May 25, 2020
“I am tired of acting as though I have something to hide.”
We are all familiar with such sayings as, “Why don’t you just man up” or “boys don’t cry.” Ours is a culture of masculinity. Adherence to masculine norms, such as self-reliance, being tough, staying in control, and not openly sharing emotions, has led to a mental health crisis among men in the United States. Sadly, every day men’s mental health struggles go overlooked and often undiagnosed due to the stigma surrounding mental health. This stigma stops many men from speaking up about their worries and life challenges and prevents them from seeking supportive help when they need it most.
June is National Men’s Health Month. The goal of marking this month is to increase the awareness of preventable health problems while encouraging early detection and treatment. Mental health issues cannot be left out of this equation. It is time to talk openly about mental health issues. We educate ourselves and others about the importance of proper mental health care and treatment. It is time that we encourage equality in how people perceive physical and psychological health challenges. Now is the time to move past this age-old stigma surrounding mental health, especially mental health issues among men.
Understanding the numbers about mental health can help us recognize just how common mental health challenges are among men. Often when we feel emotional discomfort, we think that we are alone or that no one will understand what we are going through. So, we sit in silence with our pain.
Understanding the numbers also lends essential insights into symptoms and barriers to treatment.
Why Don’t Men Talk About Mental Health Challenges?
Research suggests that men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues.
Some commonly reported reasons why men don’t talk about their mental health challenges include:
How Men Can Beat Stress and Anxiety
Studies show that men and women report symptoms of depression differently. Women are more likely to express their emotions openly and report feelings of sadness. These clinical symptoms are more readily diagnosed, leading to quick and effective treatment plans. However, it has been shown that men are more likely to express their symptoms of depression in terms of fatigue, irritability and anger, risk-taking, substance abuse, escapism, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances.
Understanding these gender-based differences of expression is essential for diagnosis and gender-specific treatment plans.
Men and women also care for their mental health in different ways. We all have heard the term self-care and are reminded of its importance almost daily. When we think of the term, “self-care” we often think of it as something women do and might envision a woman in a comfy bathrobe sipping tea in a candle-lit room. Where and how do men fit into the self-care routine? Remember, there is no shame in prioritizing self-care or seeking help for challenging emotions. Here are five quick and easy tips for men to get started in prioritizing their mental health this month.
We all take sick days. Why not take a break from life’s busyness and claim a day as a “mental health day?” Prioritize yourself by doing something that you love. Open up to someone you trust and share your emotions. If you are unsure of sharing your feelings with family or friends, therapists, or support groups are excellent options. Acknowledge and accept your feelings and emotions as a sign of strength and health, not weakness. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, sleep well, and spend time outdoors. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to explore new forms of self-care, and most importantly - find your circle of support.
Aug 24, 2020
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Fred Rogers.
As humans, we need social connections. We especially need to feel connected when we are sad or when times are tough. Interestingly, social relationships seem so readily available to us when times are good, and we are at our best. Yet, when times are tough, when we feel vulnerable and in need of support and care, that real human connection that we are so desperate for can sometimes be challenging to come by.
Imagine for a moment that you have recently lost your spouse to a long illness. In the days and weeks leading up to and surrounding your spouse’s death, you were rarely physically alone. Friends stopped by day and night to deliver your meals, to sit with you, and to offer you company and support. So many loved ones surrounded you, and you might wonder why it seems strange then that you feel so very lonely. Yet, when you think about it during this time, you were never physically alone. Sadly, this feeling of loneliness is all too common when we face a life challenge, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Importance of Human Connection When we are young children, we are taught the importance of and how to live healthy lives. Nutrition, exercise, and making healthy life choices all rank high on the scale of healthy living, but what do we learn about the importance and value of developing a deep, meaningful human connection. Interestingly enough, we are taught very little about this and the importance of nurturing it. Human connection, it would appear, is supposed to come naturally to us and be readily available. Yet, our lives are so busy in today’s day and age, and our social connections play second fiddle to work, school, hobbies, and household responsibilities.
Research shows that despite the increased connection to others via technology, loneliness is on the rise. A recent report found that more than 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely, left out, poorly understood, and lacking companionship. Research also shows that loneliness can be detrimental to our health and many researchers fear that it may be more harmful than obesity or smoking. Research also suggests that individuals who feel lonely are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with stable, healthy social relationships. So it would seem then that connecting with others is more important than we might like to think.
What Does Connecting Mean? Brene Brown, a professor who specializes in human connection, believes, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”
Connecting means being open and available and being present in time and space with one another. It requires both learnings how to give and how to receive. For connection to occur, it is essential to create a safe, nurturing space where compassion, empathy, and trust are readily available.
