Let’s talk about self-care, and more specifically, self-care for men. When we think about self-care, you most likely think about the ads you’ve seen on TV and online geared toward women. You know, skincare and beauty products, fancy shampoos and conditioners, and other ways of pampering ourselves like massages and spa treatments.
That’s the problem, isn’t it? The term “self-care” has become ubiquitous with female-centric marketing from companies who want to sell their beauty, health and wellness products. It’s become synonymous with the idea of indulgence and treating yourself. And it’s catching on with men as well. While there are plenty of men’s lotions, fancy hair gels and skin-nourishing shaving cream and aftershave, this type of self-care, though important, isn’t what I’m talking about.
I’m not even talking about exercise, which is a legitimate form of self-care that I think everyone should practice.
What I’m referring to is the kind of self-care that goes beyond the physical, the kind that allows you to reduce stress and anxiety, and reconnect with yourself and the world around you – spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It’s also about challenging yourself.
What is self-care?
According to the UK Department of Health, “Self-care is a part of daily living. It is the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well being, and includes the care extended to their children, family, friends and others in neighbourhoods and local communities. Self-care includes the actions individuals and carers take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health”.
Note that self-care expands to our families and other loved ones. Taking good care of yourself and those closest to you means spending quality time together by eating healthy meals together, having meaningful conversations, and doing some form of exercise together, even if it’s simply going for a walk around the neighborhood. But we can’t do this unless we learn to take care of ourselves first. Once we do this, then we’re better able to care for those we love.
In case you might be thinking this is a bunch of hooey, it’s important to note that the importance of self-care is supported by science and research.
Self-care to the core
As men, when we think about challenging ourselves, our thoughts go to achieving goals, finding success, making ourselves feel better by achieving tasks. But as I’ve written before, this may make us feel better on the surface, but it only continues to mask our true feelings of self-doubt, sadness, and loneliness.
True self-care is about relieving stress, of course, but also growing emotionally and mentally. That means in many ways, we must challenge ourselves to do things we might nor feel comfortable doing. The point is to get back to our core selves, to who we really are underneath all of our fears and insecurities that bog us down in from work, family, and life in general.
Here are some ways you can practice self-care so you can rediscover your core self:
Connecting with friends
I’ve written before about male loneliness and how important it is to have a core group of friends you can connect with. Sure, being able to hang out with your buddies and watch a ball game is a good way to unwind. But being able to talk with at least one friend about challenges you may be facing emotionally is even more important. Being vulnerable is hard, but it’s often easier to do when you have someone who can relate to your struggles. And it gives your friends a chance to do the same, which then creates a deeper bond in your friendship.
Trying new hobbies
Often men focus on their careers and family, which leaves little room to learn new skills. But trying new hobbies helps you discover talents you might never knew you had, or perhaps rekindle a long-lost passion from your childhood you had forgotten about. Maybe take a drawing class, or find an online video on how to cook your favorite dish. Learning new skills helps build confidence and allows you to grow personally and professionally.
Exploring new experiences
The same with trying new hobbies, exploring new experiences allows you to learn things about yourself you might never otherwise have known. Travelling to places you’ve never been gives you the chance to learn about new cultures and beliefs, taste new and exotic foods, and meet people who might have a positive influence on your life. Travel is just one way to try a new experience, though. You can also take baby steps, like trying a new food or reading a new book or watching a TV show or movie you might not normally watch. Start small and work your way up. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become in new experiences, which will broaden your mind and your confidence.
Going to therapy
Maybe part of trying new experiences is trying therapy. Talking to a professional therapist can help you uncover the fears and insecurities you have that might keep you from taking proper care of yourself. Remember, start small. Book an appointment below and let’s get started on your self-care journey together.