Hey guys, it’s Dean, and welcome back to the Movember Series for Men’s Mental Well-being. This is Week 4, and in this week’s episode I’m focusing on the importance of self-care – taking time to honor your personal needs, whether that’s physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise, and understanding that in order to take care of other people, we first need to take care of ourselves.
Things I’ll be covering:
- Ideas about self-care you should consider
- Our society’s ideal man vs. a health & happy man
- What I’ve learned from therapy & self-study in behavioral psychology
- Being able to ask yourself what you need; and giving that to yourself
As part of this series, we are doing a fundraiser to bring awareness to men’s mental health and suicide prevention through the Movember Organization, and I invite you to help us reach our goal of $10,000. I’m personally matching 50% of donations up to $5000, and also contributing 5% of our monthly sales from November. You can donate through the Movember website or through our Facebook fundraiser:
I want to thank our partners, Caldera Lab, for helping to sponsor this week’s episode through their generous donation of $1000 to our fundraiser. They’re also giving a special 30% savings to any new customer who wants to try out their face serum, ‘The Good’. It actually makes up a pretty important part of my own self-care routine, and I use this every night before I go to bed as a way to remind myself to take time to take care of myself. Try them out with that special discount by going to ManFlowYoga.com/caldera.
Lots of ways to self-care, but the big idea is that you’re doing something to care of yourself.
You’re doing what you need to do in order to feel healthy and happy, whether that’s physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or otherwise.
A few ways of thinking about this:
- Having the ability to listen to yourself and understand your needs
- Asking yourself the question “what do I need today” and then making a plan to do it.
- Reinforcing the belief that taking time to take care of yourself isn’t just good, it’s necessary
- Understanding that there is more to your well-being than diet and exercise
Something that I’ve personally noticed within our community of men is that there’s a general sense of not having enough time to take care of oneself. Guys have time for their jobs, for their kids, for their family, but not enough time for themselves.
Ironically, there’s a belief that it’s selfish to spend time taking care of yourself, when really, it makes you better able to take care of others once you’ve taken care of yourself first.
When most of us think of the ideal guy, I think of a guy who is dutiful, who acts with honor and integrity.
There’s an enormous gap between what being healthy and happy as a man actually looks like, versus how society imagines it. (In fact I would argue that if a guy were to be everything that society expected him to be that he would probably be very unhappy on the inside.)
He’s professionally successful, smart, in great physical condition, and takes care of his family and friends. All of these things are great – but a guy doesn’t need to be all of these things in order to be happy or healthy – these are just if he wants to be perceived a particular way.
Men are praised for setting aside their personal needs and doing what needs to be done, and pushing through discomfort in order to reach their goals. But how much of this are we doing because we have an ideal that we want to live up to, versus an actual desire to do these things?
In fitness, we want to demonstrate our toughness, and we push ourselves recklessly past our limits, which can end in discomfort, pain, or injury. Maybe we can get away with that for a while, but eventually we get to a point where what was once a nagging pain is now an injury that requires medical attention.
When it comes to experiencing the full spectrum of our emotions, we put off sadness because it’s not manly to cry (real men don’t cry, right?). You don’t think about the ideal guy as somebody who experiences sadness; rather, you think about him as somebody who has the strength to keep a “stiff upper lip” and do what needs to be done, despite his sadness.
Even in our success, we’re urged to contain our joy. “Act like you’ve been there before” or “stop drawing attention to yourself, you look like a jackass”. What’s the point of all this time and effort spent on reaching our goals if we don’t get to celebrate when we get there?
Not listening to ourselves – whether that’s not listening to our body, not listening to our emotions, or not listening to our personal needs – is preventing us from being healthy and being happy, and because of this, is actually making us less capable of taking care of the people around us.
Subconscious Habits Vs. Conscious Self-education
I’ll start this off by saying that personally, I subconsciously subscribe to many of the stereotypical beliefs regarding how a man should act, and to varying degrees, I have spent the last 5 years plus trying to unlearn these deeply-rooted beliefs.
I’ve done this through mainly through self-education, personal reflection, and – for the last 2 years – with a regular weekly meeting with a psychology, and although I’ve learned a lot during that time, I think the 3 biggest lessons that I’ve taken away from it include the following:
- You cannot bury an emotion. It will come out if you don’t fully experience it.
- By suppressing negative emotions, you are also suppressing positive emotions. You don’t get to choose. If you shut out the bad, you also shut out the good.
- You have to talk about things in order to work through them. And the more uncomfortable the topic, the greater potential improvement in your overall mental well-being that can come from adequately addressing the issue.
