What exactly is Men’s Health? I think we all imagine the magazine, with a healthy, fit man on the cover eating something green or lifting something heavy, probably with sculpted arms and a chiseled chest, smiling at us with bleached teeth and perfect hair. But I contend that is NOT what men’s health is. That is not who most men are. Can a typical male become that? Yes. Is that the pinnacle of a healthy man though? No. Prostate exams after 40? Vitamins to stave off some deficiencies and disease? Regular exercise to reduce your risk of heart problems? Is that Men’s Health? Ok, sure, it is definitely a part of it, but what do most people completely forget? They forget that the mind is the control center for the entire body. Today, for Men’s Health month, I want to give you a list to keep in mind of Four mental health tips for men to stay at the top of their game in all of their roles.
The mind has the ability to excite, inhibit, fantasize and dream, be lazy or create drive. The mind is exceptional in all that it can do, and all that it can control. Here is a list of 4 mental health items for men to work on this men’s health month that will have major benefits in all other categories, including all the things first mentioned, if that is what you actually desire. The point is that if you master these things, you will master yourself; not just for a day, but for the long haul. It is a bumpy flight and life doesn’t always go perfect. This is your ticket to less turbulence.
1. Work Life Balance- There is a reason I am listing this first. I believe this is of the utmost importance for anyone. This is something commonly discussed in context of family life but it does not matter if you have a spouse, children, care for your parents, live with your parents, only attend college and don’t even have a job yet, so on and so forth. The fact is that those things only make it matter more, and should you not be able to balance these work and life satisfactorily where you are right this second, it will only be more difficult and cost more energy, frustration, and peace of mind when you get to the next part of your life. Wherever you are, start right now. Know where work ends and the rest of your life starts. Know that you work so that you can live and you don’t live so you can work. Put down the phone, don’t check that email. Look at your spouse, child, family, friends and loved ones and know that they only want your company and attention. Poor work-life balance causes fatigue and burnout, poor health, lost time with friends and family that you can never get back (missed milestones and occasions such as recitals and ball games). There are many ways to start making changes but the first is to recognize this is something you control and no one else. You can begin to set limits and manage time more efficiently. Learn to say no; leave work at work. I am a proud husband and father while I also currently balance a full time position in a middle school, hold a position as a president and chairman of a nonprofit organization, operate a private practice and own my own business, maintaining consulting contracts with a number of small businesses. Despite all that, most weekends are family time and every evening, all work is tucked away from 5pm-9pm. It hasn’t led me to fail, in fact, it has helped me to be more successful. I have learned to be more efficient with my time. I must also be very organized so I can leave off and pick up in the same spot, seamlessly. The best part is, when I do take that break, I feel refreshed when I get back to it and not burnt out. I am in control, and only when I let the boundaries blur does it begin to get turbulent.
2. Mindfulness- You create your own stress, anxiety, happiness and joy. You create your own reality. You may try to explain that terrible things happen beyond your control and sometimes terrible things happen to good people and any other excuse for not taking control of your mind. But I will call you on it. You have a choice every day. You can let your feelings create your thinking, or you can let your thinking control your feelings. Every time something happens in life, you make a snap decision immediately; a judgement of that situation. This is influenced by our current mood, past experiences, and many other things. It is time to question how and why you judge the things that are happening and ask yourself if this judgement is helping you to feel good or bad. Sure, bad and not so fun things happen, but how is your thinking framing it? If you get a flat tire in the rain and are stuck on the side of the road with no umbrella, as each thing continues to go wrong, do you have the mental capacity to be grateful for the warm weather despite the cool rain? Can you be grateful that your car has a suitable spare and jack? Do you appreciate that you didn’t crash with a high speed blowout? Or maybe you have to wait 3 hours for AAA… for your free tow. Perspective is the operative term here. Choose yours wisely. And pay attention to what you choose. Does it feel good? Are you enjoying it? Why did you choose to feel that way? Do not be helpless to your feelings. It is up to you. There is no wizard behind the curtain. Wherever you go, there you are.
3. Your relationship- I am going to only mention here that neither you nor your significant other is right 100% of the time. But I will say that during the typical fight between partners, usually, you’re both right. The biggest problem in healthy, mutually respectful relationships is that despite that fact, we still fight! And that is ok, because we need to fight. It isn’t if, but HOW we fight that matters. As men, we usually do a terrible job listening and that makes fights much worse for no reason. Could you reiterate every single word of an argument, yet you have been told somehow, you weren’t listening? What if you were never taught how to listen the right way and you actually AREN’T listening? What if your partner is right? Do you know the four components of true listening? The four components are listening with your eyes, ears, heart, and mind. Are you looking at your partner when they speak? Are you listing to the words that they are saying? Are you trying to feel what it is they are feeling; tuning in emotionally to their side of things? And are you thinking about what they are saying, not thinking about excuses or challenges to their side of things? Is your brain fully engaged in only what they are saying and can you accept all of that as their experience and perspective? No? Give it a try. And when they are done speaking, summarize, rephrase. Don’t argue. Just accept how they feel and ask questions to better understand. I bet you just improved your relationship more than you imagined. And just maybe they will reciprocate. And then the love has a clear path to lead the way.
4. Your role as a father- This is for the dad’s out there. Present and future. Listen up. This is a short and sweet tip. Be a good dad. The end. This is different to many people, but the fact is that good fathers drop everything for their family and kids. Good fathers eat dinner at the table with their kids. Good fathers don’t do drugs and get drunk around their kids. And good fathers get help if they need it and don’t make excuses. Good fathers put their family first. Good fathers try every day, because they know it is not about doing one single thing, but the sum of all the efforts they put in. Good fathers know that they make mistakes, but the best fathers fix them and set only the best examples to their precious children’s watching eyes. If you aren’t a good dad, now you can be; now you know. It doesn’t matter how great or bad you had it either, because you are in control now. You can be any kind of parent you decide to be. Now is the time to not be lazy. You only get one shot- be the change you wish to see.
If any of these things are difficult for you, it is ok. You aren’t ever alone. Don’t be afraid to speak out about these with your friends or family. You will be surprised at how many other people can relate and are working on the same things. If this doesn’t help you or is not an option, you can always seek professional help. This is what we do for a living after all and a little one-on-one time reflecting on life and living can have a huge impact on jumpstarting your self-improvement. Life is not always fair and life is not always easy. You need to do whatever you can to keep that mental edge.
Written by Justin S. Linefsky, LCSW Owner, Mind Mechanix, Consulting Firm