Tips to Empower The Broken

My business is experiencing an influx of the male species right now, and it seems the COVID-19 lockdown is to blame. I question whether the actual global pandemic is to blame, or whether our menfolk now have the time to deal with their shit — and they don’t like itNot one little bit.

And before I get accused of man-bashing, let me assure you there’s plenty of busy ladies also experiencing the same symptoms of crippling worry and fear of the future. But let’s face it, women are more likely to open up and talk about it. The men appear to have retreated into their caves, or as modern times dictate, they have retreated into the theatre rooms.

Symptoms of anxiety can include feelings of worry, fear and impending doom that are so severe they interfere with your ability to work, maintain relationships and get a decent night’s sleep. Beyond Blue defines the physical signs of anxiety may include: pounding or racing heart, excessive sweating and an overwhelmed internal dialogue.

“Anxiety is one of the most common health conditions in Australia. For men, anxiety is even more common than depression — 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some point.” — Beyond Blue

There are several medically diagnosable forms of anxiety:

  • generalised anxiety disorder
  • specific phobias
  • social anxiety
  • panic disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress

Beyond Blue explains each anxiety condition has its own unique features, with some common symptoms which include:

  • “Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick shallow breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy. 
  • Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking are all things that keep us up at night. 
  • Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life.”

So why would anxiety affect our big burly manly men? Especially now during a pandemic? Our scientific research and carbon dating infers that our men or rather their caveman counter-parts, would go out and forage for food. They were wired to communicate, they were wired to kill shit, and then drag it back to camp to be cooked and eaten.

In modern times, it seems we have carried this expectation that the man will leave the family home, go out and get a job in order to provide for his family. And yet there’s more. Society now expects the modern man to emote! This is interesting if his neurological wiring has suppressed this ability so we can kill to eat!

Society also infers the modern man should cook, clean and be the equal partner in the family household. This is also based on the supposition that modern man is leaving the household and going out to work (aka the modern-day version of killing the woolly mammoth to feed the family). Same shit, different bucket.

So what happens to the manly man when he has to work from home?

The clearly delineated boundaries which separate work from home begin to blur. Poor modern man must be scratching his head that the wilderness of work is now to be juggled with an apron around his waist!

Confusion about how to segregate the roles of the house-bound man versus provider-man start to build. This confusion, mixed with boredom (remember caveman needs to hunt, to be productive and have outcomes) and listlessness produces the knee-buckling effect of lowering self-confidence and worry about the future, fear of not being good enough and fear of uncertainty.

So what can we do to support the modern man not feeling like a caged tiger?

Here are some proactive strategies to try yourself

  1. Purposeful breathing. Pretty sure the modern man will think this is ridiculous — I know. But let me explain!

Generally, if you’re stressed and in that flight or fight phase, you’re shallow breathing in order to prime your muscles to react from a defensive position. In other words, your body is mimicking hunting the woolly mammoth and getting your body ready to attack!

The slow and purposeful breathing enables the body to switch from stress to digestion / relaxation phase. This is likened to your caveman feeling relieved he wasn’t eaten and now scratching his head how he will drag the beast back to camp for his woman to cook!

Try these breathing exercises provided by Beyond Blue. Purposeful breathing can be as simple as counting to four, holding your breath for a count of two then breathe out slowly. Literally, within a couple of breaths, your neurology is switching from a defensive stand to that of a relaxed one.

This is a fabulous tool for anyone really when you find yourself in a sticky or heated situation whereby you feel your emotions escalating.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation. This exercise is best undertaken in a quiet and private space. Try it at night time as part of a new sleep hygiene routine.

Find the right spot and close your eyes. Focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each of your muscle groups from your toes to your head. Hold the tension for three seconds and then release quickly.

This exercise is great for supporting your ability to focus on just one thing. By honing our focus, you get to eliminate that chatty circus monkey inside your head. There’s the added bonus of potentially reducing the feelings of muscle tension associated with anxiety.

Gone are the days where our caveman only had to worry about killing or running from the sabre tooth tiger. Modern man worries about a myriad of things, so anything to slow down the monkey chatter and lighten the load helps to regain focus and ultimately power on reframing what you are in control of and what you aren’t.

3. Practice remaining in the present moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts create a perception of a terrible future — which hasn’t even happened yet. This type of overthinking is often linked with unresolved stress lodged in your behavioural patterning. You literally switch off the logical brain and wonder what will happen with all this COVID-19 business.

  • Will I work again? 
  • How do I cope? 
  • How am I providing for my family if I’m at home? 
  • I’m not good enough anymore now that I’ve lost my job 
  • I’m useless, everything is hopeless

The beauty of this tip is to bring yourself back to where you are, right now. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from your experiences. You can’t predict the future, but you can build your resilience for whatever is coming your way. You do that by living for today, and enjoying the moments, making deposits in your happiness account.

Identifying simple tasks you can achieve completion on during this day is vital. It’s a reset if you will. Subliminally you are creating new neural solution-orientated pathways when you identify tasks that you can complete.

Some easy examples include

  • daily meditation
  • daily walk outside in the sunshine and fresh air
  • read because you want to 
  • listen to positive podcasts
  • play music which makes you get out of your chair and jog around
  • play with the kids

4. Healthy lifestyle. Keeping active, eating well, and ensuring you are hydrated are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing during this COVID phase. Additionally, part of a healthy lifestyle when I grew up and I’m seeing during lockdown is families going outside together. Playing and having experiences — together. The modern man has left the cave and joining his tribe for fun and frivolity. It’s about time the man gets to participate too.

Once lockdown is lifted, get out into nature, visit friends and return to your active lifestyle.

5. Acknowledge your self-talk. Beyond Blue provides a lot of detail to address “how you think affects how you feel”. I would go a step further and add your thoughts create your actions.

Anxiety can make you overthink situations and question your ability to manage the stress associated with it. Acknowledging those feelings that make you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario often defuses the emotional energy associated with the subliminal fears.

Look at the facts for and against your thought being true. Ask yourself the question “am I in control of this right now?” Alternatively ask “Will it matter in five years, five months, five days?” If you answer yes then do something about it. If no, shelf the problem until you feel you can deal with it.

If all else fails, pick up the phone and have a mate date and talk it out.

Be kind to yourself. Beyond Blue literature encourages you to “remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.”

Cut yourself some slack. These are beyond weird times. You just have to make the best of right now. Sometimes when our thoughts get us stuck in problem-solving, make the problem smaller and more solvable. For example rather than sorting out what will I do today, ask yourself what can I do for the next 30 minutes.

7. Focus on something positive. the minute you’re feeling Negative Nancy thoughts creeping up, it’s time to be proactive and ‘reframe’. This is a choice point that has the opportunity to place you back in your power and control.

Literally ask yourself, “how can I view this current situation / stressful thing as a positive?” You’ll be surprised with how your logic brain kicks into action when you give it permission to work.

In summary, I would add to this that COVID isn’t forever. I’m reminded that my parents lived through a recession in the eighties, whereby crippling mortgage rates smothered the toughest of couples. And yet they survived. If you converse with grandparents they share stories of living in the depression without food and clothing staples for months on end. And yet they survived too, in fact, their view of life remains resilient and positive.

So decide on how you will take advantage of more time with your family and this unique opportunity to do life for a short while.


Beyond Blue “Types of anxiety”. Source https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety