Over the past few years, there has been a massive movement regarding “self-care.” Many of the leaders in the men’s interests worlds have taken a stab at men’s self care and offered their advice. Some of those articles, blogs, and vlogs have been great, but too many of them have taken advice for women and attempted to adapt it to men.
It doesn’t work like that.
So, in an effort to throw sand in the eyes of all those magazines’ and outlets’ piss-poor attempts at self-care, I decided to write a slightly less piss-poor take on men’s self-care for the readers of The Graying Area. It’s a fresh look on men’s self-care for real guys.
Keep in mind that I’m a wise-ass on the internet, not a mental health professional, physical trainer, or your mom. I’m just trying to offer practical advice to my audience. If something crappy happens to you because you applied some of this advice to your life, I take no responsibility for that. If something great happens, though, let’s talk.
Self Care For Men: What is Self Care?
There are a lot of definitions for the term “self-care,” and some of them just won’t register with the average guy. They include phrases like “loving yourself” or “self-love,” which, if we’re honest, probably means something very different to the average guy than a woman or a professional (heyooo).
Personally, I like this description by Maria Baratta, Ph.D., from Psychology Today: “Self-care, in essence, is the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.”
Basically, self-care is all about keeping yourself in tip-top shape. Since I love cars and car analogies, let’s say this about self-care: It basically describes everything that a Ferrari 250GT would do for itself if it could.
The 250GT wants to run well, tear up mountain roads, look good, turn heads, and break down as little as possible (ah, maybe I should’ve chosen a German car for this example). It would choose regular maintenance, take care of dents and dings before they rust, and address failing components as soon as they begin to wear.
Now turn that concept inward. That’s self-care. Staying in good shape, eating well, feeding your mind and soul, addressing issues before they get out of hand, and doing what makes you happy. It seems like I just summed up all those sappy articles with an automotive reference.
Job well done. You can all go home now.
Self Care Tips For Men: The 8 Areas of Self-Care
Slow down, fella: There’s more to the story than that. In fact, there are 8 areas of self-care you need to know. I’ll quickly brush over them so you’ll have an understanding of how self-care works.
Physical Self Care For Men
As the name suggests, physical self-care has to do with your body and how you feel. By far, physical self-care is the most accepted by guys. We’re talking about exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, grooming, hygiene, sexual satisfaction, and taking care of medical needs.
Physical self-care could be anything from getting an edge-up at the barber to exercise to sex. All of those things matter.
Psychological Self Care For Men
Psychological self-care has to do with what’s going on upstairs, but it’s not just mental health. This includes learning new things, improving the way you think about situations, how you analyze and make your decisions, and more.
Emotional Self Care For Men
Don’t skip over this one, guys. Ignoring your emotional self-care is a recipe for disaster, and it’s one with which too many of us are familiar. Learning about and analyzing your own emotions, exploring empathy, developing stress management skills, and searching for compassion for others are all keys to self-care.
Social Self Care For Men
When it comes to social self-care, most of the emphasis is on relationships — an area where many guys fail. This is the area where trust, vulnerability, and reciprocity all live. Relax, it’s not like you’re going to run into the Bumble, though he did turn out to be a pretty chill dude.
Financial Self Care For Men
Like the physical area, financial self-care is about getting your money, wealth, retirement, and investing in order. This area looks very different for everyone, though there are many gurus out there preaching about what it should look like to you.
You might have to unload your collection of Pokemon cards to achieve this one. Don’t worry; cardboard Charizard won’t miss you.
Spiritual Self Care For Men
Speaking of areas that look different to everyone, spiritual self-care is all about getting in touch with your beliefs and values. Some find spiritual self-care in church, though there are many ways to ground yourself spiritually outside of religion if that’s what you choose. You might be able to find it at the race track or the rock and roll hall of fame. It’s all in what speaks to your soul.
Environmental Self Care For Men
Environmental self-care is about maintaining your space. This has to do with your home, your office, your wardrobe, and anything else within your physical space but outside of your body.
Professional Self Care For Men
This one’s important: Professional self-care involves knowing when to step on the gas and when to pump the breaks. There are boundaries between work and self-care, and they can be hard to see.
Otherwise, when you’re expecting a fat Christmas bonus but you end up with a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club, you just might snap.
One area at a time
It would be awesome if you could focus on all those areas at one time, but the truth is that self-care is so deliberate that attempting to provide yourself with financial, physical, and spiritual care at the same time might be impossible. For some people, the thought of mixing spiritual groundedness with anything having to do with money is blasphemy.
The idea is to make time for each area. As guys, we love to rush things and get them done. The trick to self-care is that if you’re rushing these areas or “getting them done,” you’re probably missing the point.
Self Care is relative
One thing you need to understand is that while self-care is incredibly important, it’s not an exact science. There are no prescriptions for bottles of self-care, and there’s no roadmap to self-care success. It’s super relative.
And most of the other articles on the internet based around men’s self-care are bullshit. They’re full of teas and essential oils and other things you and I aren’t likely to find relaxation in (though I do love me some Earl Grey). Those articles are cash-grabs, and they’re using your well-being to make money.
Ask me how I know.
It’s not a competition
Self-care is not about self-improvement. While many of the areas of self-care involve learning or growing, pushing yourself to a new PR on the squat rack or competing with yourself to connect empathetically with 10 people each day aren’t necessarily self-care. Those activities are fine, and if you enjoy them, that’s awesome. But making a competition out of self-care is a no-no.
