Men need self-care, too
This past Sunday afternoon everyone in our family had competing desires: my son wanted to have a friend over, I wanted to get a massage and my husband wanted to play at a house concert with his band. We juggled and all ended up getting our needs met, but the person who returned home most transformed was my partner. He’s a software guy, but his true passion is music. And, after just 75 minutes away playing Brazilian drums for an audience, he returned home a changed man. Literally. His face was lit up, his mood was light and playful, his outlook on life seemed completely transformed. (I’m not being dramatic here—it truly was unbelievable!). He had been fed creatively and consequently everyone around him was benefiting immeasurably.
For years I was a serious business person, first as a communication executive then as a leadership/executive coach helping men and women grow their businesses, create greater career success and achieve their goals. But after having my son in 2002, I was drawn to working with those same professionals on how to create balance in their lives—largely through the practice of self-care. Some may have seen this new path as squishy or soft. But 14 years later, working full-time as an sought-after life balance teachers/speaker/author, I think this is some of the most important work I’ve ever done. I feel excited and fortunate to get to travel around the globe and share my hard-won tools/practices and model for balanced living (largely centered around four proven strategies: learning to manage your energy/building a support system/practicing mindfulness & understanding the power of self-care).
I define self-care as the art and science of attuning and responding to your needs and desires moment to moment. Self-care on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually is our birthright and it’s key to our feeling whole and alive.
Over the years I have noticed that the men I work with often have a difficult time getting clear on what it is they actually need. (This can be challenging for women too, but they seem to be able to arrive here a little faster than our guys). After observing the transformative power of self-care work it’s magic on me over the last 16 years, my husband is an ardent supporter of me taking time for myself. However, often on Friday afternoons when I ask him, “So what do you most need this weekend?” he looks back at me expressionless. It’s hard for him to know and express what he needs or how he really feels.
While a lot is written these days about self-care as it relates to women and the well-being of the family, it’s also just as important for men.
I hang out with a lot of psychologists, brain science experts, therapists and social workers and we all talk about how we believe depression and anxiety are products of being “disconnected” from our needs, desires and dreams. We have all observed that when our inner world and outer world are out of alignment, we all suffer–both women and men.
I love men and am grateful for the privilege of having coached hundreds of amazing professionals on how to integrate who they are with what they do, through our sister company Career Strategists. But today, as I travel and speak to audiences on how to lower stress, enhance resiliency and heighten innate well-being — I hear concern about our guys. I want them to know that their needs and emotional well-being are not secondary or an after-thought. Connecting to their heart’s desire and nurturing their well-being is critical to their happiness, creativity and sustainability.
It’s important that guys feel comfortable showing their friends, co-workers and family members that they feel and care deeply about what’s going on the world today; in fact our future may depend on it. When one of us heals, we all heal.
Here are some of my hand-picked resources for igniting conversation around this theme: Teaching Men to be Emotionally Honest (New York Times), The Mask You Live In documentary, The Amazing Development of Men audio series by Allison Armstrong, the Good Men Project site and Balancing Yin & Yang Energy blog post.