Guest blogger Tom Fox talks about Men’s Mental Health and why the 5 Ways to Wellbeing ( or CLANG as he likes to call it!) are so important.
Raising awareness of men’s health issues
Many of you will be familiar with the annual tradition of men sporting some questionable facial hair for the 30 days of November. This helps raise awareness of mental health, suicide prevention, testicular cancer and prostate cancer.
With ‘Movember’ just gone (along with all the facial hair!) I thought it would be an ideal time to write about mental health. I’ll include the importance of checking in with yourself and some of the support that is available. Sixty men are lost to suicide each hour across the world – do I have your attention now?
My own experience of mental health
First of all, I must make it clear that I am by no means a clinical therapist. I have decided to improve my own knowledge of mental health following a period in my life that was, without going into details, challenging. I am pleased to say that I’ve overcome this by buying into some simple concepts (provided by Dorset Mind, more on these amazing guys, later) and simply working on myself. Putting myself first. Yep, before my wife, before my kids and even before Parker, my dog!
That’s the key. We all tend to prioritise everybody else around us; it’s the natural thing to do and what makes us a good husband/wife/dad/mum/dog owner. But it’s also important to take the time that you deserve and focus on yourself and your wellbeing.
With many of us working from home, it may soon become the new normal to go the majority of the day with little or no communication with another human. I write this as I regularly talk to Parker. Dog owners will get this I am sure…. That in itself has the potential to trigger some negativity and is an example along with – well, along with life in general really. We have to take the time for ourselves or we will be no good for those around us that matter so much.
So how do we ensure we are all on top of our game? How do we make sure we are the best husband/wife/dad/mum/dog owner that we can possibly be? We check our CLANG.
5 Ways to Wellbeing (or CLANG!)
CLANG is an abbreviation I have devised to remember the elements that make the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, namely:
- Active (from ‘Get Active’)
- Notice (from ‘Take Notice’)
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing are evidence-based steps that are available to anybody and everybody who is struggling with mental health, no matter how immaterial or overwhelming it may be or feel. The great thing about this is the fact that it is so accessible and does not require any referral from a GP or otherwise.
Below is a summary of CLANG and how to check it. Consider it an early Christmas gift from yourself to yourself.
Are you talking to people? Not just at home/work. Are you really talking to people about THAT thing that is on your mind? Common mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression thrive inside the head of people that would rather bottle things up. Talking to a friend, a family member, a colleague, a team mate or even your GP will help. Talking things through will often bring instant results, worry will ease and you will be able to gain another perspective. Bottling things up feeds the worry/concern/anger or whichever negativity it maybe.
The brain is like any other muscle. Exercise it and it will grow. A brain that is constantly engaging brings a host of positive benefits. Take the opportunity to learn something new about anything that interests you. Read books, learn for free online or buy that magazine on classic Italian scooters. Let yourself go with the idea of a personal project that you can own, that takes you away from it all and gives you the you time each of us needs.
We can all dream, right? Let’s recognise what those dreams may be and have a small slice of them by learning a little bit about what interests/fascinates us and working that brain muscle.
Regular exercise benefits us all. It doesn’t have to be running marathons or cycling the length of the country each weekend. Get outside. Walk. Walk with your favourite music on and switch off from the world or, even better, walk and pay attention to everything around you. Notice wildlife, the sun on your face, the sound of children laughing, the sound of nothing at all and the peace. Just be mindful of your surroundings. Look up; it’s amazing what we miss when we are charging around on our daily cruise through life.
This is the hard one. It’s about noticing and recognising your thought patterns throughout the day. Let’s use my example: I am one of those irritating people that likes to get things done at stupid o’clock in the morning. I will run, workout or swim before work most days as I like to get it done and it fits my family life. This puts me in a great mood and I feel it’s a great start to the day.
Later on, let’s say post-lunch at about 3pm, I can on occasion be a little grumpier than I started out. This grumpy phase has sometimes led to me being snappy with by better half or my two angelic teenage daughters. I have become aware of this thought/mood pattern and have changed the way I react. I think, I pause, I simply do not react anymore and consequently our home is a better place to be. When noticing your own thought patterns, you recognise the feeling and emotions that come with them and ultimately the physical reaction that follows. You can literally train yourself to become a better person by just noticing. Try it out – your partner may thank you for doing it!
I did say this is about focussing on yourself, but giving really does make you feel amazing. Give something small, every day if you can. Ask people how they are, smile at a stranger, help the old lady across the road, give to charity, pay somebody a compliment. Think about how pleasant our world would be if everybody did these small things. One little smile at a stranger could change their day. We all have it in us to be nice; it takes nothing and costs nothing. Be that person.
Giving and ‘Befriending’
Although I’m not a therapist, I do spend some time talking people through the 5 Ways to Wellbeing as part of my volunteer role with Dorset Mind. I have two roles when I am not offsetting, ‘husbanding,’ ‘dadding’ or dog owning.
Firstly, as a “befriender”, where I simply talk to clients who have mental health problems. I forge relationships with these guys and I give them a non-judgemental and non-clinical outlet. We just talk and it’s great to know I am helping.
Secondly, I help run a local support group for the same charity. We hold workshops and group conversations on this subject. Both roles take about three hours a week outside of work hours. This is my ‘giving.’ This is me trying to reduce that 60 people statistic I hoped grabbed your attention. We can all do something to help others by helping ourselves and simply being the best people we can be.
Take the time to check your CLANG. Do it for yourself.
Thanks Tom – Tom is also a volunteer befriender for us and helps people that benefit from regular support. Find out more here.