It's the hairiest time of year again! Men all over the world will be growing mustaches in Movember to raise awareness for men's health . Nothing breaks down the awkwardness of guys talking about their health like the power of a Mo!
This is my second year of growing upper lip hair in Movember. Last year, I learned a lot about what men think and feel about their mental health. My mustache opened up some meaningful conversations about guys who lost friends to suicide and other mental health issues.
I regularly travel around the country and speak about my experiences with bipolar disorder, anger, depression and substance abuse. Last week, I was in Oregon. I'm an alumni member of Pi Kappa Phi and after my presentation the leaders of a different fraternity asked me to come to their house to talk to them further about how they can support each other's mental health. You read that correctly. Members of a fraternity. Openly invited a guy. To come into their house. And speak to a room full of guys about emotions.
Get rid of all of the stereotypical jokes you're making right now. Times have changed. After decades of awareness young men are engaged and want to alter how they deal with mental health. Also, studies show that men who are more socially connected are less likely to develop depression.
I went to the fraternity house. I stood in front of about 40 dudes and began talking at length about coping skills, what worked for me, what they could do for each other. There was a lot of head nodding, but definitely some disconnect. Then it hit me.
They're agreeing with me, but they don't have a starting point. For years they've heard about depression, suicide, anxiety and all of the other terms, but they're not sure how it applies to them.
Having a starting point to begin to change any health issue is vital. If a guy wants to get in shape, he doesn't buy running shoes and run a marathon. He starts by running a mile, advancing to 3 miles, then 5 miles, then 10 and on and on until after months of training he can run that marathon.
Changing your mental health requires the same amount of work. All of it begins with knowing where you are right now and what you'd like to work on. To find your starting point answer these five questions:
What do I want to change?
Most guys I talk to want to change the way they cope with something. That could include drinking, drugs, anger or not having the words to describe how they feel.
Do I know how to change this?
When we work on our physical health we often look for help. Whether it's checking out the best on-line core workout filled with burpees or copying what some other guy is doing at the gym. When it comes to your emotions you might not know the next steps. Talking to a counselor, therapist or mental health professional can help. Having friends, family or a partner you can check in with makes a big difference.
How did I get here?
It's good to think about your emotional timeline and what contributed to your mental health. Are there mental health issues in your family? How was coping modeled for you at home? How long have you been coping a certain way? All of those answers can help you see how you developed specific habits in your life.
How can I start to change?
Set some achievable first steps for yourself. You need to train your mind like you would your body. Start with some small steps to make whatever you're trying to change a little easier. When I wanted to address my anger control issues I started by trying to recognize when my anger built. That took months. Then I was able to start finding ways to calm down before I flipped out.
What is my end goal?
Think about what you want to be able to do in a year or two years from now. Check in with yourself along the way to see if you're achieving what you want.
The path to changing your mental health can be difficult, so rely on the power of your Mo to find your starting point! Sign up here to start raising awareness for men's health this Movember!