Talking to the Men in Your Life About Their Mental Health

I thought that I’d concentrate on men’s’ mental health this week, mainly because it still seems to be a difficult subject for men to talk about, despite all the recent increased awareness of what has previously been a taboo subject.

If the man or men (thinking not just partners but brothers, fathers and friends here) have recently had a change in their lives, this can lead to mental health problems. I’m thinking a relationship breakdown, retirement or job loss…

Some men complain of physical symptoms like headaches, tiredness, nausea or pain in their joints as well as being unable to sleep or losing their appetite. Channeling their pain through more aggressive behaviour is common too, as is drinking or smoking more and taking over the counter painkillers.

So whatever your relationship with them, try to find a way of helping them relax by going for a walk or something similar so that you can talk at the same time. Avoid asking how they feel as a lot of men shy away from that question. Instead, ask what a particular change means to them. When they hopefully starts talking, it’s natural to immediately say things like “oh, you’ll soon find another job”, but that stops the conversation and may not actually be true either. Instead, let them talk – and talk, and talk.

Don’t accept a brush-off like “There’s nothing wrong – I’m absolutely fine”. Trust your own feelings and ask again. If they’re struggling with really dark thoughts, suggest them seeing their GP, visiting the website CALM (thecalmzone.net) or calling the Samaritans which is a 24 hour seven day a week service. Their number is 116 123 or you can visit their website samaritans.org.

Lastly, accept that you won’t have all the answers and that’s alright. As long as they know that you’re there when they need you, you’re doing a grand job. Being there physically or at the end of a phone is one of the most important things we can do for anyone who’s struggling with whatever’s going on in their life right now.

You can read my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

#anxiety #familyrelationships #stress #self-esteem #workonyourself

Has Compulsive Shopping Become A Problem?

Goodness knows, the pandemic has given a lot of us plenty of opportunities to shop online and there’s no doubt that buying something new often lightens our spirits, whether it’s clothes, gadgets or blowing money on a holiday. There are a constant flow of adverts in the media that reinforce our spending too. Shopping online on your phone or pc during work breaks or even the middle of the night can feel as if you’re not really spending money at all, but the consequences can be devastating and hard to control.   

Although occasional spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing it can get out of control. We often joke about ‘retail therapy’ and use words like ‘shopaholic’ but if your own urges to shop, or those of someone close to you, become uncontrollable it’s no longer funny. If you’re spending beyond your means, compulsive shopping is as damaging for finances and relationships as alcoholism or gambling.

However, there are ways to break free but one of the first things to do is take it seriously. If you recognise that you’ve got a real problem, you may need extra support from friends and family and possibly a structured treatment programme to help you to quit. If someone you love suffers with this addiction, they’ll need a lot of support from you and other friends and family.

People who struggle with compulsive shopping often experience ups and downs and find that the urge is strongest when they’re feeling sad, depressed or angry. Going out and buying something new gives them a ‘high’ for a while but then they plummet when the realisation hits that they’ve spent even more money on a shopping spree.

If you recognise this in yourself, have started hiding what you’ve bought or find that you’re maxing out your credit cards and want to try to control these buying splurges, here are a few ways to start the process:

  • Avoid online stores and shopping channels. Ask someone you trust to block these sites on your phone, pc and television and then secure a password, unknown to you, to unlock them.
  • If you feel the urge to shop, do something constructive like exercise or take up an interest that doesn’t require you to spend a lot of money.
  • If you’re going to the shops, write a list and stick to it.
  • Work out a budget (there are lots of online budget sheets to help you) and make a plan to pay off the debts that you’ve built up.
  • Your brain has become accustomed to the instant gratification of compulsive shopping and you’ll need the help of a support group to make changes. You could also ask your GP to refer you for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – there may be a long waiting list but it will be worth it as, although it’s not suitable for every type of issue, CBT is useful for helping change the ways you think and behave.

Once you’ve tried the above ways to manage compulsive shopping, you’ll start to relax and feel in control of your life again.

You can read my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

#anxiety #familyrelationships #stress #self-esteem #workonyourself

When You Say You’re Fine But You’re So Not…..

What are you feeling inside?

Why do we do this? I’m guessing that most of us say it because we don’t want to show our real emotions, perhaps out of pride or because we don’t want other people to feel sorry for us. A lot also depends on who’s asking. Do they really care about you or is it someone who’s a casual acquaintance and you think they’re asking the question automatically rather than being genuinely interested in you and how you’re feeling. Whoever it is, if you feel uncomfortable with their question, don’t feel obliged to give more than a short answer, giving little away.

