Across the world, millions of people are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The welfare system has experienced increases of 500% in specific countries, putting significant pressure on families to survive on basic necessities. The economic costs have gone beyond £100 Billion. The loss of any job manifests a series of emotions that can put even the strongest minds under pressure, particularly Men. Why? Men are recognized as one of the most at-risk populations for suicide and mental health issues. There is a range of factors that contribute to this including; reluctance to talk to someone, cultural norms associated with masculinity, the anxiety of visiting their doctor, displaying a sign of weakness, family environment, or existing peer group. The cold hard truth is that men believe they can deal with all the emotions themselves. Evidence has shown this leads to serious mental health disorders or loss of life.
These ten steps below are based on my experiences of becoming a new welfare claimant during the COVID-19 crisis. These steps assisted me to grab hold of a situation most men fear, not being able to provide for their family, living in poverty, and battling their thoughts to ease the negativity with alcohol, drugs, and prescription medication.
1. The Power of Talking
Often the most difficult but the most crucial step in providing solutions to problems that arise. You must connect with a partner, family member, friend, or external mental health service (confidential) to discuss your feelings. If you let these feelings foster negatively, you will start to generate emotions that drive actions and behaviors which are even more detrimental. Is there advice, guidance, and signposting to mental health services at the jobcentre? If so, then take advantage of the assistance on offer. You won’t be any less of a man if you do.
2. The Power of Action
Whatever you do, just do something. It can be all too easy to isolate yourself, switch on the news or sport, scroll through the phone, kick back on the recliner and reach for a few beers. The problem with all these actions is that they move you away from what you need to do. You can bull shit yourself all you want, but it’s you that needs to get back on feet again. How will you do that eating a family pack of Doritos and consuming a 6 pack daily? When you encounter difficultly you need to lean into it, as it sends signals to the brain that you are moving. In other words, you are not sitting in the negative for too long.
3. The Power of Mindset
Now, this is where you need to take control early. There is no use in thinking about the past, as it’s gone. The only thing you control is the present. What steps will you take to reframe your thinking, so you take positive actions? Focus on small wins e.g. get out of bed, look at skills you might need, search for other jobs, speak to recruitment agencies, update your résumé identify other options were your experience could provide value. If at home, start doing things around the house that will help your partner and kids. It’s ok to embrace the challenge, but don’t sit in it and suffer, for an extended period. You need to stack small wins, once you achieve them, as this generates positive feelings. These feelings help you take further actions to change behavior for your benefit.
4. The Power of Present
Shit happens. We all know this. The only events you control are the ones you are living in today. You don’t know what will happen in the future, although you can still plan for it. By taking ownership of your day you control what happens. Live in the present, get involved with conversations, and listen to people. There will be a thousand ways of getting distracted by nonsense. Getting involved with the distractions is a cop-out. How will you provide for yourself, family, and free from mental ill-health? You must not get into the habit of thinking 24/7 about how shit you may feel. It’s paramount to fill your time with constructive and positive things that bring you a sense of happiness.
5. The Power of Purposeful Activity
The last thing you need is to get into a routine of long days and late nights. In other words, staying awake to 5 a.m. watching Netflix, and getting up at 12pm. Rinse and Repeat. If this is what you want to do, get a job working nights in a warehouse, at least you will be earning some money. You need to get a routine and schedule devised right away. Why? As very quickly your days will turn into weeks/months where you will feel like shit. The feelings are attached to a sense of worthlessness, which you will be fostering. How will I be doing that? You will be without structure in your day, which means you will go through the motions, finding activities to keep you busy, which are bringing you no closer to getting back on feet.
“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into thin air” (John Quincy Adams)
6. The Power of Self Pity- Doing Fuck All
Avoid this at all costs. If you hide in your negative feelings for too long, you will find it difficult to take action. No one is going to take action for you. When you face your feelings and recognize the damage they are having on you, or your family you need to take action. We have all faced challenges, how many people are unemployed due to COVID-19? These people could be experiencing the same feelings as you. However, some will be taking action to overcome adversity. You need to do the same.
7. The Power of Gratitude
What do I have to be grateful for? I’ve just lost my job, you plank. What would you know about what I’m going through? As I stated at the outset of this post, I’m a new welfare claimant, so I can relate to how you’re feeling. Look around you, do you have food, shelter, water, and clothing? Do you have a family and kids that love you? How about your friends or wider social networks? Are you healthy? Can you stand, consume air and walk? Do you have skills or experience that could assist others? There is a lot you have to be thankful for if you access any or all of the above. Start building out from there. You will find by taking the time each day to recognize what you do have, that you can move to a more positive frame of mind to take action.
8. The Power of Adaptability
The one area of life that is universal, is that change is inevitable. Life will always bring challenges and change. You need to get comfortable with that and recognize flexibility is crucial in facing this change. How you adapt to deal with planned or sudden changes is the key to not letting events take control of your thoughts. Are you willing to change? Do you have the determination, desire, and persistence to follow through on actions, once these changes occur? Remember you control the present, and adapting in that situation is key.
9. The Power of Wellness
Do you look after your mental/physical/emotional/spiritual wellbeing? Take responsibility for owning your actions to keep this in your favor daily. How much physical activity do you do? Can you walk, ride a bike, or go hiking? Is there a gym nearby? What do you eat and drink? Do you practice mindfulness, meditate, or take time to reflect? Do you engage in activities for your personal growth, such as reading books, listen to uplifting music, or watch videos that will inspire you? How do you expect to be of value to yourself, if you let negative emotions control your day? I can’t stress this enough, you need to focus on activities that benefit you.
10. The Power of Yourself
The most important step saved to the last. Why? As you’ve read through these steps and started to think about how they will benefit you, did you start thinking about what will hold you back? Yes? The only thing that stops you from taking action is you. There will be plenty of distractions, old man fear, and Mr. Alibi will lurk around every corner, probing and prompting you to do nothing. Who controls their actions? You. The start of any action requires one core thought: Belief. Now I don’t want to get into, believe and you will achieve motivational speak. However, you need to have strong beliefs that you can change your situation. Where that leads is up to you. But it can be as simple as getting out of bed in the morning and putting on your shoes.
Embrace the Challenge
How many times have you felt like a failure? What did you do to smash through this failure? You need to recognize the tactics, strategies, or coping mechanisms you used to come out the other side. When I say embrace the challenge, it is you that needs to face challenges, obstacles, and barriers in the way that benefits you. Is there something you wanted to do, but never got the chance? What stopped you? What is in your way of living your life, to your optimum?
These ten steps have helped me through a really difficult period in life. The COVID-19 crisis has created a loss in many cities across the world. It has damaged economic growth and put many employees, self-employed, and employers in situations which they may not recover from. The mental health issues will continue long after a solution has been found, to our new normal. However, there is always aspiration and hope, if you take control of your situation first.
Previously published on medium.com
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Photo credit: Baron Gimenez on Unsplash