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Not just for women: Why men have an important place in well-being activities.

JKChangeWork key client focus is on providing services for men. This isn’t to say that I don’t work with female clients. However, there continues to be less direct discussion between men and services on the what, when and how to access support to develop yourself and overcome issues relating to well-being and mental health.

We know that men are reported to have higher rates of social isolation and this correlates to trends in male suicide rates. This is a social narrative that we all have the influence to change.

Well-being and self-development still has some growing to do in terms of it’s organic place in masculinity, we are indeed only now really opening up discussion across the board about self-care and mental health being as important as our need to survive on food and water. Lets do something about that together.

Although male focused services are on the increase, with the likes of Andy’s Man Sheds and a couple other men’s only groups across West Yorkshire. A general scan of the internet shows there is less direct conversation going on for men to tap into around well-being. …So welcome all… it’s different here.

I sit a bit on the fence with the gender discussions when it comes to well-being. While ultimately gender specific spaces are essential and useful in some arenas I also believe that the learning and development offered in a shared space is powerful too.

After all we all have feelings and thoughts that do us favours or cause us problems. We have all developed strategies to overcome or enhance these and we all have a wealth of learning to offer each other and our selves - when we take time to listen.

The techniques developed from Bandler and Grinder themselves, that forged the principles of much of the coaching techniques i use, were based on a process called modelling. Observing and learning people’s behaviour how they do something effectively (whether that is a problem or a solution that we excel at) in order to master an effective technique. Much of the work I have done in mental health forums focuses on the power of the peer. This isn’t an expectation to go all “group-hug” on each other instead it’s about acknowledging that people, men and women are powerful in their survival, experience and learning in life. You all have resources to share and learn from.

Coaching offers a therapeutic approach for people to reach their goals or explore and over-come challenges they face in their life. Change Work offers structure, focus and direction and is very much an outcome inspired approach. It allows some time for talking and summarising yet the sessions are not reliant on reviewing and re-exploring a problem in depth and detail unless that's helpful. Instead, the client and coach relationship is focused on increasing your understanding and developing a resource set, increase choice and change behaviour and thinking in a way that improves your life.

There are two key components in Therapeutic Change Work:

  • A gap between where you are and where you want to be.

  • You are ready and willing to change.

The coaching space offers men a safe space with a direct and open approach, allowing many to find the permission (they weren’t aware they necessarily needed) to explore and navigate the gaps and open up possibilities for things to be different (Hope).

One man stated “I am truly me in this space” another told me “I found resources I didn’t know I needed”.

Men inform me they still feel less comfortable to talk about or identify an issue they have openly. Particularly when it relates to a challenge with a sense of emotional vulnerability or sensitivity.

That’s ok…. Well-being doesn't have to be about airing your dirty laundry in front of friends or colleagues. It’s taking responsibility for stuff you don’t like or isn’t working for you and learning and using ways to make things work differently for the better.

That said…. Talking will always help you hear an issue more clearly for yourself… so go right ahead. Talk it out if needs be.

In chats with men, others raise the point that although they have been open in discussion with their wife/partner/family member- when facing stress/anxiety or depression- they benefited from finding the solutions outside of the relationship dynamic, in a way to retain their role dynamics in the relationship. This is true for women also…. Not wanting to burden or compromise your other half /family member and in all honesty while talking to a loved one is an great part of support and problem solving many prefer an objective view point to explore and resolve issues.

Interestingly, the admission of “finding it hard to open up” itself is an easy discussion point amongst the men I speak with…. Yet when I pressed, a discussion between men a few weeks ago on the emotional front, they all agreed a general discomfort with taking a general well-being discussion further.

Men share with me amazing stories of how they have come out the other side of stress or worry, anger or pain, confusion or set back, heartache and grief…… it’s so often told from the aftermath of extensive struggle… now that the tide has calmed having a better perspective on it.

What if the struggle didn’t have to be as hard and the solutions came quicker?

We don’t always have to hit rock bottom, to be in the pit of depression, to lose everything, to be at a complete loss in order to discover resolve….. Coaching teaches us ways to learn signals or triggers, to develop strategies, improve thinking and change feelings in a way that works more efficiently.

You are not broken, you work perfectly.

Sometime it’s just about figuring out the best strategies you have for future benefit.

There are so many opportunities for us to increase well-being activities for men. Let this become another part of everyone’s personal development. We MOT and service our cars, we refuel them regularly so why not make this commitment to ourselves more freely?

I appreciate that masculine and feminine hold their stakes when it comes to well-being and while you might feel comfortable indulging in a face mask with your girlfriend on a Saturday night or holding your wife’s breast pump in public I admit that well-being is still talking from a mostly “feminised” narrative.

On the flip side, many attempts to engage men are (acknowledged by men themselves) a bit “beefed” up and typically try to “be Masculine”….queue fist clenching Grrrrrrr

When we talk about men and mental health it often is spoken from a language that is based around strength and courage (great) yet it easily teeters over into the zone of aggression “ be a warrior” and “you can fight this".

Do you really always want to be fighting though?

Do we really need men to have a “brave face” all the time?

Should wearing a mask be an encouraged strategy for anyone?

If this is working for you great. That’s ok. If not maybe you just need a non-judgemental space to figure stuff out, and carve an identify that works well for you and your happiness.

One of the most powerful things anyone can do is own up to their vulnerabilities….. Doing so in a safe space is best… doing so helps you move through them to a space of self-development.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”... “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Brene Brown

When I was doing the research for my retreat this year I noticed a gap… there are a fair few retreats out there but very little speak out to men and invite them along, particular those offering space to all.

I struggled to find a space that invited people in neutral grounds or even explicitly said to men….”You know what guys why don’t you come along, take some time out, you are probably tired, stressed, over worked, new babies keeping you up? Deadlines are on top of you? Teenagers are giving your sleepless nights.? You could do with a nice relaxing space to meet like-minded people, learn from others experience, reconnect with you and take from it what you need”.

Well I am saying that now! So let’s consider why we need men in well-being spaces….

Why Retreats are great for men too

  • Every one experiences emotional states that can be challenging well-being and self-development is crucial for all to lead a happier and healthier life.

  • Us women have, on many levels, mastered relaxation and pampering come and learn from the gurus!

  • Engaging in typically “female” activities breaks down stigma and creates space for well-being to be a wider celebrated activity.

  • On the subject of stigma, lets level out the belief that men doing relaxation and self-development is linked to a “feminine” concept …. After all the Roman’s were pro’s at a spa bath.

  • The principles of well-being, mental health, resilience and positive work/life balance are useful tools for anyone.

  • A man’s perspective is as equal as a women’s in developing opportunities for wellness, since clients are central to developing and expanding knowledge and resources the balance is essential.

  • It’s fun and relaxing.

  • Have children? Attending a well-being retreat and showing that well-being is not a gendered activity is a brilliant way of role modelling for your children.

  • You learn new skills. The opportunity to better your career, improve your life and help you focus on achieving your goals.

  • As Brene Brown states, letting your guard down (so to speak) is not weak, it’s a strength building exercise…. Come and be strong with us.

For information on JKChangeWork latest events visit or to find out more about how coaching can help you

If you feel like things are too much call Samaritans on 116 123

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