What Is happening to the health of our Aussie MEN?
Traditionally, men were considered the stronger sex which meant that they were the bread winner, the provider of physical strength, the main parent to discipline, they stayed strong, pushed through and kept their feelings and emotions underground. For many, this is still the case and even with roles changing toward more equality, with more women in the workplace sharing financial demands, a move toward joint parenting, sharing the running of the household, and more awareness of men’s health issues, men are still living with a lot of stress.
Stress is anything that poses a challenge or threat to our well-being. There are many reasons why men are under pressure and feel stressed. Major stressors are financial pressure, high demand and low control in their jobs, perhaps job insecurity or fear of losing their job, relationship difficulties/divorce, the death of their wife/partner, grief, poor health, living in drought-stricken areas can all have serious physical and mental consequences. Other stressors are dysfunctional relationships with their children, loneliness, organisational change, rotating work shifts, approaching retirement, the pressure to perform in their sport team, being bullied, loss of physical strength, erectile problems, or perhaps infertility. Whether men have a lot or a few reasons for their stress, the level of their stress is a major concern when it comes to how it affects their health and well-being.
Research is providing a ton of evidence that major stress is a contributing factor to the way men’s health spirals. Stress is insidious and if you have been under stress for days, weeks or months then you are at risk of numerous health issues that may affect your mind, body and emotional well-being. Sleep deprivation, headaches, chronic muscle pain and tension, weight gain, constipation/diarrhea, heartburn, fatigue, inability to relax, irritability, poor memory and concentration, compulsive behaviour, mood swings, low sex drive, gambling, social withdrawal are all symptoms of stress and will develop into chronic stress if they are not dealt with. A lot of men use alcohol, smoking, substance abuse, sex, physical inactivity and poor diet to help them deal with their stress. However, these behaviours only exacerbate the problem and develop into chronic health issues such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, diabetes and mental health issues – and all have the possibility to be life threatening.
Chronic health conditions are responsible for most deaths and the statistics around men’s health are concerning.
- The leading cause for death for males is heart disease
- 71 per cent of men aged 18 years and over are overweight or obese
- The percentage of males with diabetes is increasing
- 1 in 8 men will experience depression
- 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety
- 6 men die from suicide each day in Australia
- men are twice as likely to die because of drug or alcohol abuse
- Approximately 1 in 10 new fathers experience postnatal depression in the first year of their baby’s life.
The public awareness about the importance of prevention and early detection of men’s health issues is growing. Organisations such as the Australian Men’s Health Forum, Men’s Health Australia, Men’s Health Week, White Owl for Men’s Health Awareness, Men’s Shed, Beyond Blue, Movember Australia and others are committed to heighten the awareness of men’s health, provide support, resources and information to help men find strategies to stay healthy.
Over the years of working one-to-one with men, I have found that they openly admit that they struggle to communicate and don’t know how to talk about their feelings and emotions. Often it is old childhood messages replaying in the back of their mind “be a man, you have to be strong, get on with it, boys don’t cry” that is blocking their communication. Because of this, there can be an underlying fear of being weak and so talking about what is really troubling them, becomes another stress. Once they gain the confidence to start talking and discover what strength really is and how it feels, they can make changes to deal with their stress and problems in healthier ways.
When they take the time to explore and reflect on what true strength really means, they find that it requires self-awareness, strong values and commitment. They find that they can cry, breakdown, be vulnerable and still be strong and something changes in their mind and body. This new awareness can open the channels for communication and help them set goals to manage their stress and get their health on track.
So, if you are dealing with stress and wanting to know how to cope, here are some tips:
- If you haven’t had a medical check-up in a while, then head to your doctor and have a full medical check-up. – Blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, weight, hormones etc. TALK to your doctor about any concerns you may have.
- Sleep Apnea is a serious disorder that interrupts the oxygen flow through the body during sleep. Often this condition is not detected, so if you wake feeling tired after a nights’ sleep or feel fatigue during the day, it may be something to have checked.
- Think about your diet and what you need to change for healthy eating.
- If the couch is a magnet for you and you don’t exercise, then it’s time to get moving. Exercise lowers stress and anxiety and it only takes 30 minutes a day.
- Aussie fellas love a beer … but how many quiet drinks do you have a day or cigarettes??? Think seriously about how this may be contributing to health issues.
- TALK … find a mate, wife/partner, someone you trust to listen, and TALK. It is so important to get things of your chest and get some clarity about your issues.
- These may be a little left field for you, but massage, meditation, Thia-Chi, Reiki, Yoga, Pilates, focused breathing techniques are all great ways to control stress and improve both your physical and mental health, and
- If life has you under the pump, make sure you take time out for a hobby or what you enjoy.
Whatever you do, look after yourself and find balance in your life.
How do you handle stress?
First step – recognise your stress symptoms and be aware of your behaviours.
Second step – make the decision to change your lifestyle.
Third step – get all the support you need.
Margaret Bruechert is a Holistic Mind-Body Therapist, Reiki Master, Holistic Counsellor, Personal Growth Consultant & End of Life Doula.
For more information visit http://www.zenreflections.com.au/