Men’s Health Week runs from June 14 to June 21, 2021, and is dedicated to helping men seek out resources and information to take better care of themselves – especially after a tough period in their lives, like a divorce. Even though most divorce cases ultimately help people feel better in life than if they had stayed in a harmful relationship, the immediate aftermath of the divorce – as well as the emotional hardship of the process itself – can leave its mark for months and years to come. This is especially true when kids are involved.
No divorce process, no matter how amicable, leaves all involved parties feeling unscathed. And for men, it’s crucially important to recognize that severing ties with people who were once very important to you or continue to play an important role in your life is difficult and even traumatic. There is a distinct stigma among men regarding self-care and acknowledging both physical and mental health issues. But no matter how much they’d like to, you can’t always just tough things out. Sometimes, the best thing to do – and the hardest thing to do – confront your habits and coping skills and get help.
Why Your Physical and Mental Health are Equally Important
You’d think a heart attack would be far more important than a panic attack – but our mental and physical health is distinctly intertwined, and you can’t fully take care of one without addressing the other. The way we think, feel, and process the world around us, both consciously and subconsciously, plays a role in our physical health and can affect the heart, brain, and body.
Something like a deep depression affects physical pain thresholds, exacerbating chronic health issues like arthritis. Feelings of anxiety can strain the heart and increase the risk of heart disease and heart failure. And mental health issues often co-occur with substance use issues, including alcohol abuse, which can drastically affect organ health and longevity. This week, we urge men everywhere to recognize the importance of their own mental and physical health – especially after divorce.
Effective Ways to Invest in Your Health
The most effective ways to improve your mental and physical health often end up being the simplest. But simple doesn’t mean easy. The Pareto principle states that about 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of causes. When applied to mental and physical health, most of the benefits to be reaped from self-care stem from the most basic forms of it: addressing your need for sleep, food, exercise, and hygiene. While these necessities should ideally be met by everyone, many people struggle to fulfill them.
We’re kept up by inconsistent sleep schedules and poor sleep hygiene. We can’t find the time to manage our pantry and plan out meals for the week, let alone find the time to exercise. And personal hygiene is often one of the first things to go out the window when depression starts to kick in. But by taking measures to invest a little bit of time in each of these four categories, you can drastically improve both your mental and physical health and save yourself both time and money you would otherwise be forced to spend as time goes on.
Pay Attention to Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is the concept of improving sleep quality by introducing a daily sleep routine and an ideal bedroom environment. Examples of simple and effective sleep hygiene include:
- Keeping your bedroom cool and dark.
- Avoiding the use of the bed outside of nighttime.
- Setting up a sleep routine or ritual based on personal preference.
- Eliminating screen time shortly before bed.
- And so on.
Good sleep hygiene can help you develop a rhythm of consistent, uninterrupted sleep, which can have a massive impact on your personal and professional life, as well as both your long-term physical and mental wellbeing. Never make the mistake of underestimating the importance of sleep.
It’s a message we’ve heard a million times, but it’s also one that most aren’t implementing properly because it feels like it costs more time, money, and effort. But with a little planning, you can eat much healthier, save yourself hundreds of dollars a year on takeout, and feel a lot better. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider meal services to get ingredients and recipes sent straight to you every week.
Pick up a few simple skills through online or in-person cooking classes, such as making quick sauces, soups, and salads. Set up a pantry with cheap but healthy staple foods, make the most of your freezer space (even when it’s limited), and turn your 30-45 minutes of daily cooking time into a form of self-guided therapy.
Going full hog on exercise takes a lot of time, and depending on your options for training at home, it probably also takes a little money. Start with a simpler, smaller commitment – just 10-15 minutes a day of some movement or exercise you enjoy, even if it’s a fast-paced stroll through the woods or two rounds on the bag with your old pair of boxing gloves. You don’t need a huge time investment to reap the benefits of exercise. Moderate exercise can drastically improve your physical and mental health at a low overall commitment. It also helps that exercise is a great habit-forming coping mechanism.
Don’t Neglect Your Hygiene
Don’t stop taking care of your beard or regularly shaving. Don’t stop visiting the barber. Don’t stop putting time into your appearance. A little personal hygiene and self-care can go a long way towards helping us out of a dark place and preventing the slippery slope of depression. Of course, a shower and a shave isn’t always the most effective answer to mounting mental pressure. We all need help sometimes, and it’s okay to ask for it. Men continue to have a higher suicide rate than women and are less likely to seek mental health resources when depressed or anxious.
Researchers also believe that male mental health issues are drastically underreported. The current pandemic – and its effects on the job market and marriages – may be making things much worse. Professional help can go a long way, even if it’s just to have a different perspective on your thoughts and feelings. It takes time, and support, to overcome mental health issues. It’s not a battle you have to fight alone.