As men, we’re taught from an early age that “boys don’t cry.” Whether it’s a scraped knee or even the death of a loved one, we are instilled with the notion that to express our feelings is a sign of weakness. Though this stereotype has been slowly breaking down over time, it’s still prevalent in our society. It should also be noted that many men are very comfortable expressing their emotions. This blog is for the guys (and their loved ones) who have trouble expressing feelings.
Boys are more emotionally expressive than girls
According to research from Harvard Medical School, boys are naturally more expressive than girls, beginning from early infancy. But because they grow up in a world that encourages them to hide or ignore their emotions, this can lead to long-term consequences such as addiction, violence, and depression. By not allowing males to experience their full range of emotions, they are being told not to be themselves. In the long-run, this means as men, we lose the ability to regulate our emotions, to deal with them in a healthy way because weren’t allowed to practice methods of doing so growing up. Need proof? More than six million men suffer from depression in the United States, and around 18 million American adults suffer have an anxiety disorder. Men die by sucicide at higher rates than females. Here in Colorado men die by suicide at a higher rate than the natinoal average. And chances are if you’re reading this, you have trouble expressing your emotions in a healthy way as well.
What ignoring your feelings can do to you
If you have trouble expressing feelings, ignoring your feelings and emotions for long periods of time can lead to a number of mental and physical health conditions. Depression is one of the most common. Men experience depressive symptoms differently than women.
Some of the signs you might be experiencing depression are:
- Overworking (workaholic)
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Chronic physical pain, back pain
- Eating disorder
- Erectile dysfunction
- Inability to do daily chores or activities
- Showing rage and anger on the outside but feeling sad or angry on the inside
- Increased irritability or grumpiness
- Lack of focus
- Trouble sleeping
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest at work or in family life
Learn how to express feelings in a healthy way
Most men don’t like to go to the doctor, whether it’s for physical ailments or behavioral health. Most of us would do almost anything else, including scrubbing toilets and cleaning, than go to the doctor, according to a Cleveland Clinic survey.
But the fact of the matter is that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no matter what ails us, we will keep suffering.
Learning to put yourself first every once and while can start small. It starts with being proactive with self-care methods like the following:
- Work on naming the emotions you are feeling
- Engage in healthy social activity, don’t isolate
- Find ways to work healthy foods into your diet
- Exercise for just 30 minutes a day, even if it’s just getting outside for a brisk walk
When it comes to our emotions, here are some helpful ideas to get you started:
- Seek help from others. A first good step is talking to a trusted friend about what you’re feeling. With a trusted friend you can learn that talking about your feelings is not a sign of weakness but of health.
- Start to journal how you are feeling.
- You can also use a mood tracker app like Daylio. It creates reminders to check in with how you are feeling throughout the day. It asks you to choose from a list of common emotions.
- If you are still struggling to identify your emotions try doing a body scan. It works like this; if you don’t know what emotion you are experiencing scan your body from head to toe. Try to notice what is happening in your physical body. Do you notice tension in your chest? A butterfly feeling in your belly? Then ask yourself, what is my body telling me?
Sometimes another option is making an appointment to see a therapist. When you seek the help of a counselor, you’ll learn tools to help you identify the feelings you’re feeling and how to practice dealing with them in a healthy way. This means, allowing yourself to feel anger, sadness, and even happiness. Then, learning how to talk about it.
Ready to take your first step in learning how to express your feelings in a healthy way?