So many men suffer from depression and chronic stress that it is causing real problems for them, their families, and society. Suicide is a leading cause of death in young men. We are in the midst of a little-discussed mental health crisis, and we can no longer allow this to go on unaddressed.
Unfortunately, too many men are reluctant to seek mental health care in comparison to women. They fear the perceived stigma of not being strong enough or capable enough to get through it on their own.
This must change. The stigma must end. One way to tackle this problem is for men to help their fellow males and create an environment of acceptance, to enable other men to break through the “rugged individual” stereotype that has made too many of us suffer in silence for so long.
We all need to do our part to encourage men to get help from professionals, just as we would for physical illnesses. In addition to therapy, there are a number of ways we can encourage good mental health on a daily basis.
Yes, exercise always seems to be touted as the cure to whatever ails you, but that’s because it really is effective at improving various aspects of our health. Depression is no exception, and if you can get your heart rate up and release endorphins for at least 30 minutes a day there’s a good chance you will notice some positive improvements in your mood.
The hard part is getting up and moving when you don’t see much point in doing so. This is why it’s imperative to set a goal of getting up and doing even just a minute of whatever exercise you want. Sometimes you’ll quit after that minute is up, but other times you’ll keep going and you will see the benefits.
If you can manage to increase the amount of time you work out, small incremental increases will add up. You’ll be surprised how a few minutes a day can give you more energy, and increase your self-confidence.
Again, this isn’t always easy when you’re down or stressed out, but if you can challenge yourself to do something difficult, not only will it take your mind off your negative thoughts and feelings, but it will also help you to see that although you may be feeling bad right now, you are still a capable person who can achieve anything to which you put your mind. It will also help to build your self-worth, which is so important when you are struggling with depression.
Helping others can help you take your mind off your own worries and give you a little perspective on your own suffering. We are hardwired for empathy and cooperation, so helping others also translates into helping yourself when it comes to your own well-being.
Yes, you can even combine challenging yourself with doing something for others. For example, there’s the no birds bash, which combines an extreme motor challenge with raising money for sick kids. There are people who even climbing Mount Everest to raise money for charity.
Things might seem impossible when you feel like you can’t even get out of bed sometimes. If you can push yourself to commit to things that scare you, but don’t bite off more than you can chew and take things one small step at a time, you can accomplish amazing things bit by bit.
This one might seem strange, but taking a “contrast shower” can provide some relief from low moods. Take a warm shower for a few minutes, followed by a few minutes being blasted with cold water, then switch back to warm. Alternate back and forth a few times. It may feel uncomfortable the first few times you try this technique, but stick with it.
Contrast showers have been shown to have a few benefits, not least of which are increased testosterone levels and increased noradrenaline secretion in that all-important area—the brain. This can help to improve mood as well as lessen the effects of clinical depression.
Talk to Someone
I’m going to reiterate this point because it is often the hardest thing for men to do, since so many of us have been socialized to believe asking for help means you’re weak. When you keep your struggles to yourself it’s all-too-easy to dwell in them, magnify them, and spiral further down into the darkness of depression.
However, if you unburden yourself to a trusted friend, they can give you another perspective and lots of support, which can help you move through tough bouts. And, as I mentioned earlier, it is vital to seek professional help when just talking to a friend isn’t enough.
Asking for help isn’t weak. It actually means you’re strong enough to admit that you have issues to resolve. Hiding away your problems and not acknowledging them makes them stronger, but releasing them is the best way to free yourself from the clutches of depression.
Previously published on livethehero.com.
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