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Practising self-care for men

Men can be taught that self-care is an entirely feminine undertaking and not something that traditionally masculine men practice. I think it is really important that we challenge this perception. Self care is simply the act of taking time for yourself to meet your own needs to relieve or prevent stress. It has no gender.

Self-care is the act of bringing intention to the things that bring you joy and doing them with the purpose of making yourself feel cared for and better. In unprecedented times of stress, it has never been so important to take time away from our busy lives and preserve our mental and physical health. In taking care of yourself and putting yourself first, even if it’s only a short period, you end up developing more fruitful relationships and this is a sure fire way to improve your overall well being. 

There are plenty of different techniques for practicing self care, like walking in nature, exercise, meditation or journalling. I find it really useful to break down self care into two forms: mind and body. 

Most of these traditional self care practices tend to focus on the mind. However, practising self care of the body is just as important.Our physical body informs how we’re feeling emotionally. If you start to feel burnt out at work, simply taking a 5 minute walk can help to break the negative cycle in your thoughts. For others, working out on a daily basis, whether that be an intense gym session or simply a 20 minute stretch in the morning, can help to calm anxiety and help you feel more focused throughout the day. Whilst stereotypically many men find solace in the gym, many others find their peace in other areas. It doesn’t matter how you connect with your body and care for it, simply by going through the act of caring for your body with intention, can be its own powerful act of self care. 

Coming full circle it is clearly incredibly important to not neglect your mind. Your mind and body create a feedback loop to one another, if your mind is in pain, your body will suffer too and vice versa. Caring for your mind comes in many forms. It may range from putting on a face mask and taking a bath to sitting on a cushion for 10 minutes of meditation to even spending a few moments to write down your thoughts. It’s whatever allows you to reflect and focus on introspection. Doing this will help you identify if you’re feeling burnt out or why you might be dealing with a short fuse lately. Remember, you can take care of very little if you’re not taking care of yourself. 

By taking time to care for yourself, it allows you to be more present in your relationships and at work. By practising self care, we calm our sympathetic nervous response and switch on our parasympathetic system. In turn, it will help you reduce your cortisol levels, which can help prevent a number of lifestyle diseases, like anxiety, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure  Here are some suggestions of activities below to help you perform self care and remember that one size does not fit all, so if something isn’t working for you, simply leave it and move on to something that does. 

  • Go for a mindful walk in nature by yourself with no sound. Simply be present and appreciate what’s around you.
  • Create a bedtime routine. I find this can help you look forward to going to sleep and has been shown to improve your overall sleep quality (Check out this article if you need a helping hand getting started!)
  • Start a skincare routine! Men need skincare too and I find it can be a great way to check in with your body and your skin 
  • GIve yourself a groom (or get one), it can be cathartic to cut off some hair and rediscover yourself (even if it’s just trimming your nose hair!)
  • Schedule time away from everyone and take time to just sit with yourself and reflect
  • Write in a journal. There is tonnes of evidence that practicing gratitude regularly is incredibly beneficial for your wellbeing. I think doing this in a journal is the easiest way to ensure you keep up the practice! 
  • Talk out your issues with a friend or loved one. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to open up but it is so important to ‘emotionally vent’ with someone you trust.  Men can often be portrayed as the more silent gender but there’s definitely something special about talking out your issues with someone who understands. Plus it allows you to connect deeper with your friends and lead to more fulfilling relationships
  • Take a mental health day! We all need a break sometimes, especially after (or during) a period of intense stress, so take a day to yourself, even if all you do is tidy the house or take a midday bath or watch your favourite show all day long. A break can be intensely beneficial to our mental health

Written by:
Dr. Mark Cox

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