November is Men’s Mental Health Month. This awareness campaign is for everyone who identifies as a man, regardless of their current mental state.
It might surprise you to know that around one in eight men in England has a common mental health problem such as depression or anxiety, although they are less likely to talk about it or seek help compared to women. Research has shown that there are ways in which the hurdles for men seeking out mental health recourses can be reduced or removed. Attempting to include conversation and moments in daily routines that focus on supporting or just opening up around mental health is a really good, small place to start.
Your mental health does matter. It’s a fact that men’s mental health is often affected by stress at work and family life is often the first thing to suffer when you’re feeling like that.
According to the mental health charity MIND, humans need to connect. We need to feel close to others and to feel that they value us. Good relationships both at work and at home help us to function successfully.
So read on, and discover how to improve your work-life balance, family life and mental health.
What do you mean by ‘family’?
Good question. These days, families are more fluid than they used to be. But most are made up of a group of people connected in some way. Maybe it’s through parenthood, marriage or another social or legal arrangement.
And the people in the group depend on each other in different ways. It might be because they are very young, old or have health needs. However, the more dependent people there are in a family group, the more strain there can be on the others. Often, men are in this position because, rightly or wrongly, they are still ‘the breadwinner’.
What is work-life balance?
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘all work and no play’, right? Well, that’s an example of a poor work-life balance. In this situation, work has taken over, leaving no time for other things. And these are the essentials like hobbies, friends, and family life.
Keeping the demands of work and home separate from each other is very important because if work and home life are out of balance, you’re not going to be at your best in either situation.
Are men more likely to have a poor work-life balance?
In a word – yes. Even though there’s more equality today, some outdated ideas manage to hang around. And a lot of these concern what we expect of men (and women).
Many men still feel tremendous pressure to ‘succeed’. It’s all part of being a man, isn’t it? And ‘success’ is often seen as earning well so you can provide for your family.
Sadly, the UK still values the ‘long hours’ culture, which is damaging to mental health over time. And men are more likely to put in the long hours. But why? It could be to impress the boss and improve your chances of promotion. Perhaps it’s because flexible working isn’t available where you work. Or maybe it’s to replace your partner’s income if they have caring responsibilities.
So how can a poor work-life balance affect family life?
It might be possible to sustain a poor work-life balance for a while, perhaps even for an extended period. But it’s going to harm your relationships. And it’s your family relationships that will be the first to suffer as these are the people closest to you.
According to the Guardian, overworking can cause sleep disorders, heart disease, anxiety and depression. So when you are suffering from work-related stress, you’re more likely to be irritable, moody and angry. And this is what the people at home are going to experience.
So, this November, we want you to take some simple steps to get your work and home life back in balance. Because, fortunately, making a few adjustments to your routine will improve both your mental health and your family life.
Changing workplace habits
Change requires change. That might sound obvious but it can be hard to remember that if you want improvements you actually have to try quite hard to break out of current habits or patterns and make new ones. If you’re struggling with work-life balance you may need to take a look at some of your current working style to refresh your habits. Try a few of these tips from the mental health charity MIND:
- Don’t always be the last guy in the office. Keep to reasonable hours and take breaks in your working day
- Use your lunchtime as an opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise
- Set boundaries. Don’t respond to emails when you’re at home. If you’re working from home, keep to set ‘office hours’
- Speak to your boss about things you find stressful. It may be possible to redesign some parts of your job to make this better
Making more time for family life
In a perfect world, children would grow up in a family unit with both parents, but nobody’s life is perfect. Families in 2021 can be complicated. So, it’s even more important to make the time we have with our family really count.
But this doesn’t always have to be in big, organised activities. The Harvard Business Review found that day-to-day interactions are what matter most. These are their top tips for creating opportunities for ‘Dad time’:
- Take the kids to school or pick them up after. Walking at least part of the distance, if possible
- Take them to appointments and after-school activities
- Don’t be distracted by work calls when you’re with them
- Support them with their homework and attend meetings at school
The ‘big ticket’ events, like birthdays and Christmas, are still important and an effort should be made for these, but the little things give you the chance to really connect.
The link between physical and mental health is clear from plenty of research. You already know that great feeling you get after a good workout. So why not do some exercise with the rest of the family? For example:
- Have a kick-about in the park or a long walk at the weekend
- If you can swim, why not teach the kids?
- If the weather’s bad, try visiting a museum or a gallery? It’s free, and they often have special family events
So what will make the biggest difference to my family life?
That’s easy. Your health and wellbeing will have the most positive impact on your family life. Going to the gym is an excellent investment in your physical and mental health. But your mental health is the bedrock of overall wellbeing.
Traditional stereotypes and expectations of men are still around. And these can be damaging if you feel you don’t ‘measure up’. Men are always supposed to be strong and in control. But when the stress of an unhealthy work-life balance makes that difficult, what then? Having to be the strong one all the time means men find it difficult to ask for help, or even admit there’s a problem. So, men are more likely to turn to potentially damaging and dangerous coping strategies like alcohol and drugs.
We’ve probably all done it and we probably all know it’s not the solution.
Dealing with workplace stress
In this month, we’d like to encourage you to do the scariest thing of all. Talk.
It’s a small word, but a big deal!
But if you can find someone to open up to, it can be the most healing and therapeutic thing you can do. The Mental Health Foundation even believes that men who can’t talk about their emotions may miss the signs of their own mental health issues. It doesn’t matter who you talk to, it could be a friend, workmate, partner, or relative. And the best bit is that you’ll probably find you’re not alone feeling overwhelmed sometimes.
So come on, guys, start talking. Do it for yourself and for those who love you.