Men’s Mental Health: What do I do when I think I need help?
First steps to recovering your mental health
One of the most difficult things that men learn in life is that sometimes they need to ask for help.
Often it is only when you simply can’t cope with things on your own any longer that you start to Google: How do I feel better? How do I ask for help?
You may think that asking for help is a sign of weakness - you feel that you should be able to cope, to take care of your loved ones, to be the go-to fixer, to cope, to provide, to be strong, to be reliable.
You may think that these are the things people need and love in you, the things that make you ‘a man’.
If you feel that you are failing, feeling ashamed and embarrassed and that asking for help is admitting to weakness then I’m here to say that first and most importantly it’s NOT.
It takes enormous courage to speak up when you have been taught your whole life to handle your own shit, don’t cry, and don’t talk about your troubles or your emotions.
But you do need to tell someone. Anyone.
You may feel like everything is spinning out of control. You are feeling stressed, burned out and overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start or what to do next. It might be that you feel like you’re hanging on by your fingernails and your grip is slipping. You may feel overwhelmed with feelings of despair or hopelessness. It may be that you simply can’t feel at all.
And sometimes it just feels like you’re one bad day away from losing your mind completely.
It’s normal to avoid thinking about it - using alcohol, work, gaming, sex, exercise - or to minimise the problem by putting on a brave mask.
It’s so difficult to find the words to admit to being on the brink. How do you start? What do you say and who do you open up to, especially if you would rather not talk about it. Don’t want to even think of being ‘mentally ill’. Don’t want to admit that you need help.
You don’t want to be a burden - everyone else has their own problems, they don’t need to hear yours too.
It’s difficult to acknowledge that being willing to ask for help is, ultimately, the strongest thing you could do.
It’s often said (by women) that men just want to fix and rescue a problem, take action, sort it out and move on. So maybe it’s time to take the action to take care of yourself?
Here’s the first steps to take when it is time to ask for help:
Find The Help You Need
Firstly and most importantly talk to someone. On the phone. On Zoom. On FaceTime. In person. Maybe start with a message. But connect. Try your doctor, a counsellor, a helpline, a support group, a friend, a stranger, a mentor, a colleague, a relative. Any one that will listen. It can take courage. I know. But please remember you are not a burden. People will want to help.
A trouble shared really is a trouble halved.
Can you think of one person who you can open up to? Would it be easier to speak to someone you don’t know? Or someone you already trust?
If you decide you want to open up to a professional it can be a life changing relationship.
Sometimes your issues are emotional or cognitive and you need to talk things through with someone who understands and can help you make sense of things, who understands how your thought-patterns work and can teach you how to break those patterns and reframe those negative thoughts and emotions.
Your relationship with your therapist will be an incredibly intimate one. You’ve gone to someone to ask for help with emotional issues, which means you’re going to be letting someone in to things that we often haven’t let our families or friends into. So if the first person you go to isn’t a good fit, don’t give up. There is a therapist out there that will be right for you. It takes time to build up the trust and rapport with your therapist that lets you open up in the ways you need to.
But that’s the nature of therapy: you’re trying to unravel issues that go back years and tend to have any number of complicating issues.
Alleviating stress, burn out, anxiety and depression often means starting with the tricky business of digging into underlying issues: lack of self-esteem, loneliness, unable to cope in social situations, feeling like you are failure, a desperate need for approval from others, resenting others, being in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship, pressure to succeed, being bullied, holding boundaries, feeling unappreciated, unloved, or ignored … none of these are going to be solved over night.
Our emotional troubles rarely have a direct cause; often you have to talk through layers of reasons that over the years you’ve put into boxes and avoided at all costs.
But when you let go of the toxic patterns that made you afraid to ask for help, you can learn the tools to connect you to who you really are and you are freed to live your life.
It Takes Time
One thing to keep in mind though - it might not be a quick fix.
But once you have decided to take responsibility for your agency by addressing how you feel things will begin to change.
One of the things that can be frustrating is that you feel a pressure to be better. You want to be fixed. You want it all to be in the past - now.
Realising that it’s time to ask for help can be hard. Getting those answers and working through them can take even longer and processing them can be even harder.
But asking for help often reveals a strength that you never knew you had. We all need a hand sometimes, and learning how to get that helping hand is worth it.
Even medication isn’t a shortcut — it takes time to get any significant help from them.
Taking Medication Can Help…
Other times, the issue may be the chemistry in your brain. The more we understand how the brain works, the more we understand that a simple chemical imbalance can completely mess you up. Many symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, are problems with your mental wiring and can be treated with medication.
A lot of us have an instinctive NO when it comes to anti-depressants. People see them as a bandage, covering over the festering wound beneath.
But even though going on them doesn’t cure you, they can make things easier. They can give you the energy, and the desire, to cope, manage and to function like a human being again. They can be the catalyst to your recovery, to getting back to feeling like yourself.
30% of all GP appointments are related to mental health so they have heard it all before and they will not judge you if you break down in the surgery. Tell the receptionist it’s a mental health emergency and that you need to talk to a doctor. On Zoom or in person. Remember: they want to help.
