What is Men’s Health Week?
Men’s Health Week runs from June 14-June 20 (father’s day.) If you’re new to learning about it, the point of Men’s Health Week is to increase awareness around men’s health problems and to encourage men to take care of their well-being. So fellas, listen up.
Some of the topics that Men’s Health Week sheds light on are early detection for preventable diseases, men’s mental health, and men’s sexual wellness. Oftentimes, unrealistic societal expectations put on men can make it more difficult for men to reach out for help and take care of themselves. Mental health is just as crucial for men as anyone else, and stigma shouldn’t get in the way of seeking care.
What is Toxic Masculinity?
Toxic masculinity can be defined as valuing traits based on stigma about what it means to be a man; often, these traits are outdated. For example, we often associate men with being protective and strong, focusing away from nurturing other characteristics they may possess, like being kind and caring.
Unfair societal standards can lead men to bottle up their emotions until they explode. In truth, men have myriad traits that extend past the confines of their gender roles. Dismissal or denial of vulnerability and trauma make it harder for men to feel in touch with their emotions and compound the harmful effects of toxic masculinity.
Why is it Stigmatized for Men to Seek Mental Health Help?
Because of toxic masculinity, it’s stigmatized for men to seek help for their mental health. Stigma stops men from seeking mental health services, and it’s detrimental to their well-being. Men who have trouble identifying their feelings may have a harder time recognizing mental illness symptoms like depression, and reaching out for help.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in men in America. In 2020, men died by suicide 3.6x more often than women, which, if you think about it, is a substantial (and harrowing) difference. Mental illness in men is an epidemic that’s being ignored, and the consequences are fatal.
Men tending to their mental health is better for them and society at large. Toxic masculinity often leads to a repression of emotion and then an explosion. We strip men of their ability to express feelings while saying things to developing boys like “be tough” or “man up” and put impractical expectations on them, which can cause a deterioration in mental wellness. Men are not meant to be emotionless!
Why Should Men Take Care of Their Mental Health?
Tending to mental health is essential for all people, regardless of gender. Taking care of mental health can lead to decreased anxiety, increased self-esteem, better relationships, a decrease in disease, and even better sex.
5 Ways For Men to Improve Mental Health
If you’re new to thinking about your mental health, here are five ways you can take care of yourself.
Self-care is a buzzworthy phrase as of late. Because of stigma, self-care has been more marketed to show images of women, but have no doubt, self-care is for everyone. It’s also more than getting a massage or splurging on products (though both of these are okay from time to time.) Self-care involves taking time for yourself, whether that’s pausing from a busy day or treating yourself to a nutritious dinner. Self-care involves hygiene, emotional well-being, and making sure you go to the doctor for a physical ailment.
- Seek Help When You Need It
A common misconception about going to therapy is that you have to have a problem. Therapy is beneficial for everyone. If you’ve noticed you tend to bottle up your emotions, therapy can help you gain tools to better identify and work through what you are feeling.
- Try a Mind-Body Activity
Mind-body activities can decrease intense emotions, decrease pain, reduce anxiety, improve sex, provide a sense of calm, and strengthen the immune system. But what in the world is a mind-body activity, you might wonder. Mind-body activities combine mental focus with body awareness or movement. The point of them is to get you in your body and to foster the vital connection between the mind and body. This connection can facilitate better health and mental well-being.
Examples of mind-body activities are yoga, healing touch, or breathing exercises. If you’re brand new to mind-body practices, there are plenty of meditation apps that can lead you into a state of relaxed bliss.
- Develop Healthy Outlets
It’s no surprise that when you have a container to put your emotions, you can better release them and not let them interfere with your relationships, jobs, or how you move through your day. Especially if you tend to repress your feelings, incorporating a healthy outlet is pivotal for your well-being. Some healthy outlets include vigorous exercise like running, playing music, writing, playing with a pet, or gardening.
- Eat Well
Eating a diet rich in whole foods can improve mental health and cause fewer mood fluctuations, improved focus, and more energy. Processed foods can lead to inflammation which can contribute to mood disorders. Tend to your brain with dark leafy greens, legumes, and plenty of nuts and seeds.
What Does Men’s Mental Health Have to do With Sex?
It’s no surprise that men’s mental health plays a large part in sexual desire and even performance. One study found that a quarter of men with erectile disfunction have depression or anxiety. And it makes perfect sense, as anxiety can interrupt the brain’s ability to alert the penis to increase blood flow. Psychological factors are a common cause of erectile dysfunction, so if this sounds like something you’ve encountered, know that you’re not alone!
Depression can cause lower libido. Because depression zaps energy and vitality, it can take sex off the table. Low libido due to depression is quite common. It’s important not to beat yourself up and to get care for your mental health.
This Men’s Health Week, take every step to care good care of yourself physically, mentally, and sexually!