As a dad in waiting, with our first baby due at the end of the summer, my stress levels have never been higher.
The pressure of juggling a busy job, with household chores, DIY, a pregnant wife and baby preparations, while at the same time trying to maintain our relationship and some semblance of a social life, is proving rather tricky to manage. God knows how we’ll cope once we add a screaming baby to the mix.
Luckily it turns out I’m not alone. According to the latest statistics, over 191,000 men in the UK each year report stress, depression or anxiety at work, while one in four of us guys are likely to develop a mental health problem over the next twelve months.
So when I was approached during Men’s Health Week (13-19 June) with a solution that could help me combat my stress levels and better control them, I jumped at the chance.
In support of Men’s Health Week 2016, TENA Men have created the ultimate Men’s Health kit, filled with a load of gadgets, gizmos and quirky products, to try and encourage us guys to think and talk more about our health while taking part in seven daily stress-busting challenges.
Luckily, this week I’m down in Cornwall for a family holiday by the sea (featuring my new baby nephew and the unpredictable English weather!), so I’ve no excuse but to get stuck in and kick start a healthy change in my lifestyle.
Here’s what I’ve been up to so far…
Top tips to reduce your stress levels
Always hydrate – at least six to eight glasses of liquid a day, according to the latest medical advice, to maintain a healthy bladder, a balanced lifestyle and to keep stress at bay.
I’ll admit, I definitely don’t drink enough water, but this is one of the easiest things to fix. Try a bottle with a compact filter, like my new one from Zekolo below, which lets you add your favourite fruit to enhance the flavour of the water and get you drinking more. At the very least, the novelty will keep you on track…
Push yourself – as we all know, when we exercise our body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in our body while helping to reduce stress. Doctors nowadays recommend we should be doing about 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week…if only we can find the time!
Again, this is something I know I should do, but it usually gets pushed down the list of priorities when I have so many other things on my plate.
But this week, thanks to my new smartwatch, four over-excited dogs, the world’s coolest grass tennis court and the beautiful Cornish coastline, I’ve managed to make exercise my top priority. And I feel great!
Looking at my pedometer now, today alone I’ve taken over 12,000 steps, travelled a distance of 9km, and burnt off an extra 500 calories than I normally would. There really is nothing like a long run in the countryside or a swim in the sea to clear your head and reduce your stress levels…I can’t recommend it enough.
Fuel up for the day – as my mum always said, breakfast is by far the most important meal of the day. Your body needs a healthy meal at the start of every morning to kick start your metabolism and keep you fuelled until lunchtime, without succumbing to any guilty snacking.
Working in an office, I have definitely been guilty of some guilty snacking in my time. But in the spirit of the TENA Men challenge, I’ve shunned my favourite pain au chocolate, coffees and bacon sarnies, in favour of a high-protein alternative – this tasty muesli from Oomf! – highly recommended, and serious man-fuel.
Look good, smell fresh, feel great and keep control – when you look and smell good on the outside, you feel great on the inside. But as a gender, us guys spend a lot less time on our personal grooming than the fairer sex, especially when it comes to the bits that nobody sees; both above and below the belt!
Let me be frank…I’m not just talking about deodorant here. As a frightfully modern man, I feel pretty well informed now about what the girls in our lives have to go through on an almost daily basis to keep their lady gardens in order. To name but a few, buzzwords like ‘Fem Fresh’, ‘plucking’, ‘in-growns’, ‘discharge’, ‘panty pads’ and ‘post-bath leakage’ regularly come into conversation with certain close (over-sharing) female friends.
But surely, us men aren’t so different that we can arrogantly ignore this area of our own personal hygiene, and merely blame any “unappealing odours” on our “natural manly musk”?!
With this in mind, TENA Men have challenged us to reconsider the freshness of our nether-regions by using two new products:
- Below The Belt’s “Fresh and Dry Balls” grooming creams and gels – I’ve had a lot of fun with these so far (to my wife’s amusement) and have certainly felt fresher down below as a result. Basically the guys’ version of dry shampoo!
- TENA Men’s Protective Shield – a lightweight pad for anyone who experiences urine leakage, that you stick into your boxers to catch any stray “drips and dribbles”. Being game for pretty much anything, I wasn’t afraid to give this product a go too…
What struck me most about this concept from TENA Men, wasn’t actually the design or the idea of a male panty pad, which essentially does exactly what it says on the tin and, for the record, you hardly notice after the initial novelty of putting one on.
Rather, I’ve been most surprised by the reaction of my family and friends when I told them about this product. The initial shock, followed by ridicule and words like “effeminate” just demonstrated to me why men across the country don’t talk about their health issues, for fear of similar repercussions if they do.
It’s no surprise that one in five men across the UK haven’t seen their GP in more than two years, and why NHS early diagnoses of major illnesses are so much less common among men than women. As a gender we (on the most part) would rather keep our health worries to ourselves, than risk coming across as weak, damaged or unmanly.
A sad state of affairs in my book and something that we should try to change.
As Men’s Health Week draws to a close, I’m personally really pleased that I took part this year. I feel fitter, happier, healthier and less stressed as a result, and feel like I have taken some positive steps this week towards changing my lifestyle for the better. N.B. having two little puppies to play with this week, certainly helped…
There are so many things we can all do to try and beat stress: exercise, sing, dance, laugh, play music, listen to music, paint, write, volunteer, learn something new…whatever makes you happy, really.
But most of all, let’s not be afraid to talk about stress – how we beat it, what causes it, and how we can support others who are struggling to cope with it. Talk to your mates, talk to your family, talk to your doctor or even share your stories with us via the comments section below.
Come on…let’s start the conversation now.