Society has long held stereotypical perceptions of how men handle their emotions. Men suffer from antiquated ideas of burying feelings, using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, and even becoming physically abusive to avoid tackling the problem.
Obviously, none of these methods are healthy. And perpetuating these stereotypes does nothing to help men find an outlet without feeling overshadowed by judgment.
Men are just as prone to anxiety, depression and emotional difficulties as women. While it can be hard to be vulnerable, particularly if you’ve had a lifetime of experience shutting your feelings down, it's important to find ways to deal with your feelings in a healthier way.
The Dangers of Suppressed Emotions for Men
Suppressing your sadness and anxiety affects men in more ways than many people realize. In addition to being an underlying cause of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders, suppressing emotions such as anger can impact your thinking and behavioral patterns, and disrupt relationships. It can also lead to physical problems such as:
- Increasing the risk of blood pressure
- Heart complications
- Digestive problems
Keeping a lid on negative emotions can also increase the risk of addiction. Men suffer more from substance abuse and dependence than women do, but they "tend to enter treatment later in the course of addiction," observes wellness writer, Hannah Friedman. "This may be because there is greater stigma attached to the idea of seeking help among men than there is among women. That stigma is isolating and extremely harmful. As a result, men may feel it's better to suffer in silence than it is to get the help they need and deserve."
Talk It Out
From work commitments and family issues to money worries and health concerns, there are many reasons why you might be experiencing negative emotions.
Talking to someone about what’s bothering you, whether it’s a family member, a friend you trust or a licensed therapist, can really help in offloading some of the weight that these worries can place on you.
In my own experience, talking therapies have helped people function better in everyday life and can provide you with the coping strategies to deal with negative emotions in a healthier way.
Give Yourself a New Focus
One of the less healthy ways that many men handle their emotions is through alcohol and drugs. But when you self-medicate to cope with challenges in your everyday life, it can become a crutch that you depend on whatever life throws at you.
Finding a stress-relieving hobby or activity that gives you a new focus when things feel too much can be really helpful in helping men manage their emotions without relying on harmful substances. It might be taking up a new sport, going for a run, reading or playing music, or cooking. These are outlets you can turn to when your emotions feel heavy, that aren’t going to impact your health in a negative way.
Develop Benign Attention
Benign attention stems from mindfulness meditation, and there’s a growing body of research that suggests it can help with stress, anxiety and negative emotions such as anger.
This method encourages you to sit with your emotions, whatever they are, without judgment or shame and simply observe them. Over time, you develop the ability to recognize when you’re feeling something without it causing suffering.
For men who struggle to know how to handle their feelings, this creates space between you and your emotions. You can observe them with a level of impartiality, which enables you to respond rather than react.
Learn From the Past
Identifying the ways that grief, loss, sadness or anger have made you feel in the past, and the events or situations that caused those emotions, can help you to prepare for the future.
Journaling is a great way to spot these patterns. There’s no set way of journaling, so whether you choose to write short, snappy points, long personal entries or draw your thoughts, they’re all valid and can really help in breaking down the problem, so you can get to the root of the issue.
We all struggle with negative emotions from time to time, but for men there are societal expectations that can make tackling these thoughts harder. Identifying healthy ways to cope with stress and anger, anxiety or depression, will ensure that you don’t fall into the habit of relying on harmful practices like substance abuse, lashing out or physical altercations.
About the Author:
Chris is a passionate mental health and wellbeing writer and psychologist, focusing on sharing his experience and improving the lives of others. When Chris isn't researching the latest holistic and wellbeing therapies, he's spending time with his two cats, usually curled up on the sofa reading a book.