For me, self-care is about minimizing stress in anything I do. I’m a pretty anxious, fiery person, and I like things to go how I plan them. Life rarely goes as planned, so as you can imagine, stress is a constant in my life. Much of my self-care routine focuses on minimizing stress. And, to be honest, I could be doing better. But stressing out about it is kind of against the point.
The Self Care Tips For Men: Making Time for Yourself
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a proponent of slowing down and checking back in with yourself. I work a lot, but I also feel it’s necessary to spend time doing something other than trying to get ahead.
I want to offer some self-care tips that the average guy could use without feeling ridiculous or wondering what the hell they’re doing. There are no avocado masks or spa days here (but if you know that works for you, definitely do it).
These tips are just some easy ideas that you can use to focus on yourself. Hopefully, they’ll provide some inspiration so you can create your own methods for taking care of yourself.
Men’s Self Care Tips #1: Exercise
Okay, this one’s a given, and the concept is simple: Carving out some time a few days a week to hit the gym or put in some miles will typically result in better health. When you’re healthy physically, you’ll feel better in almost every other aspect of self-care.
I’m not someone who loves exercise as an activity. Instead, I love some activities that also provide exercise: hiking, biking, and heavy bag training, to name a few. I can do these things, and the exercise that comes from it is a bonus. If you’re not an exercise-lover either, try finding an activity you love and focus on it as your form of physical self-care.
Men’s Self Care Tips #2: Get creative
There’s something about doing something creative that’s incredibly good for the soul, and that’s what self-care is all about. Spending some time building, creative, writing, painting, or even whittling something helps you feel alive and appreciate the world from a different perspective.
There are a lot of guys who don’t value creativity or simply don’t feel creative. But you’re not aiming for a masterpiece here. It’s just about creating something that wasn’t there before. If you’re struggling, take your favorite knife, your favorite hand tool, or just anything in your pocket and place it somewhere it’s never been before. Using your phone (clean the lens first, dammit), snap a shot from an unorthodox angle. Guess what? You created something. Build on that.
Men’s Self Care Tips #3: Embrace empathy
Empathy is a tough emotion for some guys (or people in general) to tap into, but it can be the best bridge for connecting with another human. Attempting to put yourself in someone else’s shoes so you can understand how they feel is about as intimate as one can get with another person without actually getting intimate with that other person.
If the idea of connecting with someone like this is too intimidating, try this: Pull up Netflix and put on any movie (maybe not a comedy). All movies have to have a conflict, or they’d be boring as hell. So when the main character is experiencing that struggle, pause the movie and think about it. Think about how you’d feel if you were in their shoes. Do this during every movie you watch (alone, unless you really want to piss off your wife or girlfriend), and you’ll get better at being empathic.
Helpful hint: Mad, sad, happy, and other top-layer emotions do not count. Go deeper.
Men’s Self Care Tips #4: Connect with a friend
You know that feeling you get when you see an old friend for the first time in a while? That’s the connection you’re going for here. That feeling of connection can do a world of good for your social self-care.
Here’s the thing: Not everyone is comfortable being out and about right now. I know I’m not. If you don’t feel like grabbing a drink at a bar, just pick up the phone. Text your buddy. Send a shot of something that reminds you of them. There’s nothing shameful about missing your friend, but connecting with them is good for your social self-care, and theirs as well.
Men’s Self Care Tips #5: Make a plan
Obviously, I don’t know what your financial situation is, so to suggest what you should do with your money would be presumptive and inauthentic. But, self-care is about doing something for yourself, not necessarily accomplishing a goal.
Regardless of your financial scenario, you can put together a plan. Either plan to pay off a credit card, plan to save a certain amount of money, or plan to start investing. Simply taking the time to put together the “how” can be an excellent step toward your financial self-care.
Men’s Self Care Tips #6: Do something that makes you happy
Your spiritual health is important, but how you decide to tap into that is unique to you. If you can find spiritual fulfillment in a church, temple, mosque, or another form of worship, be sure to make that a focus of your spiritual self-care.
If you’re not the religious type, you might try finding a spiritual connection in other ways. Personally, I feel my soul come alive when I’m in the mountains and around forest streams. Those are places where I feel at home and connected to the universe. If I want to really dig deep into my spirituality, I’ll bring a fly rod and fish.
Men’s Self Care Tips #7: Clean up your workspace
Whether we’re talking about a desk in your home, your office, and your workshop, cleaning the space where you make your living or express your creativity will go a long way toward your environmental self-care.
This activity is less about increasing productivity as it is destressing. Clutter and garbage can create stress, and in some cases, anxiety. Removing that rubbish and organizing the environment you work in can remove that layer of stress, allowing you to think with a clearer mind.
Men’s Self Care Tips #8: Pick a time and disconnect
Work has a way of coming home with us, and while it might feel like we’re getting an edge on the competition, it’s our loved ones that pay the price. That’s why it’s so important to choose a time to disconnect from your phone, computer, or tablet completely and reconnect with your family.
I know this is hard, and to be honest, I feel a bit like a fraud telling you to disconnect from work. I’m self-employed, and I work from home, so the lines between work and downtime are very, very blurry. But on the weekends, I try not to deal with my clients at all. Instead, I focus on family time, my blog, and just generally disconnecting from creating content for anyone but myself.
But, don’t be a fraud. Disconnect from work and draw those healthy boundaries. Without striking that balance, you’ll become consumed and eventually burn out. And that’s entirely counterproductive.
Your Thoughts on These Tips For Men’s Self Care
As I mentioned, self-care for me is all about minimizing stress. Guys, there are a million other ways to take care of yourself and destress. What are your favorites? Is there something on this list that resonates? Something that doesn’t? Have something completely different to offer? Let me know in the comments below.