I’m pretty lucky.
However, over the last couple of years as we’ve all been through hell and back, I’ve made a real effort to stay on top of things and if anything, realised that maybe I wasn’t so ok after all.
Last year in the midst of lockdown Chatter organised a session by Dan Rowe to give us some tips about staying on top of our mental health. Dan is a mental health advocate and Andy’s Man Club support group leader - he’s one of those types of people who, when you hear his story, you sit up and listen.
And it was this session that kickstarted my focus on doing a few little things every day to maintain or improve my mental state.
It was Dan who challenged one of the main preconceptions a lot of men have about their mental health; you don’t need to be depressed or suicidal to validate your need for mental wellbeing. This was massive for me - it made me realise that whilst I might be fine right now that a) I could probably be better, and b) one day I might not be quite so fine and would need to know how to deal with it.
This conversation, being the true distracted millennial that I am, led me to try around a dozen different things that could help maintain or improve my mental state. This ranged from guided breathing, meditation and yoga, through to freezing cold showers, gratitude diaries and self-development books.
I soon realised that there weren’t enough hours in the day for all of this, and if anything, it was stressing me out that I wasn’t doing enough…
That being said, there is a handful of things that I either do daily, or when I’m feeling overwhelmed, that help me ‘ground’ myself. And I wanted to share them with you in the vain hope that you might adopt one for yourself and just feel that little bit better every day.
Most of the things I do only take 5 minutes, and whilst I’ll share just a few ideas, Dan has instilled in me the importance that what works for me may be very different to anyone else. So please, do speak to someone a lot more qualified than me for any real advice!
Anyway, here’s my favourite things to help me reset if I’m feeling a bit ‘off’….
- Breathe. Probably the quickest and easiest on the list. Some simple breathing can do wonders for your mental state. For example, 10 rounds of 4 second ins and 4 seconds outs can help you relax in under 2 minutes. (Check out Wim Hof for some truly incredible stories and techniques)
- Stretch. Like many people I sit at a desk all day, so 10 minutes away from it helps me wake up, feel more comfortable and even sleep better.
- Walk your commute. My colleagues will tell you that I’m not an early riser, so the 10 yard commute from my bed to my desk was great for a while. But having turned that into at 10-40 minute walk every morning makes the world of difference. We all miss our commute, if not for the time it takes, but for the separation of work and home life. 10 mins in a morning, 10 mins in the afternoon is all it takes.
- Exercise & diet. As I hit my mid-30’s, I’ve had to work a lot harder to keep up with my younger basketball team mates, and I notice a world of difference in my mental state when I’m both training and eating well. Again, a proper nutritionist will give you better advice, but swap your morning cereal for some eggs and tell me your mornings aren’t more productive.
- Cold showers. Yep, really. Freezing cold water isn’t just good for your skin and blood pressure, it’s also a great way to give you 5 minutes of peace. As Dan so eloquently put it, “try thinking about anything other than the cold water for 5 minutes - I bet you can’t”.
- Gratitude diaries. I don’t do this every day, but this is a wonderful trick to get you to think more positively. At the end of every day, or when you’re feeling a bit negative, try listing 3 things you’re grateful for. This could be something from that day or week, or something / someone in general. It really helps you refocus on what matters.
The final thing I want to mention doesn’t really fit onto the list above, but it’s something I’ve made a concerted effort to do over the last few months… text your mates. I have recently felt that there’s so much going on via group chats on WhatsApp or iMessage, that we miss the 1 to 1 conversations we used to have. It always makes me feel better too - even if it’s only a handful of messages back and forth before we’re back to our daily lives.
We sat down with Dan Rowe for #TimeToTalk day to have an open conversation about men’s mental health, our personal stories, and the different ways we have found to help our day-to-day lives.