It all starts in an instant. One moment you can be sitting there going through your day and the next hyperventilating in sheer panic, looking for the closest exit. Most people have no idea what is hitting them in the moment– I just couldn’t breathe. After running out and finding a moment to just get back to normal, breathing in the fresh air, away from the crowd, I felt a little more at peace. My best friend then came out after me, asking if I was alright. “I literally have no idea what just happened,” I said. “I’m seriously struggling to breathe. I feel like there’s a massive ball stuck in my throat.”
Maintaining mental health is of utmost importance to everyone. However, men often face unique challenges when it comes to managing anxiety and other mental health conditions: societal expectations and outdated gender stereotypes can make it difficult for men to express their emotions and seek help, which consequently accentuates the symptoms of anxiety and exacerbates loneliness.
Thankfully with the implementation of technology into our everyday life, we can now access aspects of healthcare at the touch of a few buttons. With social media platforms providing a boatload of educational materials surrounding anxiety and related mental health topics, and with the newly welcomed addition of mental health-specific apps such as meditation and calming apps, improving our confidence and self-esteem has become a little bit easier.
Improving your overall mental well-being requires an effort that factors in a combination of different self-help strategies, from working on your confidence to finding the strength and courage to reach out and seek help. Below, we’ll outline eight different ways in which you can regain your confidence, reduce symptoms of anxiety and get back to living the life you desire.
Working on your confidence
Being uncomfortable in yourself and lacking confidence and self-esteem can in many ways contribute to anxiety, as well be symptoms of the condition itself (internal link to hilltop instead). We understand that building your confidence can be difficult. This is why we suggest approaching the matter with realistic expectations by setting yourself achievable goals, focusing on enhancing your personal strengths and implementing a self-care routine as part of your everyday life.
I remember the one change I made in my life that kickstarted my enthusiasm for feeling better was that I began to appreciate how to truly seize the day. I used to be your typical ‘wake up 10 minutes before work and miss the shower’ kind of guy until I decided to invest in some products that made me feel like I was taking care of my body. This one small change allowed me to appreciate me for me, which in turn motivated me to wake up, shower, brush my teeth, and pul myself together in a way that instilled excitement for the day ahead.
By understanding the necessity of each element throughout the day, I was able to start feeling better about myself, which gave me the confidence I needed to get out of my comfort zone and go back to participating in the activities I used to love.
It wasn’t a big change in the eyes of many, but for me, it was huge. It was a big step towards self-appreciation; one that instilled subtle yet significant bouts of confidence in smaller increments which over time, got me to find the strength to try out other means of regaining my self-esteem. Means I’m still figuring out to this today.
Find your support network – Challenge isolation
Men and women who are feeling anxious often struggle with isolation, which in itself can further contribute to the severity of its symptoms. Reminding yourself that it’s okay to feel low and speak about the goings on with your life is something that takes time and can feel like a risk, but nonetheless a risk worth taking.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel as though you don’t have a support network. Part of the journey is trying to figure out if finding or creating one that suits all of your needs is possible! One first step is to consider working on building a support network comprising family members, friends, and healthcare professionals with whom you can discuss anything with to help you reduce those feelings of loneliness. Just reading this article is proof that this is possible.
Many of us struggle quietly, and even severely (and still do to a certain extent) with anxiety during key learning and transition times in our lives. For some it takes time to figure out the next steps, some need to find a way to talk their heart out, as briefly mentioned above.
Reaching out for help at first seems rather simple and often not strong enough. Many of us have been subconsciously conditioned to not recognize emotions and some go as far as to attribute their pain as physical symptoms not connecting that something is affecting their mental health. Reports often find that it is only after someone starts to understand the symptoms they were experiencing that they felt confounded by the stigma of the fears they face, which resulted in hiding out in their rooms and neglecting the opportunities surrounding them..
Reaching out to friends or a support network helps in ways many don’t think possible: Examples that people have found as part of their experiences include but are not limited to:
- There were times when a connection would simply stay on the phone until one fell asleep, feeling comforted
- A connection can offer comfort and not be “everything..”
- Support networks can refer and recommend professional services,
Many still continue to use methods which are highlighted below to help cope with stressful situations. In many ways, we urge you to find the strength to reach out to those who you trust.
