Okay, so let’s get the low hanging fruit out of the way. Take a walk in Forest Park in St. Louis, go to the gym, read a book, listen to a podcast, reach out to an old friend, have a date night, grab a coffee, take a nap, get some sun. Right?
But alas: if *only* it were that easy.
If it were, managing your mental health as a busy man in St. Louis would be so much, well, easier.
Mental health management takes more effort than that. Of course it does! Most important things do.
But more effort doesn’t necessarily mean more complicated.
Which is the good news---when you’re a busy guy---strapped for time; feeling overcommitted as it is; up to your eyeballs in obligations (professional!; familial!: friends!; romantic relationships!)….time issues are part of what is contributing to the feelings of:
· low mood;
· poor focus;
· negative thought patterns.
There are other things contributing, too. It’s not all about time. Some of those factors that might be contributing to some mental health struggles could be:
· financial concerns, especially if you are the primary provider for your family
· thwarted professional ambitions or lack of fulfilment at work
· comparison traps around coworkers; neighbors; friends
· aging parents and feeling unsure about managing those next steps
· tension with your partner around household management + parenting
· your own physical health or appearance (women and moms aren’t the only one who struggle with body image!)
So, the effort around increased mental health management comes down to:
· more intention;
· a slight increase in time commitment to those activities;
· a willingness to prioritize these habits;
· openness to adding some new routines or activities to your weekly life
Let’s circle back to those opening activities that seemed to be floated out there a bit tongue-in-cheek but actually can be the formula for success in feeling less overwhelmed, more capable, happier, and more fulfilled in the life you already lead.
Implementing these 5 tips for men's mental health could help you lead a life that just feels, well....better.
Tip #1 for Men's Mental Health in St. Louis
First of all: do you still have them? (Hint: the answer is yes, but the older we get, the more we have a tendency to lose touch with the leisure activities that previously brought us joy. For example, maybe a decade or two ago, you easily hunkered down with a good book or found yourself excited to hit Home Depot, the mall, or another errand destination. This is probably because you stopped and got a good coffee on the way, or made a quick pick-up at a favorite food joint for a snack that makes you salivate every time you think of it. You knew how to pair responsibilities with rewards in a way that was positively reinforcing and made the small moments contain bits of joy.)
So, what are those interests now or what are those old interests you can rekindle? Importantly as you consider this:
-bring intention to those activities. As you do them, really put your presence (mental, physical, emotional) into them. This often means
· Putting down the phone
· Slowing down, even just a little
· Bringing more awareness (aka presence) to doing “the thing”
As you consider where you can increase “interests” in your life, let me remind you: you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel! You can consider some things you already do and perhaps could build on it, by building out an activity before or after (eg, the errand example above—where you also paired a “treat” with it), OR again, by bringing intention to it.
Let’s do this using an actual example: Reading
We’ll start with how you even START something to read.
Do you value instant access? Get a Kindle or Amazon Fire and download at your pleasure! Your local library has a plethora of titles handy all the time, Amazon Prime often has their own free titles or deals of the day, or of course you can pay for a book you’ve been craving!
Is it cooler to you to feel an actual book? Check out Subterranean Books in the Loop and Left Bank Books in the Central West End. Soak it in while you are there. Smell it. Go through the aisles slowly. Unwind. Enjoy.
Then, make sure that you set aside enough time to lose yourself in the book. Set your phone aside and put it on silent. Grab a coffee or cup of tea or snack. Hunker down in a favorite reading spot. Take a deep breath. ENJOYYYY!
Pro tip: Apply the above process to your other hobbies and interests. Here’s the process: think about what brings you joy; pursue it; relax into it; be intentional about it.
Tip #2 for Men's Mental Health in St. Louis
We lead increasingly sedentary lives. That’s not all on you. It’s the world we live in. But how can you break the tendency to always be sitting down? Moving our bodies can directly impact how we are feeling; the content of our thoughts; and so much else!
Physical activity doesn’t have to equate to a CrossFit gym; playing an intermural sport; training for a marathon; or anything else that sounds like a major turn off.
It *does* have to require some exertion, and some discipline to make it a habit, but that’s
about all. Which means: a walk is a completely acceptable answer here! If you’re working from home, consider a walk around the block your new “commute.” If you work in the office, consider making a quick walk part of your lunch break. Whatever it is, start to build it into your daily routine. Understand that even small chunks of time are incredibly valuable.
Also, consider your personality to device some hacks if you need some help building the habit. Perhaps using a Fitbit or downloading a fitness app to your phone will make it feel like a game, or competition against yourself. These devices and apps track your steps and may dramatically increase your motivation as you try to get more steps each day. Keep an eye on your trends and try to do a little better every day. Don’t get bummed out if you miss a day or miss a goal. That’s life. It’s all about persevering and doing your best. Exercise and fitness is not a one-time thing. It builds on itself. Keep building!
Pro tip: Give yourself credit when you get exercise. Even if it’s for 5 or 10 minutes. You earned it. Physical health and mental health are cumulative processes. Healthy decisions build on each other and your overall health is definitely more than the sum of the parts.
Tip #3 for Men's Mental Health in St. Louis
Two questions: are you getting enough? Is it quality sleep?
There are a lot of people walking around this world thinking they are one of those people who only need 5 hours of sleep and they can function like a total boss, at the top of their best game. That logic is largely wrong. Sorry, but it is. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the population (I am talking literally almost everyone) needs 7+ hours of sleep per night to retain optimal performance across the spectrum.
How much above that 7 hour minimum is more unique to you, but that baseline 7 hours is pretty serious as a hard line.
So, are you getting that? And is the sleep you’re getting the kind that actually leaves you feeling refreshed? It should. In large part, you know you are getting the right amount of sleep and the right kind of sleep if you are waking up 5-15 minutes before your alarm goes off and can generally get out of bed without too much struggle.
Tips for quality sleep include:
-only using your bed for sleep and sex. (That means no hanging out in bed on a rainy Saturday; not scrolling through your phone in bed for 45 minutes before turning off the light; etc)
-minimizing consumption of alcohol
-having a bedtime routine (this is to signal to your brain and body that it’s time to start slowing down)
-going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
If you never feel refreshed in the morning you might consider checking in with a “sleep study.” A sleep study is when you spend a night at a medical facility and they track your breathing and heart rate to find out how you can make changes for the better. We have several wonderful institutions in St. Louis that offer sleep studies to help you determine what’s going on. It can truly be life changing.
Pro tip: If you really want to see both your sleep and overall mental health improve: try putting the phone in another room at night OR at least across the room so you can’t roll over and reach it.
Tip #4 for Men's Mental Health in St. Louis
Ok, time for friends, family, and relationships! Connecting with others is critical for mental health. Even the introverts amongst us still have social needs, and it is important to meet those. It is incredibly important to lean into being social when you’re feeling depressed or anxious. The tendency there can be to self-isolate, which actually builds on those gross feelings. So even if it’s connecting with someone for 45 minutes and it’s not “the best time ever”, it can be an emotional and mental salve to ensure regular connection with others.
Note: if any particular friends or family are not supporting your mental health, just set them aside for a moment. Focus on friends who you miss, family that “get” you, and making quality new friends and relationships.
Where to start? Check your contacts list on your phone or on social. Who inspires joy when you see their name scroll by? Start with them! Reach out, ask how they’re doing and what they’re up to. See about setting a date to get together (if they are local) or for a FaceTime chat. Even if you have to put that on the calendar for weeks from now, it’ll be worth it.
Ready for a new relationship? Have you tried dating apps before or it’s your first time? If you ask around, you’ll find so many of your coupled up friends met on apps. It’s pretty much become the norm these days. The apps and the user experience have improved over the years so relax, grab a cool pic of yourself for your profile and start meeting people.
Already in a romantic relationship? Try going for a walk in a new park or neighborhood, try a new fitness activity together, try a new restaurant together. Find fun activities that reignite the spark for both of you.
And if you’ve got kids or a baby? What are your typical responsibilities? Bed time, bath time, or dinner time? Are you feeling engaged in the activities? Maybe it’s time to mix it up and have fun again. Try new activities with the kids and talk with your partner about how you might switch up responsibilities to benefit both of you.
Pro tip: If you find a friend you trust, share with them about your mental health struggles. Believe it or not, lots of friends (guys included) will be able to relate to your struggles and you can build a foundation of support together.
Tip #5 for Men's Mental Health in St. Louis
Ok, we saved the best for last! Spoiler alert! Find a therapist.
There, we said it! We’ve been holding it in this entire post, but we’ve arrived.
A therapist can help you navigate and pursue all of the suggestions you’ve just read about, and they can even help you level-up your game if you feel like you’ve plateaued in any areas. One of the coolest things about therapy is some of the surprising benefits you get—the growth that happens that wasn’t even necessarily one of your goals.
We see a lot of men in our practice and we’d be happy to welcome you as one of them! They see us for a variety of reasons: anxiety or depression related to relationships; overwhelm from work pressure; lingering effects of childhood events; etc. The point is: if you’re a male in St. Louis looking for a therapist, we could be the place for you.
They also usually tell us this:
· “this process is way more enjoyable than I thought”
· “I didn’t expect talking to you to feel this comfortable.”
· “Everyone should be doing this.”
· “I don’t really like talking about this stuff, but I feel good telling you about it.”
Therapy comes in all shapes and sizes nowadays. If you want a couch to sit on, if you want to meet virtually over video, if you want text therapy, it’s all available. We’d love for you to reach out to us and let us know what you’re looking for.
And if you’re not sure, we can talk you through it. Remember, just like a novel, this is your story, we’re not going to write it for you but we will be there to support you and help you figure out your plot, your cast of characters, and stay with you along your journey.
Pro tip: The little steps you take every day (the little wins) add up! Don’t take them for granted. In this case, just reaching out to talk about getting started could be the little win. Whatever those wins are: celebrate them and feel empowered for caring about yourself and taking care of yourself. Keep taking steps and try out the therapy process. Your therapist can help you visualize the big picture and how your daily actions add up. Together you can make major breakthroughs!
There you have it. Five tips for busy men to care for their mental health. Regular commitment and upkeep on these practices will make a difference to how you feel. Small steps add up. Of course, additional practices and techniques can lend support to these various exercises so keep your eyes and ears open for what those additional things might be. We know that as you prioritize yourself in these ways, you can experience a positive impact on your overall functioning.
Additional Counseling Services at Marble Wellness
Counseling services designed to help set you on a path of living a more fulfilled, calm, and happy life. We specialize in anxiety, depression, grief, chronic illness, therapy for men, couples, and maternal overwhelm. We can also help new moms with various postpartum concerns, moms in the thick of parenting, and moms with teens. We can also chat from wherever you are in the state with online therapy in Missouri and online therapy in Illinois. No matter where you are in your journey, we would love to support you.