When it comes to self-care, it’s not just something you work into your daily schedule—it’s the mindset of putting yourself first in order to be your best self.
However, most men have a difficult time doing this and can often find their mental or physical health taking a turn for the worse. This lack of self-care for men can look like putting on a few pounds to chronic aches and pains to lack of energy and severe depression.
Poor Work-Life Balance
When men are conditioned to think of themselves as providers of their families, they will tend to put themselves last on the priority list.
Especially for those with demanding jobs, including massage therapy, burnout can be inevitable when working long hours in addition to commuting home during rush hour traffic, leaving little time for eating healthy, exercising or spending time with loved ones.
I fell victim to this after spending nearly 30 years as a real estate lawyer, after sitting at a desk hunched over a keyboard and papers for many hours over many years and trading my own self-care for my career path.
I ended up with back-and-neck problems that caused pain in my fingers, thumbs, hands, wrists, arms and elbows. Over time, this lifestyle started to affect my ability to do such activities outside of work as tennis, swimming, and running around with my kids.
Pain was constant for me before I learned how to practice self-care.
The truth is that self-care is one of the most crucial things we can do for ourselves and, in turn, for others. When male massage therapists take care of themselves, they can take better care of clients.
However, there are a few reasons why men are slow starters with self-care—and one big reason is how society classifies the practice of self-care.
It’s “Not Masculine”
Self-care has been overwhelmingly directed toward women. Slowing down and stopping to focus on oneself may be considered feminine or a sign of weakness by most men, who naturally feel their worth is based on how much they can bear.
Being self-indulgent may not appeal to those men who feel like they just need to “suck it up.” However, this has had long-term consequences over the years, like having shorter lifespans than women.
It’s important for men to know what triggers their stress and burnout, and regularly check in with themselves to know when self-care is necessary.
Self-care for men also means focusing on preventive self-care practices rather than repair from injuries where the damage has already been done. And men need the support from loved ones to know that it’s OK to make time for themselves to recharge and heal.
Make Time for Yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in one’s daily routine, but it’s vital to make time for oneself. Find the things that make you feel your best, which will then permeate into other parts of your life.
You can spend as little as a few minutes a day for self-care: take a walk at lunch, be mindful of your posture, focus on deep, steady breathing while working, or spend some time doing hand, finger and arm exercises every so often.
Is it one of those days where you can barely squeeze five minutes in for yourself? Incorporate self-care into your hectic schedule like putting on your favorite playlist during your commute home.
Also, set boundaries on what work follows you home. Limit screen time at home, especially during family time like at the dinner table.
You can start by allowing yourself to check in a certain number of times during certain days, and gradually decrease this over time. In turn, you’ll be more present with your family and friends.
Of course there will be moments where you absolutely can’t escape a work situation after hours—but the important thing is to not let this become a habit.
Get Over The Guilt
Following through with self-care can often be easier said than done for both men and women.
That’s because guilt can get in the way.
Self-care for men means making time for themselves, and this may mean saying no to others.
That hour you could put aside to go to the gym or get a massage instead of hanging out with your kids or wife could lead to self-care shame.
That hour, however, can boost your mood and overall health so you are more present and pleasant during the time you do spend with your loved ones.
Think of it this way: You shouldn’t be sacrificing anything or feeling regret when practicing good self-care.
It should rejuvenate your energy and refresh your mind, making you feel better than before you started. There shouldn’t really be a high cost to investing in yourself other than some time, money and energy.
The payback, however, is much higher over time.
Do You Know what Good Self-Care Is?
When the definition of self-care is loosely defined as anything that can make oneself feel better, some men may take that as vegging out on the couch watching hours of TV and treating oneself to a few beers.
External instances of gratification can be masked vices that many mistaken as self-care.
Yes, these instances may make a guy feel better for the time being, but in the long haul, it won’t be as beneficial as taking some time out to go for a walk, schedule a massage session or eat a balanced diet.
Being in the massage community, we all know the benefits of a good massage. We should practice what we preach and take time to get a full-body massage.
When this isn’t an option due to time or financial constraints, performing at home self-care is a viable option.
Whether that’s using hand, arm and body self-care devices, practicing good posture, or making sure you stretch daily, self-care will help to ensure a healthy and sustainable massage therapy career.
It is important that we take care of our bodies like we advise our clients to do.
Self Care for Men is Not Just Physical
Men may think that self-care means a purely physical activity like going to the gym. However, self-care incorporates body, mind and spirit. Taking care of one’s mental, emotional and spiritual health are equally important.
Instead of pumping iron, try hitting the yoga mat. It can be just as challenging and has positive effects on the mind, body and spirit.
Give meditation a go to alleviate stress. Allocating as little as 10 minutes a day can make a world of a difference.
If you’ve been on edge about something, take a step back and reflect by journaling. Gain better clarity by putting pen to paper and working out what’s floating around your head; sort through frustrations or practice gratitude.
Surround yourself with people, things, and activities that continuously lift you up rather than bog you down.
Some forms of physical self-care can also affect other forms of your health. As massage therapists, you know that in addition to improving relaxation and circulation, massage can also help fix poor posture from slumping and slouching over smartphones and computer screens.
Targeting specific muscle groups through massage can lead to a more balanced frame. In turn, you will feel less tension in your neck, back and shoulders.
Stand Up Straight
Some people may say that posture is a reflection of how a person is feeling. But can you change the way you feel by changing your posture? Absolutely.
You can have better functioning organs and digestion in addition to improving your breathing. Taking in more oxygen can lead to better memory retention, concentration and overall mental performance.
A study has shown non-slouched men to feel more confident in their performance on a math test, and actually score higher, than their slouched counterparts.
How is your posture right now? How straight are your back, legs and arms? Simply being aware of one’s posture causes you to automatically correct it. Through years of repetition, your posture has become a subconscious norm.
Find out what good posture feels like with this quick wall exercise:
- Stand with your head, shoulders, back and buttocks up against a wall.
- Keep your heels about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall while drawing in your lower abdominal muscles and decreasing the arch in your lower back.
- Push away from the wall and try to stay keep your body aligned this way to maintain good posture.
If you’re out and about and don’t see a wall in sight, you can still maintain good posture while standing, opening up the muscles in your chest and shoulders. Keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet—you should be able to keep your balance if someone were to lightly push you.
From a side view of your body, your ear hole, point of your shoulder, hips and ankles should line up vertically on top of one another and your chin should be parallel to the floor. From the front, your shoulders along with your hip bones should be evenly aligned.
Be Happier & Healthier
Men, it’s now your turn to take self-care into your own hands.
From maintaining proper body mechanics like posture, to incorporating beneficial activities like massage, meditation and yoga, the more you put into good self-care practices, the more it pays off in volumes towards a happier and healthier you.
About the Author
Craig Olschansky is the inventor, founder and CEO of the Gelliflex™ Abacus™, the most customizable, self-therapy massage device. It has the ability to create thousands of restorative combinations for those who seek relief from hand, finger, thumb, elbow and arm aches and pains caused by overuse or repetitive activity.