As women, I feel most of us are not only well educated about self care, but very actively practice it and encourage others around us to practice it. We recognise the consequences of burnout and how easily life can creep up on you before you know it.
These are teachings that we can pass down to our children to protect them and to help them to learn how to take care of themselves for when they go off to live their own lives in college and after.
But when modern wellbeing and self care is frequently marketed to us as face masks and bubble baths, how can make sure that our sons and male family members practice real self care? Generally, men aren’t fans out talking it out, or taking some time to themselves for a little reflection and mental health check ins. It’s important that they have the tools to assess their moods and feelings and know when they have to seek help, take a step back or just give themselves a break.
Self care is not a pamper session (although they do help) but an essential life tool to look after our mental wellbeing throughout our lives.
According to the NHS some signs that your son may be experiencing poor mental health are;
Continuous low mood or sadness as well as frequent tearfulness
Voicing/showing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
Being irritable and intolerant of others
Little or no enjoyment of things that were once interesting to them
Increasing social isolation
Disturbed sleep patterns (for example, problems going to sleep and/or waking throughout the night)
A lot of this just sounds like teenagers being teenagers, right? Especially in Covid times, it can be difficult to tell what is them just feeling the restrictions of the pandemic and what might be something more serious.
And this is something that we need to talk about. Something that might be brushed off as typical teenage behaviour could actually be a warning sign of potential issues in the future. Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated. In adulthood, while fewer men than women seek professional help for mental health issues, it doesn’t actually reflect the number of men suffering from mental health issues. It seems that men don’t actually approach anyone for help to treat their mental illnesses in the way that women do. Instead it is bottled up and results in statistics like these;
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women.
- 1 in 6 children aged 5-16 likely to have a mental health problem
If we don’t give our children and especially our sons the tools do handle their mental health now, we just perpetuate the problem that is affecting men worldwide, causing further problems down the line. It is key that this generation of men and boys understand their emotions, deal with them in a healthy way and can feel more confident in how they interact with their own mental wellbeing.
Spunout.ie has some great ways that young men can take some time for themselves to invest in their mental wellbeing, regardless of whether they’re stressed by exams, their relationships, the pandemic, or whatever is playing on their minds right now. ‘Taking time out each day for yourself isn’t a luxury it is an investment in your mental and physical health.’
This one is absolutely key. When in school, whether it’s an exam year or not, our minds are being used to their fullest extent. Exercising is a great way to get back in touch with your body after a long day, releasing a rush of endorphins. Doing something like running or cycling can allow you to process your thoughts, figure out your emotions or problems and get your head straight. Taking the time out to commit to yourself is important so find something you enjoy, whether that’s swimming, karate, football or dance. It’s all about focusing on you.
Spending time with friends and family
Connecting with people who genuinely care about you is one of the best forms of self care. Friends, family, relatives – people who also care about your wellbeing and want what’s best for you. Reach out to those who give you energy and make the conversation feel easy, those who you connect with, can trust and have a real conversation with. Whether it’s for a walk or a coffee, it’s important to have friends and family who are there for you.
Practising Yoga and Meditation
When we think of yoga and meditation, we tend to think of a women in activewear using a bright yoga mat and bending into impossible poses. But it’s not that simple and it’s not something that is purely feminine. Yoga is all about the body calming the mind and generally women are better at getting in touch with their bodies. But these two practices coupled together are a great way to focus on yourself and to actively find a moment of calm in your day. It can feel daunting to start, but YouTube is full of beginner’s tutorials for both yoga and meditation, both practices you can take into the rest of your life as a method of centring and calming yourself down when tings feel overwhelming.
Learning how to make a new dinner or to bake your favourite cookies, not only is this a life skill, but it can be as meditative as going for a walk or having a bath. Cooking is an opportunity to connect with people as well, particularly if you’re learning how to make something new from someone else’s recipe. It’s creative, relaxing and you feel you’ve achieved something by the end of the process making it the perfect self care activity.
Playing/ listening to music
Music can have a really powerful affect on our moods. It can uplift us with a fun song, or make us feel we’re not alone with a sad one. Singing, playing an instrument or even making a playlist designed to make you feel better can be really therapeutic, take your mind off whatever you’re worrying about and make you reflect on why you may be feeling this way so you can address it. If you’re feeling stressed but don’t feel like company, this little bit of alone time could be a good way to centre yourself again.
I will always be an advocate of picking up a book in times of trouble. Reading has been shown to reduce stress levels by 60% in a study conducted by MHFA, so it’s definitely another solo activity worth exploring. The best part of reading is the escapism. To be transported out of out of your own head for a little while isn’t a bad thing and can give us a little break from a stream of stressful thoughts, making it the perfect time out away from your phone, your studies and your worries.
Taking a bath/ shower
A bath is one of the more relaxing options out there, but it’s become a feminized activity, with lots of men picturing bubble baths and scented candles and petals. There is a reason that women love baths – because they’re perfect for chilling out in, Forget the stereotypes and enjoy allocating time away from your phone to look after your body. Put on your favourite show in the background, read a book, listen to some music or even just a quick meditation. Focus only on yourself and disconnect from those things that demand time from you for a little while.
Organising your space
Tidying up your personal space – whether that’s sorting your room, organising your desk, clearing out your schoolbag or even just doing a quick wardrobe clear out – can feel amazing once it’s done. We feel better set up to take on the challenges around us, we feel less plagued by other responsibilities and have a clearer mind to focus our energy on other areas. It’s another meditative activity like running or listening to music that is actually helping you to process your day or your problems in the background of your mind while focusing on more mundane tasks.
Have we forgotten any? How do you help your teen to take some time out for themselves?