If you want to look into other things to help…
Life changes that you can take yourself to start to recover your mental health
Have you recognised that you are struggling with your mental health but you would like to look into other ways to help yourself?
You know that you are stressed or anxious or overwhelmed or feeling low. Maybe you have realised things need to change that you can no longer put a mask on, feel tearful all the time and have the feeling that you just can’t cope any more.
You have started to let people know how you are feeling but also want to do something to help yourself then there are lots of things you can start doing.
Designing a mental health routine that works for you is one of the most powerful ways to feel back in control. Treating your mental fitness with the same attention as your physical fitness is a really good way to look at it.
If you think of your mental energy as though it is a phone that needs charging. What percentage are you on right now?
Do you take as much care of yourself as you do of your phone battery?
If you think of your brain health as your battery maybe you can see things in terms of what drains your battery percentage and by how much; or what recharges your battery and by how much.
If you’re on 5% what would help you get up to 100%?
If you can spend some time getting to know what helps you feel fully charged you can make a plan to maintain your energy and the best ways to recharge when you get low.
Develop a daily routine with this in mind. What works best for you?
Here are some starters:
- Get exercising a little and often - Run + Walk + Dance + Yoga + Tai Chi + Cycle + Gym
- Get outside as much as you can - every day if possible
- Get creative - do something fun that you love
- Get connected to friends + family - make time for the people in your life
- Get eating high quality proteins + plenty of the freshest vegetables + fruit + good fats is the best way to fuel your brain
You have heard that a self-care ritual can help but don’t really know what that means and, even if you did, you have no mental energy to know where to start.
It’s much, much easier to self-soothe with our quick, comfort fixes. Gaming? Netflix? Chocolate? Alcohol? Fast food? Shopping? Self-harm?
What’s your poison?
Your brain uses 20% of your energy. It uses 20% whatever you eat and drink. Whatever that is.
The foods you eat or don’t eat have an enormous impact on the functioning of your brain.
If you have gaps in your diet this leads to deficiencies in the nutrients that your brain uses, which means that it will stop working properly + start being a bit glitchy.
Glitches = mental health problems.
Your brain needs the right fuel.
The right fuel = The right nutrients.
The one vital thing you can do for your mental health is take the right nutrients for your brain.
So I thought I would share the key nutrients that have helped people to recover + that will help you too:
JUST DO THIS ONE THING
So when you’re feeling depressed and exhausted, even knowing all the right things to do, eating healthily - planning, shopping, cooking from fresh - can feel like a mountain that is simply too difficult to even start to climb.
Why? I think the answer is that that our brains are simply preoccupied with coping + juggling life. In the first place, we have to survive.
We need to get a little better for our brains to have the spare capacity to problem solve which is when looking to supplements for a boost to our brain energy is a good place to start.
The wonderful feeling of biohacking - being able to work out what nutrients support your brain and body to recover - helps you to feel that you have some control back and that you can take some action to take care of yourself.
So to start with focus on a multi-vitamin + mineral that would be easy to take and and has everything in it without having to think too much. Taking Mood Me with all its powerful ingredients to start to fuel your brain and body is the first step.
When it is energy that you want, to try to get through the day without being fuelled by caffeine and feeling like you would rather go straight back to bed, add Energy Me. It helps you to focus and clears the brain fog.
Probiotics, Vitamins C + D, and Zinc have all been linked to brain health which means that Energy Me can be a complete game changer.
Stress leads to high levels of adrenaline in your body. Just like a tiger threatens your life and we release adrenaline in response, so mental stress triggers the same response.
Even though you may feel burned out and wired you can’t slow down, relax and get off to sleep. If you can’t recharge your mental battery, waking every morning feeling exhausted and using caffeine to fuel you for the rest of the day. Calm Me helps to change your sleep patterns and recharge your batteries.
And then Happy Me for the DLPA, 5HTP and Tryptophan to ease depression and low, flat feelings. It helps build some emotional energy, to boost your serotonin levels naturally, lifting your mood and to help you sleep through the night.
They can give you the energy that you need to build your self-care routine.
And this is the fundamental change that helps you to manage your mental health differently for the rest of your life.
"I’ve been taking Happy ME for nearly a year and I feel I have more interest in my hobbies and have even started BMXing again, something I haven’t done for nearly a decade. I have more confidence, energy and positivity. Thank you!" Benedict, 38, Devon.
The most important thing: Take the decision to take care of yourself.
What helps most is having the mental and psychological energy to make a shift in your thinking and mindset.
Start with some small achievable daily goals.
Celebrate the small things:
Get up ✅
Take your Vitamins ✅
Talk to someone ✅
Go outside ✅
I hope these tips give you some ideas and go some way to help you take the first steps recovering your mental wellbeing, whatever you are struggling with.
P.S. If you would be interested in the online course I’m writing on “First steps to recover your mental health” then please sign up for The Vitamin Smith to get all the latest information and the release date.