June is mens mental health month but it’s not really been advertised that much here in the UK. It’s a sad fact that the biggest killer of men under 40 is suicide and yet it feels as though nothing is being done to help rectify the problems men face in modern society. As someone who speaks openly about mental health and the experiences I have encountered, I wanted to help raise more awareness and also, share some tips I have used to help myself improve and strengthen my overall mental wellbeing.
My trip to Mexico coincides with Mens Mental Health Awareness Month
Whilst in Mexico I had a lot of inspiration regarding mental health. Not in terms of how could I help others but on how my own mental health has been affected over the years. The last time I was in Mexico I was 24 years old and now 38, turning 39 I began to reflect on the time that had passed.
At 24 I was a student Architect, amazed by the Mayan temple Chichen Itza and feeling hopeful of becoming a fully qualified building architect. It was at this time I also suffered 3 deaths in the family. My nan, my gran and my grandad all within 3 years of one another. I vowed to become the best architect I could in memory of my grandad, also a creative at heart, but it wasn’t to be. The 2008 recession coincided with architect part 1 graduation.
Due to this, there were no vacancies in my local area at that time. I was devastated and I can admit, that I held onto this disappointment for the whole 15 years that had passed. Not healthy as it was a painful thing to hold on to but it was a driver and motivator to help me do well at web design instead.
In the next section of this article, you will find 10 reflections I learned whilst in Mexico. I believe by sharing these you may find something that could help improve your own mens mental health.
1. Know it’s ok to cry, in fact, it’s healing
It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, holding onto repressed emotions only harbours them and makes you less of who you are and turns into negative behaviours. Crying helps you feel better and releases the pain of the past…
On the first day on Isla Mujeres, the weather was not great, there were even threats of hurricanes. Being around such volatile weather on a beautiful island, rushing waves and a few mojitos ( plus tequila shots ) hit me. My emotional flood gates of pain opened up and released over 15 years of pain. I’m not ashamed to admit I released some tears of hurt whilst by the bar.
The last time I was in Mexico I was an architect student in my 2nd year and just lost my grandad. I didn’t become an architect and it hurt like hell…
…it’d been an emotional day as I turned 39 on this day. I began reflecting on my past and the future yet to come as I become a lead brand designer for a major mental health and performance company.
It’s surreal to think I taught myself web and branding over the last 10 years but dreamed of designing buildings. Instead, I’m now doing this plus freelance web design, being an NLP practitioner and founder of Seek A Therapy to try to help others.
Finally, I can honestly say when I look at my partner I truly see my soul mate. She heals me, helps me understand myself with compassion and allows me space to process my feelings and allows me to be myself. She helps to bring my old fun silly parts to myself again.
The greatest birthday gift… Kind, beautiful and compassionate. Truly blessed.
I guess the message here is to take yourself back to the trauma you experienced and process it and also, surround yourself with people who support you and let those who you feel bring you down go. You are a by-product of the people you surround yourself with so be careful who you choose to spend time with and listen to.
2. Learning to laugh at yourself can aid mens mental health
Laugh at yourself. When you learn to laugh at your shortcomings then no one has power over you. There is great freedom to be found in laughter. You don’t have to laugh at others, that’s not so cool, just be light-hearted rather than hard on yourself. Take everything lightly, ‘with a pinch of salt’. The more you recognise your own stupidity, your clown side, the more you become confident.
When you laugh you relax and you can be yourself more and not care what people think of you.
You free yourself from the judgement of others and more critically, the judgement of yourself.
The more you can laugh at yourself and your life mistakes the more power you have over your own emotions and those wanting to hurt you or lower your self-esteem. They can’t as you already see your life as a bit of a folly.
I learnt this from a waiter today. He took the mick out of me by saying things in Spanish which I found hysterical. I tried to reply in Spanish but sometimes I said the wrong response. He would say “Oh excuse me!” every time I spoke Spanish, he would respond this way, in a very camp way but it tickled me.
I didn’t care he was mocking me, he was light-hearted and in fact, I enjoyed it. He was a good man and he showed me not to care what others think and learn to laugh at myself rather than ridicule myself for shortcomings.
This was a major lesson very early on in my trip to Mexico, humour is a powerful healer and tries not to take yourself too seriously all the time.
3.Recognise you don’t need approval from anyone other than yourself
People will always be people. They will have insecurities, and weaknesses and want to project their baggage onto people. It helps them to make sense of their world or release their own pain. They particularly do it when they deem you to be better in some way or something different that they don’t understand or accept in their model of the world. Often those who point fingers have LOTS of disappointments of life inside of them.
It’s important to keep in mind when people judge others it is not a reflection of you or your shortcomings but a reflection of work that they need to do on themselves instead. No one who judges or bullies is at peace. That’s some powerful reflection to keep in mind when you encounter a nasty person.
Stand back, take a deep breathe, smile and show no matter how people act towards you you are calm.
4. Make time to do NOTHING to improve mens mental health
It’s really difficult for many of us to actually stop.
For me, I admit that I am a major workaholic, sometimes too ambitious and feel the time is short. I can often be too hard on myself for not achieving more, I know it. I work myself like a dog and when I’m not working I’m doing “something”!
On reflection, it may be a distraction from how I truly feel and my emotions. Pains, disappointments, self-judgements, anxieties and worries. I was meant to swim with dolphins today but I decided not to.
This was even an act of having to do something!
Firstly, my anxiety was up, secondly, my partner was nervous about doing it and thirdly, we both felt a bit uneasy at the idea of captive animals doing tricks for food and we decided to abort. Instead, we decided to enjoy our amazing hotel resort and chill at Playa Norte private island on Isla mujeres!
When you stop, you allow yourself time to recharge, slow down and be at peace. It reduces your anxieties over work, traumas and life in general.
Doing nothing is actually one of the most important things you can do for your own well-being.
Take it easy.
At least twice a week and you’ll find more smiles and happiness develop in your life.
5. Set your boundaries, take no prisoners and love yourself
The title may sound egotistical and harsh but when it comes to life, if you allow people to take advantage of your good nature, they will. If you want the best deal in a sales exp then you must stand your ground even if it means coming across as unlikeable.
Being liked by everyone IS NOT IMPORTANT liking YOURSELF is!
6. Realise everyone is insecure and no one is really focused on you, they are focused more on themselves
7. You don’t have to be doing what everyone else is to have a peaceful life
8. Sit with your pain in order to process it to strengthen and improve your mental health
9. Unresolved trauma can ruin your life experience, get therapy to support you to resolve your issues
10. Learning to be aware of our reactions to triggers can change the emotion we respond with
A few more tips to aid mens mental health
Here are a few more tips not included within the reflections : –
- Learn to meditate. Use guided meditations
- Excercise. Start going to the gym. If you suffer from anxiety read this post on how to start going to the gym if you have anxiety.
- Enjoy yourself. Do things you enjoy to change your mood.
- Read self-development books. This will give you more knowledge from the experts.
- Keep a journal as this can allow you to empty your head day of thoughts. Whether business, work or personal reasons.
I hope you’ve found this article useful and if you have any other tips please leave a comment below.