At WishGarden we are continuing our focus on International Men's Day, which was celebrated on November 19th. This is our second blog in a three-part series focused on men's health. The first post emphasized the importance of diet and nutrition and the need to encourage men to improve and optimize the physical aspect of their lives in order to be healthy.
In this blog, we shift our focus to emotional wellness. As mentioned in the previous post, many men often avoid focusing on, and working towards, optimizing their health. This is especially true when it comes to emotional health.
Traditionally, males have predominantly been in positions of power, be it in the political arena, or as the "bread winners" bringing home a paycheck for working long hours to support their families, in athletics and sports, and long before that, they were the hunters and warriors. All of these activities shaped the male ego and contributed to traits that emphasized domination, superiority, strength, endurance, bravery, rational and analytical thinking, and more. While some of these traits may be exhibited by males in obvious ways, others may occur under the radar in various situations.
In addition, men often go out of their way to avoid showing signs or behaviors that would make them appear less "manly." Anything that shows signs of weakness hurts or damages their male ego and internally, whether conscious or unconscious, makes them feel less of a man. This includes showing emotion (besides anger or reactivity), crying, lacking strength or stamina, appearing hurt (even if actually hurt or injured), admitting illness, and admitting failure. Clearly, a large part that plays into the male ego is the perception, and therefore judgement, by other males and females in society.
However, as males have traditionally been in the roles of power -- hunting, fighting, working, providing, etc. -- they have also assumed more responsibilities and stressors on the mind and body. To avoid showing signs of weakness, which may include admitting illness or appearing sick, focusing on or putting effort into their own health and wellness, admitting and dealing with emotional challenges, and/or having outlets or activities for stress relief, these behaviors only further the stress that they experience.
All these stressors -- physical, mental, emotional -- causes further damage to the body and cellular functioning, which in turn causes further stress and thus becomes a viscous cycle. As times goes on, the signs of aging start to show themselves and illness or disease begin to manifest or accelerate.
As we noted in our first post, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer are some of the most common health concerns and causes of death in men. It's easy to understand that a lack of healthy experiencing and expression of emotions could contribute to and worsen these conditions, amongst many other health concerns.
We need to encourage men to put health first and educate men about the negative consequences of not engaging with and expressing their emotions, and that it is not a sign of weakness to experience and express emotions. Having men be open and communicating about their emotions or concerns regarding health is paramount to them leading long, healthy lives. If they do not feel comfortable speaking with their loved ones or friends about these concerns, then encouraging them to seek out mental health professionals who can engage them in healthy dialogue and understanding in a safe environment is highly recommended.
Teaching men to find activities or therapies that will help with stress relief will be helpful in this process, also. Spending time in nature, getting sun exposure, developing a meditation or yoga practice (or taking classes to learn about either), finding a new creative hobby, spending time with friends and family, journaling, listening to music, getting a massage or acupuncture, and engaging in sports or other activities or exercise can all provide stress relief.
While the dominance of the male ego and male bravado has subsided to some degree in recent years, it is still very strong and we need to support men in understanding that they don't need to be strong all the time and that letting down their "guard" can be beneficial to their long-term health.
In the next and final installment of this series on men's health, we'll focus on physical health and how we can encourage men to get more daily activity to support their health.Dr. Shawn Manske attended the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, one of seven accredited four-year, post-graduate Naturopathic Medical schools in North America, and received his Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. He practiced as an ND for five years in Ontario, Canada, before moving to Colorado. He's currently a Territory Accounts Manager and Senior Educator at WishGarden Herbs. For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.