Some Men’s Health Week tips for anyone who’s struggling – Donna Thistlethwaite

Further to last week’s article, let’s celebrate Men’s Health Week by sharing a few tips for any guys out there who are currently struggling or want to be equipped for the next time it happens.

There’s a common view that men don’t like to speak about their emotions or struggles. Maybe it doesn’t come as naturally to you menfolk but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. I was at an event a while back where one of the guys shared how he’d changed the way his mates relate to each other. He’d always been able to talk to a few family members when he was struggling but never went there with his mates. When he first started to tell his mates how he was really feeling he was met with awkward silences. He persevered and they got more comfortable. He realised that he’d been successful changing their dynamic when he was out walking one night with a mate who had called him at 11pm to say how tough he was doing it after a relationship breakup.

Just last week I caught up with a past career coaching client who shared with me that he’d experienced a mental health crisis three years ago that had remarkable similarities to my own. Losing a client at work triggered a bunch of thoughts and feelings for him about not being good enough. They got worse, consuming him, and leading him to start interpreting everything with a negative lens. Thankfully for him, he’d been here before and was able to quickly recognise the signs of a downward spiral. He booked an appointment with his psychologist and was quickly back on track.

None of us are completely immune to mental health problems, including suicide. In fact, we heard last week men are actually at much greater risk of dying by suicide. The more we can normalise mental health challenges by talking about how we’re feeling and seeking help, the quicker we can get through them and start feeling great again. Mental health problems are treatable and the treatment can take many different forms.

If you find yourself struggling, here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Get out of your head. All that ruminating will drive you crazy. Talk to someone you’re close to about what’s going on. It’s absolutely true that a problem shared is a problem halved. The sheer act of talking can lighten your troubles, change your perspective and even solve a problem. It ain’t weak to speak. It’s actually smart, can connect us with support, and can save lives.
  • Consider Beyond Blue’s assessment for anxiety and depression for anonymous, objective, feedback on whether you might be experiencing a mental health problem.
  • Access some professional support. Meet with your GP (or ask around about a good one if you don’t currently have one). Book a long appointment so that you are not rushed and be honest about what’s going on. Sometimes physical issues can impact our wellbeing and the GP’s well placed to look at the situation holistically and make any referrals to appropriate professionals. They can also provide a Mental Health Plan that will subsidise the cost of appointments with a professional.
  • Find out if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (an employer-funded, confidential, counselling service for employees and their immediate families). Sometimes there’s a fear that information will get back to your employer. It won’t. They receive statistical data only, eg. three males and five females met with psychologists and perhaps the topic of the session, eg. home, career, or finances.
  • Book in something that you know makes you feel good. Often when we’re struggling we stop doing our hobbies or other activities we enjoy. It can be a real catch 22. We don’t have the energy but it can create the energy. You matter and your wellbeing is important so prioritise going for that run, ride, walk or whatever else it is that energises or brings you joy.
  • Do something for someone else. A great way to get out of a funk is to actually do something for someone else. Your brain will release happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins while counteracting the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone. It’s a win-win.
  • Consider avoiding alcohol and drugs until you’re feeling better. It can be tempting to ‘take the edge off’ with a drink or with recreational drugs. The problem is that these can impair our thinking, put us at risk of addiction, and often leave us feeling much worse in the longer run.

Please know that you are not alone, we all struggle from time to time. Life ebs and flows and the important thing is to stay safe and to get to feeling good soon.​

Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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