What is “self-care”?
The official definition of self-care has to do with providing care to yourself without a healthcare professional; using your knowledge and tools available to you to promote health, prevent disease, and cope with illness or disability.
I found this official definition of self-care very limited, because it’s not at all how I think of self-care. I don’t know about you, but to me, this doesn’t sound sufficient to create what I would consider a healthy, happy lifestyle.
So instead, I’d like to put forward the following brainstorm:
Self-care includes a wide scope of activities that an individual can perform with the goal of improving his or her physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual well-being; to improve physical fitness, to manage stress, to give the body and mind sustenance.
Taking care of oneself; making time for your own personal well-being, engaging in practices to help support physical, emotional, and mental well-being, to help with relieving and addressing root causes of stress; to work towards a greater overall level of happiness and wellness.
This could be:
- Working out
- Going for a walk to relieve stress
- Practicing gratitude
- Talking with a therapist (or just with a friend, family member, or partner)
Although I’d love to say that most forms of self-care are “healthy”, they’re not. Sometimes you really do need to just sit down in front of the TV for a couple of hours and veg.
Regardless of what you’re doing, IMMERSION into the activity is of paramount importance. Absorb yourself in what you’re doing. Eliminate distractions. Don’t beat yourself up for taking time to take care of yourself. Instead, shift that mindset. Praise yourself for taking the time to relax, for doing something that reinforces the belief that you value your wellbeing, and try to enjoy the activity for the activity itself, rather than thinking of it as something that’s going to help you be better for other areas of your life.
Do you know what you need?
What do you want? What do you need right now? I don’t know about you, but for me, it was incredibly difficult to reply to these questions when I first began asking them. I was so used to pushing myself to be more successful with my professional goals or making sure that I was finishing my weekly workout schedule that I didn’t know how to spend my time doing anything else.
Add on to that the pandemic experience of being shut in my house and extremely limited in my choice of activities, and there was this huge sense of limited possibility that prevented me from doing much at all.
After a few weeks of practicing asking myself these questions – what do you need tomorrow? What do you want to do? What do you need? – I began to trust my immediate gut response. Sometimes I needed to cut work short and go for a hike. Other times it was to make sure I take a nap that afternoon. Maybe I just wanted to relax on the couch with my wife that evening and not watch TV.
But many of the times, what I needed wasn’t a break.
Sometimes I was really motivated to work on a particular project for work. Other times I was really looking forward to a workout the next day, or doing a long yoga session to undo all of the sitting I did the previous day.
Taking care of yourself is important. Surprisingly, you might not know what you need if you don’t practice asking yourself what you want. So if you don’t already, the next time you feel less, more stressed, or just not yourself, I recommend that you take a break, eliminate distractions, and then just sit down and ask yourself – what do I need right now? Listen to the first thing that pops in your head. Don’t question it logically. Feel what you need. And then make a plan to do it.
Making Self-Care A Habit
If our goal is to rise above the standards of survival and strive for a higher level of health and happiness, we need to stop thinking about self-care as optional. That means working out, proactively and reactively managing your body’s aches and pains, taking time to unplug and process your thoughts, managing your mental well-being, talking through emotional struggles, and spending the necessary time or energy to properly nourish your body with healthy foods.
(Woof. That’s a lot though. Good thing you have your entire life to implement it though, right? Seriously. You’re not going to do all of this stuff at once, But if the goal is lifestyle change – which it should be – then focus on little changes over a long period of time. This is a long-term plan, so you should expect it to take a long-time to get to the point where all of these processes are up and running.)
This might not sound realistic for many people. And though I’d love to be able to say that creative thinking and planning ahead will solve your problems, I know that that’s not possible for everybody. Some people might not actually have the time. You might not be motivated.
But, if you are optimistic about your ability to spend more time taking care of yourself, then I’d recommend you start doing your research, testing, and implementing a plan so that you spend more time addressing your personal needs.
Now I cannot possibly cover that entire process and the many tips and tricks that can be helpful in this quick piece, but I will give you 3 tips that I’ve learned through my self-study:
- Do things that you WANT to do, instead of forcing yourself to do something you should do.
- When you’re getting started, make it as easy as possible. Start off with an easy goal and build confidence in yourself. You can increase the energy and time required later on.
- Make sure the people in your life are on board. You need to be able to convey the importance of self-care activities to the people in your life, and make trades so that you have the time for it. (i.e. You’ll watch the kids during x time, and your partner will watch the kids when you work out.)
Want more info and tips on realistically implementing self-care habits in your life ?
