Men’s Health Week: take action to boost mental wellbeing
‘There are five days of the week, and five ways to wellbeing. Can you see where we're going with this?’ (Men’s Health Forum website)
This year’s Men’s Health Week (14-20 June 2021) is all about how men can take positive action to boost their mental health. This has never mattered more: in England, around one in eight men has a problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), according to the Mental Health Foundation, while three times as many men as women die by suicide.
The situation is likely to have been compounded by the pandemic. At this stage of the crisis we’re probably all feeling a bit worn out, and there are bound to be concerns and anxieties still rattling around in our minds.
The organisers of Men’s Health Week are calling on men to take the CAN DO Challenge, choosing one of these five ways to wellbeing – which have all been scientifically proven to help us feel better – on each day:
- Connect - connect with other people
- (Be) Active - move your body
- Notice - take notice of the environment around you
- Discover - learn something new
- Offer (or give) - do something for someone else.
We asked six men to tell us how they were feeling, and the coping strategies that help to boost their mental wellbeing.
“When the first lockdown started my depression and anxiety got worse, but I tried to keep them in check by using elements of CBT, especially when keeping my personal and professional lives separate in the same apartment. As we grow up we’re told to leave play and creativity behind us, but I think we need them. At 43 I've fallen back in love with Lego, enjoy letting my mind wander whilst doodling in a sketchbook and sometimes just sit watching the clouds. These things help me clear my mind and I appreciate the positive power of the simple things in life.”
“I use exercise – particularly cycling – to take care of my mental health. I find the mixture of exercise and being outside in the fresh air helps clear my mind and irons out any bumps of anxiety I may be feeling.”
“I started exercising because of the physical benefits, but I keep doing it because of the mental benefits. I also meditate for a minimum of 15 minutes a day, have very open and honest conversations with friends, and attend a men's group once or twice a month.”
“The pandemic took its toll in unexpected ways. At first I was intensely focused on survival, and had many sleepless nights trying to understand the disease, while my days were taken up with work. I became intensely lonely and depressed. All the outlets that normally compensate for stress were unavailable. I found a few coping strategies that worked. Being able to exercise outdoors and enjoy the countryside during the day was hugely beneficial, while spending time cooking has been quite satisfying. I joined a series of mindfulness seminars, and found small things that helped me still feel like a civilized human being – joining discussion groups and church services either on Zoom or in person for example helped give me the sense of being in the presence of other people.”
“I was used to lots of travel, hosting workshops, collaborating on ideas and communicating plans. Lockdown put paid to much of that and the shift to being home-based resulted in a tonne of new stresses as I tried to keep doing the same job remotely. Quite early on, when we were only allowed one hour’s outdoor exercise per day, I was taking my dog out for walks but soon realised I needed to exercise more as work got more difficult and I was eating a lot to try and relieve the stress. I bought a spin bike, fully expecting it to be used once in a blue moon, but instead it has been my go-to to deal with each day’s anxiety.”
“Working from home was hard to adjust to as I was working longer hours with fewer breaks and no natural finish time, and I nearly burnt myself out. Then I stumbled across a blog where a guy created meeting requests in his online calendar for breaks and lunch and the end of the day. This worked for me, and I’m now more disciplined and less tired.”
You can find out more about how CBT works here.