November is Men’s Health awareness Month, with International Men’s Day falling on November 19th. The month and the day was created to highlight and bring awareness to a number of issues around men’s health.
It is widely reported that men are not as proactive as women when it comes to dealing with their health. Men are less likely to visit their GP with health concerns and are more likely to suffer health complications as a result. There are a few reasons why- perhaps men find it harder to talk about their health, or don’t see it necessary. Also, many may feel uncomfortable going for a physical examination, should they need it.
As well as neglecting their physical health, it’s well known that men have higher suicide rates than women. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and are more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide, however the completion suicide rate in men is still higher, mainly because men are less likely to come forward for help.
Men and Physical Health
People who smoke, don’t exercise, or have a family history of unhealthy cholesterol levels are at a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and other long-term conditions. Weight management is key to good health, as is a healthy diet and keeping active.
When it comes to improving health and wellbeing it’s all about making small changes and taking manageable steps at a time. There’s lots of evidence that tells us just how much how we feel can be affected by what we eat and drink or what we do and that there are things we can do to feel happier straight away. Try our ‘10 things you can do to feel happier straight away‘ book here.
Making small realistic changes to improve your health:
To begin with you can start by making small easy changes to your daily routine:
- Turn your back on lifts and escalators because exercise is good for you. Climbing stairs is one of the best ways to get fitter – if you can’t climb stairs then go for a brisk walk on the flat.
- Start the day with healthy foods like oatmeal or banana – they are released slowly the way your body prefers. Bananas help you produce happy chemicals and keep your digestive system moving regularly.
- Get outside – it’s sometimes as simple as that. Really notice what’s going on around you. The wind, the warmth, the cold or wet, notice the trees, the flowers or sit and look up at the clouds – a good way of relaxing. Even better- do something outdoors with a friend, talk about the good times you remember, and you’ll soon notice those happy chemicals coming back.
- Don’t suffer in silence – with worrying negative thoughts swirling around in your head. Instead of thinking about your worries write them down, try our worry strips and decide a time when you will come back and see if you can problem solve them later using our E4SP.
- Put some of your favourite music on, better still play it through your earphones while you go for a brisk walk. Don’t play sad stuff though, or songs that remind you of unhappy times – keep it upbeat and you’re sure to get an instant lift.
- Maybe you’ve been relying a bit too much on fast food, takeaways or too much comfort foods, that’s a sure way to making you feel even more sluggish and down in the dumps. Keeping them to an occasional treat not only will improve how you feel but it will save you money that you can use on more healthy choices. Within a short period of time, you’ll feel better all round, you may even start to feel a bit lighter, fitter, and happier with a bit more cash in your pocket too.
Men and Mental Well-being
In terms of depression, women seem more willing to talk about their feelings and problems. Perhaps historically men have been conditioned to think that sharing their problems is seen as ‘weak’ and rather than seeking the help they need via therapy or indeed simply by sharing with their families and friends, men are more likely to turn their stress inwardly and attempt self-medication and taking risks, like drinking too much and taking drugs and this can lead to a deeper depression and more impulsive behaviour.
Sometimes men find it easier to get hold of something that seems to help in the shorter term, but the long-term consequences can backfire. Have a look at the ‘Things You Do That Mess You Up‘ worksheet and see if you notice anything your engaging in as an unhelpful habit/behaviour leading to longer term problems. Read our blog for more tips on cutting down here.
The benefits of reducing your long-term alcohol consumption is huge. It will help reduce your risk of numerous health problems, several cancers, liver disease avoiding the greatest risk factor for death and disability to adults in the UK.
Our relationship book ‘You Me and Us’ helps you to take a long look at your relationship and help you decide whether to work on changing things, or to choose to get out. Considering the full complexity of these difficult decisions, readers will be able to consider whether they want to leave just for today, or forever.
Other risk factors commonly associated with men and mental health can be related to family situations and work. When there’s an economic downturn that results in increased unemployment, for example, there tends to be an associated increase in suicide.
A lot of men associate their identity with success financially and when they have issues with their career, or trying to find a job, this can exacerbate mental health issues too, leading to avoidance and self-isolation.
However, the less we do, the worse we feel, the worse we feel, the less we do.
The longer out of work, the harder it is ever work again. Our book “24 hours to get a job that fires you up” provides an empowering, practical, and easy to implement course that aims to help readers not only get any job- but to work towards getting one that enthuses them too.
If you’re really struggling and feel so bad you can’t go on!
Our award-winning little book ‘I Feel So Bad I Can’t Go On’ aims to help those with suicidal thoughts recognise that suicide is not the only solution to their problems. It’s a book about hope – with a clear statement that no matter how bad things seem, things can improve with time. The book offers tips to stay alive and to start feeling good again, find a better way to ease their pain and that in time, it’s possible to start enjoying life again.