I wouldn’t usually advocate keeping your feelings to yourself but in this instance, self-protection comes into play and it can be best to keep your true feelings to yourself. You can always answer with something along the lines of “Oh, I’m just getting on with things. How about you? How are you doing?”

But there will be times when you really want, even need, to talk and most people who ask are doing so out of genuine concern. Finding some sort of balance is often the best way forward; in other words, maybe start with telling the person “I’m finding it hard at the moment but trying to get through a day at a time. Maybe we could talk about it more one evening/next weekend”. Trusting the listener is a big part of talking about the issues that are causing you problems. You need to have confidence in them and this takes time – you might take a couple of weeks to tell them the truth about what’s been happening for you but that’s okay. Bearing our souls isn’t easy but keeping things buried inside doesn’t help. Eventually they erupt, often when we’re least expecting it.

So tell your trusted friends and say what you need like some space, time to vent or a companion to go walking with rather than going alone if that’s what you usually do. Most of us need human contact, not just physically but emotionally so that we don’t’ feel so alone when life is hard for us. This is the start to saying how you feel rather than always telling people that you’re fine – give it a try and see how you go.

You can read my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

#anxiety #familyrelationships #stress #self-esteem #workonyourself

Is Everything Getting A Bit Much?

I’m late writing this blog – I have no idea why, except I’ve had a lot on my time and those things seem to have left less room for anything creative, including writing blogs (hopefully you find these creative, at least some of the time!).

However, it’s a good way of looking at how easily we can become stressed and have less time to do those things that nourish us emotionally and creatively. “Well, we have to earn a living/look after our children/make a cake for the school bazaar/” I hear you say, and you’re absolutely right but we DO need to check in with ourselves sometimes, have some breathing space and generally have a bit of a rest.

During the last eighteen months, most of us have had to deal with huge amounts of stress and it’s taken a toll, even though we’re mostly getting back to some sort of normality. But if you’re finding that you’re putting off doing things more than usual, eating or sleeping more, finding everyday things overwhelming or just not looking forward to seeing friends or family, it’s time to take some time for yourself.

So if this is you, try to go for a walk alone, sit quietly and breathe slowly and steadily, have a long bath or read a book for half an hour (or a magazine if that appeals more!). You’re almost certain to start feeling more refreshed and more yourself. It will take a few days of incorporating these simple ideas into your daily routine, but you’ll notice the difference.

Now, I’m off to do exactly that! Hopefully, my blogs will now return to their usual fortnightly posts.

You can read my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

#anxiety #familyrelationships #stress #self-esteem #workonyourself

When Other People Try To Embarrass You

It’s an uncomfortable feeling and often baffling as to why some people would choose to put us, or others, ‘on the spot’. Why do they do it and how can you deal with it?

Some of it is to do with ‘emotional intelligence’ and being able to read emotions – some people haven’t developed that, either because of poor role models when they were younger or perhaps they’ve been encouraged to ‘say it how it is’ (often a recipe for rudeness, I’ve found!).  Some people are good at understanding others through their facial expressions or their voices, but not everyone can, or wants to, do that.

Or another reason for putting you in a tricky position could be that they do it before something similar or awkward happens to them – either way, if you’re the butt of difficult questions or remarks, how do you deal with it?

Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help:

  • Trust yourself – this sounds easy but if you often dismiss your own ideas, thinking that they’re ‘silly’ or not worth thinking about, other people will often do the same. So, trust what you’re thinking and value your plans and thoughts.
  • If you know that a certain person often tries to make you feel embarrassed or awkward, try preparing a few things that you might say in return, such as “I hear what you’re saying but I need some time to think about it” or “That’s interesting; I’m not sure if I agree but maybe you could say a bit more….?”. In other words, don’t react defensively, but try to maintain some dialogue with that person.
  • Speak slowly, if you decide to answer what they’re asking or saying. Take a deep breath (or two!) before you get flustered.
  • If someone is verging on being really nasty and is trying to make you look small, remember that you deserve respect and make it clear to them that you won’t tolerate their put-downs.
  • Look up assertiveness training on-line and then join a course. It can make all the difference!.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

When someone puts you ‘on the spot’