In my last blog post, I looked at why men tend to be so sucky when it comes to self care.  Much of it has to do with conditioning and the pressures of modern life.

In this post, I am going to look at some of the ways that men (and women) can look after themselves and renew themselves so that they can perform better at work and have a MUCH better experience of life.

Why is self care so important?

The truth is that self care is one of the most important things we can focus on as it helps in so many ways. When we focus on self care

  • Our health gets better
  • Our mental health is in better shape
  • We are simply more available and present for our loved ones.
  • Our stress levels decrease, negating the negative impacts of stress
  • Our levels of resilience are much higher
  • Our ability to access higher levels of creativity and clear thinking are enhanced
  • We simply perform better
  • We become a role model – we give permission to other men AND the next generation to put self care high on the agenda.

I believe that many of the issues that we face in society would be alleviated if we simply put good self care higher on the agenda…but that is another story!

What is good self care?

Good self care renews your energy, refreshes your mind and spirit and keeps you in tip top shape.

It is not something that comes back to bite you on the butt later on.  Many people medicate themselves with alcohol, food, sex, drugs – for a whole bunch of reasons – but there is always a cost whether a hangover, emotional guilt or something else.

Really good self care doesn’t cost. It is an investment in ourselves. It might require an investment of time, energy or money…but it pays back dividends that are compounded over time.

Good self care also consists of practices and habits i.e. they are not a one shot deal.  The more you do it, the more it pays off.  It should also be relatively easy and time efficient to do…or else we simply won’t do it.

Finally a lot of guys think of self care as being a purely physical thing. We are complex beings and we also have to take care of the mental, the emotional and spiritual sides of ourself.  Purely taking care of the physical will take you part of the way but not the whole way.

Give me some examples

  • Get a massage – often seen a luxury but massage shifts th stress that gets caught in our body and build up over time. Massage is for more than relaxation and cna prevent further health issues later on.  If anyone thinks massage is for girls, just get some bodywork from my friend Andy Ford…he is hardcore and it can hurt, but boy do I feel better after!
  • Do exercise – BUT find the right one that works for you. Not everyone is a gym bunny or a football freak! For some guys, doing competitive sport simply compounds the stress of competition at work. For others, it is a great way to let off steam and frustration.  Personally, I am a BIG fan of yoga as it has a restorative effect on mind, body and spirit…AND it is HARD. Just try an Ashtanga, Flow or Bikram class and you will know what I am talking about
  • Look after what you eat – this is a huge one for me and something I have struggled with. There is so much advice conflicting advice out there but at its most basic level, it is common sense…cut down on sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, eat food that is as unprocessed as possible, eat lots of plant based food and eat at regular times.  The best book I have found on food, and everything physical for guys is The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.  It is simply a bible of the best practices backed by research.
  • Meditate – good for mental, emotional and spiritual and alleviating stress (so beneficial physically), the benefits of meditation are many and numerous. You don’t have to be a monk in an ashram to do it. Start with the Headspace App which will teach you how to meditate mindfully in 10 minutes. You’ve got 10 minutes, haven’t you?!
  • Get off the treadmill and go home to your family – if you perpetually work late (workaholic?), make a pact with yourself or someone else that at least one night a week you will leave work on time and get home to your family…and NOT turn your work computer on or check your email on your smartphone. When you have that mastered, make it two nights…
  • Journal – As men, we often don’t take the time to step back and reflect. However, I find pen and paper a great way to work out frustration, stress and negativity that I am feeling. I simply write in a stream of consciousness on the paper everything about the situation, what I am feeling, all the judgments etc. I am essentially using the page to drain the swamp of crap in my head. When I have done that, I inevitably feel better, can see with greater clarity and am much more able to deal with stuff.
  • Read – take time early each day (only needs to be 10 minutes on the train or bus) to read things that expand your mind, lift your spirit and inspire you (i.e. anything but a newspaper…nobody needs that much negativity in the morning). Autobiographies of people you admire, self help or spiritual books, business books that open up new possibilities. It is all good, but the key is reading material that inspires and/or educates you.
  • Volunteer – you might think “OMIGOD What?!”, but hear me out. When we volunteer for service work, we get out of our own crap and start to focus on the needs of others. Selfless service is a key practice of many wisdom traditions for good reason. I am talking about activities where you show up and give your time without an agenda other than to help and serve. Working in a homeless shelter/soup kitchen, acting as a visitor/buddy for older people, working as a mentor for young people…all good examples.  By showing up and giving your gifts you tap into the highest part of yourself that is never stressed and always has energy…and it starts to show you who you really can be.

Oh and as a bonus…get enough good quality sleep.

[reminder]So guys, what are you going to do to take better care of yourself?[/reminder]

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Image credit Riccardo Cuppini via Creative Commons on Flickr