From boyhood men are told to be brave and ambitious, as they grow older, they strive to become good fathers, partners and providers.
Throughout the pandemic, the traditional role of man has changed and with this has come new pressures. Psychotherapist Noel McDermott explores how men express stress and offers stress management techniques to help handle these new demands.
What Men Fear Most
The biggest fear for many men is that they will not be able to return to full economic productivity and earning capacity. This is still a large part of the male identity and role in our culture. Men who act as the primary breadwinners in their household feel the financial burden and responsibility within their relationship. For those that are now returning to work, many are reporting anxiety with the loss of family time. While others are feeling the pressure to make up for lost earnings and secure an economic future. Numerous studies that show men feel financial stresses both as a status issue and as a provider. This can lead to relationship difficulties, drinking and substance misuse and mental health issues. These concerns increase significantly during times of economic downturn and this can be seen during the lifting of lockdown.
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “For many men their whole lives have been turned upside down, the vast majority still can’t go to work, to the gym, play sport with a team or to the pub with pals. Men in general have fewer social and emotional support systems and the places where men used to go and talk about their problems are closed and they’ve found themselves in new, unfamiliar circumstances. For those that are fathers, they have been at home all day with more exposure to the household demands and domestic responsibilities balancing both work and family. This has created even more demands and pressures”.
Mask of Masculinity
Despite being at home with loved ones, many men don’t speak to their partners or wives about their problems. They feel the pressure to be role models. Talking about their worries doesn’t fit the mask of masculinity that has been thrust upon them from an early age. However, not talking about their problems and going without social interaction has created a surge in stress, depression and anxiety in men.
How Men Express Stress
Stress is a big factor in health and mental health for both men and women and these times of transition are very stressful.
Typically, we see men express stress in a number of ways:
- Sexual performance issues and loss of libido
- Emotional dysregulation (irritability and anger)
- Sleep issues, appetite issues
- Withdrawal and bottling things up
- Increased drinking
- Mood shifts and mood swings
Self-help for Men: Stress Management Techniques
As these are stress responses the single biggest thing folk can do to help themselves is learn better stress management techniques which are:
- Spot it, know your signs that you are experiencing problems. Have your ‘fire escape’ plan in place to ensure you manage better. For example, increased self-care, asking for help from others, getting professional help, and talking to your GP.
- Maintain a general wellbeing hygiene practice to increase resilience. Namely – exercise, sleep well, good food, talk to friends and family about your worries, hydrate well, get outside regularly, and ensure you do fun things!
- Increase your time as a family and with your partner in discussing the worries and providing reassurance and support. Ensure that you normalise your experiences of stress. Also understand that everyone is feeling this and it’s not a sign of failure to be feeling overwhelmed.
Signs that there may be need of professional help are if there are problems in functioning that are persistent over a two-week period. Periodic anxiety or depression lasting a short period of time is to be expected. These feelings will generally shift of their own accord if your general mental hygiene/lifestyle is resilient. If it continues for days and weeks, then there is likely to be a problem needing proper diagnosis and treatment. Asking your GP for advice is a good idea.
Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. He is the founder and CEO of three organisations: Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental Health Works Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources in order to help clients access help without leaving home – https://www.noelmcdermott.net/group-therapy/.
More about mental health here.