When you fully digest the most recent stats on male mental health and physical well-being it makes for sombre reading. 76% of suicides are by men, making it the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 35. Men are 3 times more likely to be alcohol dependant and men are grossly underrepresented in referrals for phycological therapies. If that wasn’t enough nearly twice as many men than women die from diabetes, they die 3.7 years earlier than men and 19% before they retire in England and Wales.
Even those who do ask for help are more concerned about what their friends and colleagues will think about them than their female counterparts. A third (34%) of working-age men would be embarrassed or ashamed to take time off work for mental health issue such as anxiety or depression compared to only 13% for a physical injury. Over half of men with mental health problems – 52% – were concerned that their employer would think worse of them.
The self-care and personal development movement continues to build up a large head of steam but seemingly more so amongst us females than with males. Women find themselves in a world where saying “me first” and asking, “what are my needs” is to be applauded. In a woman’s world, having a child can represent an opportunity for reinvention and seeking a happier work life balance more in line with their values and what truly makes them happy. While men report feeling higher amounts of pressure to provide and fill the income gaps that come about as a result of the maternity leave or new business ventures of their spouse for example. And here I use the word ‘reports’ in the loosest sense of the word because really, men rarely report at all. As a side read, have a read of this very powerful article which demonstrates the sentiment of these comments www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jul/02/a-letter-to-my-wife-who-wont-get-a-job-while-i-work-myself-to-death
To add to these circumstantial pressures, the ‘beer culture’ that still reigns supreme in all its different guises and labels across all cultures, religions, sexual orientations and races still seems to have a gagging effect on men and their ability to feel safe enough to articulate what they want from their life, how they are feeling and indeed ask for help if needed.
Where you do see movements of self-care in men such as the protein shake club and body building fraternity, it is still fraught with testosterone fuelled expectations and unwritten rules that restrict and frown upon vulnerability and the need for support and collaboration (sweeping generalisations here as there are always exceptions to prove the rule but you only have to look at Instagram to get a feel for the overall vibe of men’s wellness these days). In some circles, you are somehow less manly if you choose a balanced and nutritious salad and a replenishing glass of water over the dirty burger and a pint.
The irony of the whole situation being that consuming poor diets, as well as stress anxiety and depression (perhaps brought on by unfulfillment or an inability to share and be vulnerable) cause diminished sexual desire and erectile quality. This is because worriers suffer from chronically elevated cortisol levels which directly correlate with lower testosterone levels. Also, the fat tissue that comes from inactivity and eating poorly enhances aromatase. Aromatase has the power to take your free testosterone (the bioavailable testosterone) and turn it into estrogen. When estrogen is elevated, testosterone plummets. It is therefore essential to keep body fat at a healthy level - lower body fat means higher testosterone, higher libido, more energy, and more ambition.
It’s also worth noting that a common way we try and ‘deal’ with our stress and anxiety is through drinking alcohol. Alcohol increases stress hormones just like cortisol which contributes to the overall effect.
So, it seems the reality of the situation is that seeking support, advice and guidance on what your body and mind needs to be the best it can be, actually makes you less vulnerable to both physical and mental illness and thus, in these macho circles, manlier. Ironic huh?
To all the men out there, I implore you to look further than a protein shake for the nutritional solution to your physical goals.
Meditation, walking, choosing delicious, nutritional foods and cutting down on the booze are just some of the ways you can learn to enjoy life and relax. Be sure to consume foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which are contained in foods like salmon, and walnuts. You can also try adding in some vitamins. Vitamin C, which aids in clearing cortisol from our system, helps to regulate the future release of cortisol, and prevents blood pressure from spiking in response to stressful situations. B vitamins and Phosphatidylserine (or PS) have also been shown to decrease cortisol levels.
You'll worry less and have less anxiety, lower your cortisol, and higher testosterone levels as a result, lowering your risk of, you know what, to say the least. Research shows that people with higher testosterone and a healthier hormonal profile are more successful in accomplishing what they want in life and are generally happier.
Exploring your understanding of your own drivers, values and dreams, outside of your societal, marital, job or family pressures is also something I would highly recommend.
Coaching seems to connect with men in a way that is different women. Women almost connect with coaching like a comfortable pair of pyjamas – it’s a place they feel safe and comfortable to just ‘be’ in because they are used to finding spaces like this for themselves. Whereas with men, it feels different, or certainly in my experience. I wonder if perhaps the idea that you are well and are the expert on your life and indeed the only person that holds the best solutions to your problem could resonate more with men if they knew about it? My prognosis is that the unconditional positive regard we give as coaches and not labeling you as unwell or broken, instead that “you are always ok”, makes coaching a more accessible tool for men to explore their well-being and what they truly want from their lives.
If you would like to explore how combining energising nutritional changes with exploration of who you are, what you want from your life and how you can get it, check out our reset and reclaim package www.resetandreclaimprogramme.comand get in touch. We’d love to work with you.
Sources: www.menshealthforum.org.uk and World journal of men’s health