Published by Simon Brown

Categorised in Health & Wellbeing

His choice of words were a bit brutal and a touch sexist but I did chuckle. The point he was clearly making was that us guys can sometimes be a bit over-confident. From childhood, males are raised to take risks and so when you strap eight wheels to a guy’s feet, he’ll probably forget about the possibility of injury and tear off into the distance.

So, what’s all this got to do with being a carer? In a strange way, Alex’s words are relevant to the present coronavirus crisis.

Be they male or female, carers make huge sacrifices. In the current climate, carers are making even more of a sacrifice. Not only have we got to look after ourselves with minimal contact with friends and family, we have to look after the individuals we are caring for. Many of us are doing this while home-schooling.

There can be very little, if any, respite. An hour in a café on your own with a newspaper or a swift pint in the pub with friends are not options. People like myself, who care for children, can’t visit soft play, museums or arrange playdates. It’s a high-pressure environment.

I saw this post about the importance of self-care on the FamilyCarersNet Facebook page. It made me think about how we have all been living in bizarre circumstances and been under increased stress for ages.

Simply going for a walk or stopping for a moment to take deep breaths, as the post suggests, can do wonders for your mind and body. Zooming or FaceTiming a friend to let off steam can be very beneficial.

This is where the difference between men and women comes to the surface. Alex the skating instructor recognised that men on skates can be a little over-confident. The same can be said for male carers, maybe taking on a little too much, not seeking help when they really need it or not organising that Zoom call to let off steam with a friend because they worry it will make them look weak.

I recently had a chat with a psychotherapist called Noel McDermott about how lockdown has affected men and women differently. What he said surprised me a great deal. I thought he was going to say that we are all going through the same and there were no differences.

In fact he did say both his male and female clients are reporting heightened states of anxiety. Beyond that, there were some very significant differences.

Men’s social lives often revolve around sport or the pub, activities they can’t presently do, so they can be a bit lonelier. He also said men are often pressured as they are more likely to be the main earner in a household (even if they are a carer as well) so worried about job security. Alas, he also said that guys are more likely to hit the bottle.

Noel made the following suggestions:  

  • Stop drinking 
  • Exercise
  • Simplify your day as much as possible 
  • Stay in the here and now and avoid thinking about the future. Noel said you have to be practical and plan but as much as possible, to try to reduce your thinking to what you are experiencing in the moment and focus on how make the moment ok. Everything else will fall into place 
  • Learn how to meditate: it really does help 
  • Have good sleep hygiene 
  • Make sure you are properly hydrated 
  • Take naps 
  • Practice gratitude 
  • Show love to those around you

Obviously, the above points can be followed by anyone, not just men. I’m also not suggesting for one second that male carers deserve special treatment or are better than their female counterparts. Far from it.

What I know, from previous work I’ve been involved in, is that men won’t always seek help. They’re less likely to admit they’re having a tough time. They can push themselves too far.

This can lead to a relatively harmless tumble if they’re on inline skates, but if you’re a carer and people are relying on you, the outcome can be much more serious. All of us, men and women, should heed Noel McDermott’s advice and look after ourselves. Male carers, however, need to be very careful about pushing themselves too far. These are tough times we’ve living through and we should not be afraid to admit it or put out hands up and admit when we need help.

I want experienced skaters to the right of me and to my left I want two groups: people who have never skated before…and men who have never skated before!

Selfcare for Dad Carers

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