Finding Real, Authentic Human Connection in Emotional Support Groups
It is hard to connect, and it is even harder to connect when we feel vulnerable. Our culture tells us to keep our feelings inside to be healthy, to talk about happy things and not the things that cause us emotional pain and discomfort.
At Circles, we understand the struggle of finding real human connection, and we recognize the benefits that come from connecting people who are experiencing similar life challenges. We believe in the power of human connection, and we know that individuals and communities are most potent when all members are valued, listened to, nurtured, and heard.
Making an Online Support Group Work for You Suppose this is the first time you have participated in a support group. In that case, it is expected that you might be feeling hesitant or apprehensive about sharing your darkest moments with a group of people you just met. Don’t worry; everyone feels this way at first, and in no time, sharing in the group will feel cathartic and second nature to the healing work you are doing together as a group.
Circles make it easy to find the connection and support you need from people who can genuinely relate to what you are going through. We hope that you will find the support you need in one of our group sessions.
We are glad that you took the first step throward help for our members, new and old.
Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your experience with Circles:
Do you want to learn more about our programs? Find out here.
Thank you for your trust in Circles. We are in this together.
Sep 15, 2020
The Dalai Lama shares a straightforward but important message “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” It would seem that happiness does have a pretty important role in our lives. In fact, our happiness can have a huge impact on the way we approach our day to day, how we relate to others, and most importantly on our overall health.
One thing is for sure, we all want more happiness in our life. And in order to find more happiness, you need to define what happiness looks and feels like for you. Take a minute and ask yourself are you happy? I mean really truly happy. Are you happy with the way your life is right now at this present moment? Or do you have a running mental list of things you think you need in order to be truly happy? You are not alone if you feel like you are always chasing happiness. A recent study from NORC at the University of Chicago found that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy.
What is Happiness?
Defining happiness is difficult. It means and feels something different to each and every one of us. Perhaps the best place to start is to understand what happiness is not. Happiness is not losing ten pounds. Happiness is not a bigger paycheck. Happiness is not right around the corner. Happiness is right in front of you. Happiness is the warmth of sunshine on your face. Happiness is the joy you get from helping others. Happiness is the hug you receive or give to a loved one. Happiness is the satisfaction of time well spent. In this sense, happiness comes from a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. It is a sense that no matter what life throws at you – life is as it should be. Happiness is not about never feeling sad or challenging. Happiness is not about feeling happy at every single moment.
Happiness is Good For Your Health
Studies show that happiness really can influence health. We feel happy in a variety of ways. It can make us feel relaxed, euphoric, and content. When we are happy we tend to take better care of our physical and emotional needs. We find the time to move our bodies, eat well, stay connected, and get good sleep. On a cellular level, when we are happy, there is a lot of important stuff going on. Some of the benefits of happiness include:
The best advice I have ever received in my life is that happiness depends on you. It depends on the internal dialogue that you are having with yourself. Your spouse, your shiny new car or your new career is not going to provide happiness for you. When you open your mindset to this new way of framing happiness – you will find that happiness has always been there waiting for you – right under your nose.
Happiness and joy become elusive when we attach it to an external force and when we give that external force power over our emotions. Finding happiness is not easy, but the steps to happiness are simple. Here are a few steps to get you started to a happy, more fulfilling life:
Step One: **Acceptance **: The key to happiness is accepting where you are today. Accept where you are at this very moment. Love yourself and be kind to yourself. If you have gained ten pounds, so be it. Do those ten pounds make you any less loveable? Should it make you any less happy? Accept that some days will be harder than others. Accept that life will have emotional and physical challenges and hurdles. Accepting life as a winding path with detours will allow you to have space to embrace the joyful, happy things that life throws your way.
Step Two: ** Choice**: Remember you own your feelings. You have the choice to be happy or angry or sad. Take the time to do things that you enjoy. Surround yourself with loving supportive people. Draw boundaries around things in your life that need boundaries. Focus on the positive and make a conscious effort to have gratitude for the little and big things that life brings your way.
**Step Three: Coping **: No one ever said that life is easy. Times will get tough. You will have challenges. What are the tools and resources that are there for you to help you through difficult times? Stress is not always unavoidable. It can build up. What daily routines can you incorporate to manage your stress to make more room for happiness? Nurturing a circle of supportive friends can help you feel happier and less stressed in many facets of your life.
If you feel like you need some support, join our Circles of Support. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people and a professional therapist that will guide you through your journey.