The dangerous myth of the strong & silent man

Christmas is fast approaching and for many, the festive break is full of laughter and good cheer but for others, it’s a time when they feel stressed or upset about what is missing in their life. And it’s not just those who are alone who suffer, people in relationships can also feel lonely if things aren’t going well and they’re treading on eggshells or trying to avoid a row. The holiday period can often be a time when things feel worst, but there’s usually an existing issue or problem that is being ignored.

It’s widely accepted that women find it easier than men to talk about their feelings and are more comfortable opening up about personal or sensitive matters. Things are changing slowly but men can still be hesitant to speak to their friends or partner about what’s troubling them, and especially their feelings about what’s going on in their life. In my experience working with male clients, they often harbour outdated ideas of what is expected of them and feel pressure to ‘be strong’ and cope with work, relationship, or health worries alone. Media campaigns that feature sports or music stars who’ve shared their personal experiences or traumas have had some positive impact but there’s still some way to go.

So how do men cope with bottled-up emotions? Sadly, their coping strategies are often flawed or self-destructive. Some immerse themselves in work to avoid facing up to something that’s painful or (seemingly) unfixable. Unfortunately, the stress and exhaustion from the extra hours and avoidant behaviour can compound the problem and have consequences such as sleep problems, anxiety, or lack of motivation. Other coping mechanisms include self-medicating with alcohol or drugs or indulging in reckless behaviours that are a temporary distraction.

If you recognise that you’re not living your best life you could start by practising some self-care. Schedule some exercise into your day, get out in nature for a walk, run or cycle. Do something you love but you’ve neglected recently, such as a hobby, or meet up with friends. Start a conversation. You’ll probably be surprised (as well as relieved) by the response that you get. You might even be helping a sibling or pal by starting a discussion on a topic that’s bothering you.

And if you feel you might benefit from professional help rather than just a friendly ear and a pint, get in touch for a free initial chat. 

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