the good and bad days. Don’t over or comfort eat and don’t drink excessive alcohol as this can spiral out of control.
4. DISTRACTIONS. Play upbeat music, start a new hobby or interest that you’ve always wanted to do. I started building stuff in my garage as I found the concentration helped my stress levels and more importantly my anger. Make future plans, it will help keep things in perspective. If you are struggling with isolation, this crisis will end and life will become a little more normal. Having a good level of distraction will keep those negative thoughts at bay and improve your mood.
5. POSITIVITY is a choice. Think it, feel it, love it, live it!
I’ve been through pretty much the whole emotional spectrum in my life to be fair but you know what, I’m still here and loving life more than I ever imagined I could. I don’t even think about what happened to me 4 years ago because I dealt with it using the 5 tips above and I have put it to bed.
It doesn’t matter how big you are or how confident you look, you can and will go through shit times. How many times have you heard or said the phrase ‘man up’? I’ve even said it myself. Next time you’re tempted to say that to somebody, just stop and think for a second about what that person may be fighting on the inside. Telling them to ‘man up’ discourages them from admitting something is wrong and trying to sort it out.
One of my closest female friends encouraged and inspired me to write this blog, so thank you (you know who you are!). Your heartfelt loss will be someone else’s saviour.
Make the Change!