“Suicide lasts forever… Your problem doesn’t”
One of the most important things is to give time a chance to work and to start talking. By talking to someone- whether it be a friend, teacher, family member, or your GP. Contact a helpline, reach out to get support- useful numbers provided at the end of this blog.
Tips for How to Feel Better
Get outside and walk. Take a moment to notice what is around you- the trees, the sky, the buses that pass by… anything is a good distraction from hopeless thoughts in your head.
Eat- by eating, you will give yourself energy and be able to think more clearly.
Fill your time by doing things you like – go to the cinema, watch a movie, people watch… remember that lots of people that you watch may well have felt like you do in the past but have come through it.
Fill your time by seeing things from a different angle. Try and focus on the positive things in your life, now and in the past, like things you have learned or done well.
Write down 2 or 3 things you are grateful for. Researchers have found that doing this on most days can be effective in improving how we feel.
Write Your Life Story- take the focus off how you are feeling just now and write your life story…. Or a time or place that you once enjoyed. What might happen if you don’t end it all… what are your hopes and dreams? Anything is possible.
If you don’t feel like doing anything, then just try to do any of the above things anyway, just this once and see what happens. For example, it never feels good to think about tidying the house, but once you’ve done it, you may notice a real sense of achievement. So, fill your time, talking walking eating seeing and you’ll soon feel better even if it’s only for a short time. You can then build on these activities over the coming days and maybe even start to seek additional help such as counselling or talking therapy for ongoing support or treatment.
What doesn’t help
Try to break the cycle of upsetting and unhelpful thinking.
You can use our Unhelpful thinking styles worksheet to help you to work out if you are ‘mind reading’, ‘catastrophising’ or ‘taking all responsibility’ – imagining what other people think about you. It will help you spot other common unhelpful thinking styles and learn how to respond differently when thoughts like this pop into mind.
It can be difficult to just forget something that is bothering you, so here is an effective way to deal with bad thoughts and bust them for good.
Use our Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Program (AUBTBP). Find our associated worksheets and resources here, for free download.
Or try the following steps and see what works best for you:
Step 1: Label It- spot unhelpful thoughts as soon as they enter your head and give it an ‘unhelpful thought’ label. It is important to recognise an unhelpful thought for what it is- it isn’t real or truth. Is it an unhelpful thinking style, mind reading, or are you catastrophising? Criticising yourself and beating yourself up? You can use the unhelpful thinking styles worksheet to do this. When you label an unhelpful thought, it loses its power and loses its strength.
Step 2: Leave It- let it be, imagine it’s in a corner by itself, just let it be. An unhelpful thought is like a celebrity, it thrives on attention! Leaving it lets it shuffle away. If the thought is still loud and insistent, then you need to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Stand Up to It! Unhelpful Thoughts are like bullies! So, stand up to it, like you would to a bully. Unhelpful thoughts sound strong but are weak underneath and remember that it is only a thought and not the truth.
Step 4: Be kind to yourself. If an unhelpful thought is telling you you’re useless or bound to fail, give yourself the same advice that a loved one would tell you. Think of someone you trust – what kind words of encouragement would they say?
Step 5: Look at things differently… Imagine if it was a friend experiencing the same feelings and not you. What would you say to them?
It is also worth putting the thought or worry into a true perspective- will it matter in 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months? Or try thinking about how others would deal with the problem.
By using any or all of these techniques you will learn how to respond differently to unhelpful thoughts.
When you feel down you may feel like pushing people away. Even if you don’t feel like seeing people, you’ll feel so much better when you can talk to someone you trust.
Maybe you’re reading this and looking for more support, here are some organisations to contact:
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) is an excellent resource for those living in Scotland. They offer a wide variety of services.
NHS 24 Living Life is another service providing help over the telephone. It uses a cognitive behavioural based model to help you learn how to understand how you feel about yourself, others, and the world around you, to look at things differently and work on changing things to help you feel better. Go to www.nhs24.com phone 0800 328 9655
One great resource local to where you are is your own G.P. They will be able to help identify the sort of help you need and can advise on the range of local support available both in the NHS, as well as local community resources.
Some useful numbers:
NHS 24 Scotland 111 www.nhs24.scot NHS 111 (non emergency) or 999 (emergency)
Breathing Space Scotland 0800 838 587 breathingspace.scot
Or write to Chris, P.O Box 90, Stirling, FK8 2SA
Domestic Violence 0808 2000 247 www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk
Bullying 0808 800 2222 www.bullying.co.uk
Childline 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk
Papyrus- HopeLine 0800 068 4141www.papyrus-uk.org (for young people thinking about suicide or for others worried about them)
CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably 0800 585858 www.thecalmzone.net (prevention of male suicide)