The Future (Your Future) Is Self-Care
BOM ed Martin Robinson on self-care for men and self-care as a mindset...one from which everything else good in life can follow.
If you’re lucky, and have a home and a job, Christmas can be a time to cut loose from the stresses of your usual life. A break and a blow-out. Yet there’s something about the intensity of the way we hit the booze, and the buffet, and the credit card, that suggests a number of fairly messed up things. Like, why are we so repressed most of the year that we have this need at its climax to drink ourselves blind and breakdance? Are we so out of touch with our emotions that we can only let them out once a year? Is modern life conditioning us to live a life of quiet, screen-based pleasures, which takes us away from our true selves? And wrapped up in all this: should we really indulge in what often is tantamount to self-harm at Christmas?
Nothing wrong with having a laugh of course. But, and we can’t be along in this, there are times when you stray from a bit of fun and into apocalyptic behaviour. Most Christmases actually.
Maybe there is something in people that desires the occasional press of the Big Red Button. Maybe men are especially thumbsy when it comes to that button. And maybe there is something about being British which lends itself to such extremes – crammed in as we are to a small (and shrinking) country, we hold a lot back away from prying eyes, hold it in so hard till it hurts, and then let it all out when the sun goes down and permission is given to hit the bar and wreck the streets.
Whatever the cause, these things are certainly there, and anyone with even a passing interest in mental health will acknowledge nothing about it is healthy. Not the repression and not the destruction.
For many men, the words still feel a bit Gwyneth Paltrow, a bit pine-cone-up-the-bottom. But really, it’s not some new age-y nonsense…self-care is a mindset. And it is crucial to our well-being.
When we’re kids we should be getting taught to look after ourselves properly. Not just ‘be handy with our fists’ or ‘wash our pants’ but to be taught how to truly look after ourselves by dealing with what’s going on in our heads. Often, the issues we are facing in the outside world, whether its anxiety or ill health or school/work stress, can accelerate beyond our control because we simply don’t understand them. We haven’t been taught in mental health matters. And men being men, we don’t generally have the emotionally minded peer groups to talk any of it through.
Indeed in these peer groups, looking after yourself is a thing to be mocked, or at least it used to be. Outside of sports, taking care over the way you look, or dress, or eat, or drink, has been seen as a sign of weakness, of being a girl, as if nothing could be worse.
It’s maddening really, to think how simple ideas like doing well in schoolwork or looking after yourself are mocked when we’re kids. You have to do them on the sly.
Self-care today, therefore, is about unpicking a lot of the negative conditioning we have faced and trying to understand ourselves better. To see who we really are, and to deem that person worthy of love. Taking that approach can be transformative. Your training regimes start to be less about getting big arms to impress in the locker room, and more about maintaining a varied, holistic routine. You meditate, take the digs from your mates about it, and then have them all doing it three weeks later. You read, you learn, you know you never want to stop learning. You look after your appearance, take pride in it, get some good Lab Series products, and take that time for yourself in the mirror. You get so you can lean into the world with a solid backbone. You get out your comfort zone and find new avenues of yourself to explore.
And in tandem with your own self-care, you care for others as well. It all fits. It fits perfectly. With yourself in a good place you can advise others, help them, step in if they’re in peril, deal in true empathy and be genuinely supportive. Because you know it’s what you need too.
Self-care is the path towards a better life for all of us, and you know it. So let’s start this Christmas and genuinely make it the most wonderful time of the year, but only because it was the moment you started to make every day like Christmas. And we don’t mean by getting pissed…
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