Men: stop suffering in silence
10 June 2019 | Katy Ratican
Men, how are you? How does it feel being a man? What’s going on in your life right now? What emotions and feelings are you currently trying to process?
For far too long these questions are exactly the sort of conversation openers that most men would avoid. Men don’t talk about this stuff – or so we are told.
To be a man meant being strong and silent. Being man was a responsibility. You are a protector, a breadwinner, a fighter. ‘Real men’ never complain. They are strong and silent. This last mindset is where the problem lies. Putting one’s feeling into words and sharing with others is really hard at the best of times. But imagine if you have been brought up believing that on no account must you tackle your mental and emotional state. It’s not the masculine thing to do. This is why initiatives like Men’s Health Week are so important, particularly when it comes to mental and emotional wellbeing.
You are not alone
Just like every other human being on the planet, men suffer too. However, suffering in silence is the male thing to do (apparently). But we are now learning that the consequences of this can be catastrophic.
Three out of every four suicides are by men. Taking one’s life is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. An awful lot of men are really hurting.
But don’t feel that you are alone — you are not.
At beanddo, we have often talked about worrying stress and anxiety statistics. We know that about 1 in 3 people at this very moment is struggling with some form of mental illness.
We are in a global pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation, about 1 in 8 of us are experiencing some sort of mental disorder. That’s just under a billion people. Prescriptions for antidepressants have soared in recent years.
One of the first things you can do is acknowledge that you’re not coping. You might have developed elaborate techniques that disguise to yourself and others how you are feeling. In a recent interview, snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan opened up about his battle with panic, anxiety and depression, saying;
“Even winning tournaments isn’t solving my problems, what is it, why am I feeling like this?”
“I had these episodes where I’d just disappear, I’d run off and people would think he’s having a tantrum, it’s just I can’t cope sometimes, it’s not that I can’t cope with snooker, I just can’t cope with normal life sometimes.”
You might be struggling, rather than thriving, and thriving is your natural default position, honestly. Accepting and acknowledging where you are and how you are really feeling is the first step in escaping your suffering. There is so much evidence now that points to improved health and wellbeing being principally a mindset thing and that is where Modern Meditation comes in.
Put simply stress, depression and anxiety is what happens when the outside world doesn’t match the world inside your head. Imbalance, friction and pain occurs, as you struggle mentally with expectations, assumptions and beliefs that have little basis in what is actually happening. You end up switching on and living in emergency mode, living in a state of fear and apprehension without ever really resolving what the source of your fear is. And it’s self-inflicted; if you are what you eat, then it’s easy to see that you are what you think too…
Changing the way you think
The key is to change the way you think, so the world inside your head reflects more accurately the world you are actually living in. In other words, getting outside of your head, getting out of your own way.
In modern meditation terms this shift allows us to live more in the moment, and guess what the moment is — perfect as it is.
So here are some top tips for men who might just be suffering in silence:
1. Start cultivating little moments of real connection.Choose moments in the day when you switch on your senses and really take notice of what you are doing and what is happening around you. After a while you will develop a real ability to direct your attention purposefully, stay present and focused in the moment. This little practice of just letting go and mentally swapping your mindset from ‘what if’ to ‘what is’ is liberating. The feeling is deep relaxation from the inside-out, coupled with a sense of joy.
2. Build some structure. Creating positive habits will help rewire your mindset too. Go for a regular walk at lunchtime. Keep a daily journal or sketchbook. Choose a time every day to meditate or do something that brings a little moment of stillness and clarity. Learn to breathe consciously. Our free guided meditations can help.
3. Get outside your zone. Applying your attention to doing something you don’t normally do really helps to switch-on a deeper sense of mind-body awareness. Getting outside of your comfort zone will provide you with new perspective and insight about who you are, where you are and what you can do.
4. Deal with the voice in your head.Everyone has a voice in their head and it’s mostly critical and negative. With practice however, you can learn to create some distance between you and that voice. After a while the voice will fall back, leaving you to really respond creativity and positively to what is really happening and not what your inner voice thinks is happening.
5. Keep it real. All of those thoughts, wants, expectations, demands, anticipations and agitations that you have whirling around inside your head are not real! You might think they are real because you also feel them in the body, but they are not you. They are just things you have collected over time. They will come and they will go. In the end you have a choice and you can decide how you feel about everything.
All of the above might seem impossible, requiring a lot of mental and intellectual gymnastics. They really aren’t. They are simply a natural by-product of modern meditation. Try it out. It’s worked for thousands of years. It will work for you too, particularly if you are the strong, silent type.