Being anxious is a feeling often associated with worrying about the future. By practicing mindfulness, you guide your body to focus on the present without judgment. Though the concept of practicing mindfulness may seem somewhat non-specific, the ways in which you can practice mindfulness, such as through meditation, yoga, breathwork, and anything else which helps you feel at peace, do work.
A saving grace in times of desperation is meditation. There are plenty of resources that provide guided meditations, ranging from durations of 2 minutes to 1 hour or longer. Likewise, you can find different stages of asanas in video forms on such social media platforms, alongside guided breathwork sessions. These sessions can be carried out anywhere, at any time, whether you’re feeling anxious on a bus, when you wake up, or before you’re about to go into a meeting.
Scientific studies have reiterated the necessity of movement in improving and maintaining your physical and emotional well-being. As you move with purpose, your body releases endorphins, otherwise known as the happy hormones that increase feelings of joy and wellness. Doing just 150 minutes of intentional movement per week can prove to be substantially beneficial, and can even help offset certain consequences of poor sleep that may be attributable to anxiety.
And, remember that regular movement doesn’t just mean lifting weights or going for a run. It can be anything that gets your heart rate going, from getting your dust-covered Nintendo Wii and partaking in those frankly humorous dance games to playing catch with a loved one. Better yet, you can try signing up for a club and meet new people who may end up becoming part of your support network.
Sleep on it
In today’s so-called ‘hustle culture’ era whereby everyone around you seems to be on a non-stop hustle, you may get carried away with a business or project, forgetting to give your body one of the most important elements of self-care: sleep. You’ll hear business gurus preaching about their 5 am wake-ups and ability to function on just 3 hours of sleep and encouraging you to do the same, where the reality in the matter is that’s doing way more harm than good.
Sleep disturbances, in all forms, can contribute to or be caused by anxiety. Now I appreciate that simply telling you to get a good night’s sleep is about as useful as milking a bull, but I do recommend you start adopting sleep habits that can hopefully promote a good night’s rest. Cut out late-night caffeine, exercise regularly, read a book, and try to avoid blue-light-emitting devices such as phones and screens before bed, and you’ll hopefully be thanking yourself in the morning.
Recovering from an intense time period doesn’t quite take the linear path which many physical conditions do. Feeling great can take a little while, with durations of feeling better varying from person to person. It is achievable! Some people may experience certain setbacks and relapses, and that’s okay. Most importantly is that you give yourself the time to win the battle, whilst ensuring you check in with your treatment provider regularly to make sure you’re on track.
Food – Understand YOU
Disordered eating is up there with the most variable-presenting conditions to affect men. Whilst they can often begin with dieting or obsessive exercising, their tendency for development stems from a complex cluster of factors, including family histories, childhood trauma, and the influence of the media on your perception of yourself.
By working with a Psychologist or Psychotherapist, you can dig deeper into the factors that caused an eating pattern to develop, understand why it happens, and learn different methods of managing your symptoms.
Thanks to those societal norms men feel somewhat inclined to abide by, many don’t often speak up when they’re feeling low. Consequently, we keep looking at anxiety through this outdated lens of stigma, and the carpet never gets lifted. In reality, just naming what you’re feeling and saying it out loud can be the first giant step towards finding a means of understanding what it is you’re going through.
There are experts out there who specialize in working with people who struggle with various mental health disorders. If you ever feel trapped in your emotions and are unsure what to do, then reach out to us, we can direct you on your next steps.
Don’t bottle it in
I had to learn the hard way that as individuals, we are not a one-man or one-woman army in our battle with anxiety. From pre-med to qualified pharmacist, I took (and am still taking) the steps necessary to surround myself with the right people who could guide me towards the right path. That meant speaking out to friends, making work colleagues aware of my situation so that I can gain respite from work, and most importantly, not feeling ashamed in any way to attend regular visits to a therapist.
Your friends, family, colleagues, and healthcare professionals are all on your side, ready with the tools you need to make sure you get out on top. Reducing your levels of anxiety and regaining your confidence is a challenge, but it is one you can confidently beat. Start today by taking one piece of advice at a time and loving yourself as those around you do. We’re all in this together.