The Importance of Mindfulness by Grace Tesoro
2020 was one hell of a year, am I right? From the outbreak of COVID-19 at the start of January; it seems like each month brought us something new to figuratively sucker punch the world right in the gut. From the pandemic to killer bees, protests for human rights, the election---there’s no wonder why there has also been an uptick in reaching out to mental health services.
Let’s all be real: unprecedented times can leave us feeling mentally drained before the day has officially started. There once was a time where discussion of mental health was seen as ‘taboo’. But oftentimes, mental health still seems ‘taboo’ within male circles---because that would mean men would have to confront the issues that society has done a good job of getting them to keep their mouths shut by these infamous demands:
“Man up!”, or even worse, “Don’t be such a p*ssy!”
Related articles: Men's Mental Illness: a silent crisis
It seems as though since the dawn of time men have suffered immensely in silence due to these convoluted stereotypes that men need to be strong and nearly indestructible like brick walls; unwaveringly grounded, stoic, and seemingly unemotional when faced with the bleakest of situations.
SELF-CARE FOR MEN:
Statements such as ‘man up’ or ‘quit acting like a girl’ have not only done damage to the self-esteem of women who have worked tirelessly to combat them, but it has also done numbers on the male psyche. Psychology Todays’ Rob Whitley Ph. D. refers to the decline in the mental health of men as ‘a silent crisis’, “Men make up over 75 percent of suicide victims in the United States, with one man killing himself every 20 minutes,” Whitley wrote. Now if this isn’t alarming enough; according to a statistic sheet from Mental Health America, “Over 6 million men suffer from depression per year…and often it goes undiagnosed.” So, how can we work to help #endthestigma surrounding men’s mental health during and even post pandemic?
Well, here’s one, self-care—and no, I am not talking about going out with the guys and throwing back a couple of beers; or maybe even a smashing an entire handle if that’s what you’re into. When you type ‘self-care’ in virtually any search engine, the top definition that pops up goes as follows: “The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health.” One of the first ways to practice meditation for men is to be present with how you are feeling. That’s essentially what mindfulness is; being present and connected to your emotions and how that is being presented in your body. Mental Health for America encourages the philosophy of “B4Stage4”: “When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start way before Stage 4. We begin with prevention.”
Taking this tip for your own is a great place to start in your self-care journey. By applying this mentality to your health; on the onset of any symptoms of depression, it’s best not to wait, but be proactive and do something about the way you’re feeling.
Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety often get labeled in our society as a ‘woman’s issue’; therefore, making it harder for men to address the feelings they may be experiencing, or opening up about potentially being affected by either of these illnesses. And the pandemic is doing us no favors in that department, in an article updated on September 25, 2020 by Forbes Finance Writer Erik Sherman, it was reported that over 26 million Americans were receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI). Sherman further explained the data, “Twice as many people are unemployed or significantly underemployed than are being recognized. That would put the unemployment rate—the percentage not working out of the national workforce of 160,838,000, according to BLS—at 16.2%.”
Unemployment is another damaging factor that can contribute to the rise in mental instability in women and men across the country. Work helps people feel like they have a purpose; it gives them structure, without it, what are we supposed to do? For many years, men were seen as the sole breadwinners and providers for family units. Hence, there should be no shock that the unemployment factor crucially affects the self-esteem and confidence of men. And tragically enough, unemployment can let people spiral into some pretty dark places.
With the increase of unemployment; which has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, it is no shock that drug and alcohol abuse has seen an uptick in numbers as well. A report produced by the UN described the socio-economic downfalls the pandemic has brought among us: “Plummeting opportunities are expected to disproportionately affect the poorest, making them more vulnerable to drug use, trafficking and cultivation, to earn money so they can survive the global recession.”
It may seem like the easiest thing when you are unemployed and feeling blue is to turn to the bottle, or maybe even smoke a little pot with all your free time. But choices like this will only stunt personal-growth and make self-care even further out of reach. So, if one of your buddies suggests going out for drinks (socially distant, I’m presuming) and maybe your nerves can’t take another day of the pandemic; perhaps suggest something different to change it up. There are tons of activities that you can do while being sober and healthy; even amidst a pandemic. Try texting a friend to shoot around a basketball or throw around a baseball.
Mindfulness and meditation aren’t just a practice; they are a way of life. Achieving mindfulness isn’t something that you accomplish and that’s that, you work for it and you can’t get there without putting in the effort. It’s a lifestyle change that anyone can accomplish with the right mindset.