Two incredible books that I recommend as a blueprint for this process (and for implementing any sort of practice, i.e. a daily yoga practice through your favorite on-demand yoga provider, Man Flow Yoga) include Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.
Thank you for reading!
I hope you find this motivational and helpful!! Please check out the video I recorded for Movember below, and consider donating to the Movember Fundraiser!! We are matching 50% of donations up to $5000 and donating 5% of our monthly sales to the cause.
Big thank you once more to Caldera Lab for their donation to our fundraiser and for sponsoring this video. Try them out for yourself at 30% Savings at ManFlowYoga.com/caldera
Miss Week 3? In Week 3 of our Movember Series, I talk about managing the stress of social media, and how we can create a better relationship with social media by establishing boundaries and following some simple rules for ourselves. Click here to read that blog, or watch the video below.
Miss Week 2? In Week 2 of our Movember Series, I talk about the stress of the pandemic, how to create a more positive mindset, and how I personally use a journal to manage my stress and mental wellbeing. Click here to read that blog, or watch the video below.
Miss Week 1? In Week 1 of our Movember Series, I covered the importance of stress relief, and how you can do that with a very simple practice – body awareness-focused meditation. Learn how my personal experience with meditation and how you can start by clicking here! You can also watch the quick 10-minute video below.
Did you miss the Men’s Health Awareness Month introduction from earlier this week? Here it is.
It’s the start of November, Men’s Health Awareness Month, and this month I want to focus on health practices that I typically don’t talk about. You’ve seen me in yoga videos and tutorials, but once per week for the month of November I’m going to be talking about something else – your emotional and mental well-being, and what better way to do that than by sharing through my own personal experience, and introducing you to simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your existing routine for dramatic changes in your own emotional and mental well-being.
More and more, research is teaching us that it is our stress, more than anything else, that is contributing to our poor overall health. Things like cancer and heart disease are happening disproportionately to people who have poor emotional health, stemming from poor emotional practices like repressing certain emotions, not mindfully dealing with the day to day difficulties of modern life, and other manifestations of anxiety and depression.
I want to help reverse this trend by teaching men simple strategies to not just managing, but also improving, their overall mental and emotional well-being.
I’ll be covering essential topics that you probably didn’t learn about in school, aren’t covered in mainstream popular culture, and at least for me, aren’t things I talked about with my peers or family – and I can only assume that for many of you, this is also the case.
These are mental and emotional well-being topics and practices that I had to learn about on my own, mainly through books, and then through trial and error, figure out how to implement into my own regular routine. I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I am much more familiar than most people with these topics, and I know how to explain them in a way that’s down to earth and practical.
I can also tell you that after a few years of doing this, I’ve uncovered a lot about myself that don’t know – self-limiting beliefs that held me back from being happy, triggers from past experiences that made me get unreasonably angry, and patterns from past relationships that made my present relationships more difficult – and as a result of being able to process these things, I’ve been able to move forward with a better understanding of myself, have more energy, and be happier.
I want to talk about some of these things with you, so that we can learn how to take better care of ourselves mentally and emotionally – not just physically – for the future and beyond.
Every week, I’ll release one short lesson, including a specific topic on emotional and mental well-being, details on the practice itself, and an easy action plan for you to start doing it yourself.
We’ll cover topics to help you manage your stress, get to the source of your day to day stress, and help make you healthier and happier – because that’s what we all want, right?
I’ll also be collecting donations for men’s health, 100% of which will be donated to men’s health organizations at the end of the month.
Last time we did a fundraiser it was to help Central Austin recover from the infamous freeze of 2020, and we raised over $20000 in less than 1 week! I’m hoping that the Man Flow Yoga Community can come together once more and do something incredible to help improve the future of men’s health by supporting research and initiatives to make men healthier.
You can make your donations directly on the Movember website by visiting ManFlowYoga.com/movember, or by donating through the movember facebook fundraiser.
About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.
Dean Pohlman is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor and the founder of Man Flow Yoga. Dean is widely considered to be an authority on Yoga for Men. He has worked with physical therapists to create yoga programs for back health and spinal recovery. His workouts and programs have been used by professional and collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, and personal trainers; and have been recommended by physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals.
Dean is a successfully published author through DK Publishing (Yoga Fitness for Men), selling 35,000 copies worldwide in English, French, and German; in addition to being a co-producer of the Body by Yoga DVD Series, which has sold over 40,000 copies on Amazon since its release in 2016.
Man Flow Yoga has been featured in Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Mens’ Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many more major news media outlets.