If you asked a group of dads how they managed their self care, most of them probably wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. It’s a commonly overlooked part of being a parent, but luckily there’s some easy to spot signs that it’s needed.
In the wake of Father’s Day, clinical psychologist Rochelle Masters from Master’s Psychology discussed some of the ways in which dad’s can struggle with mental health. Self care for dads is something that many men neglect, but as society is developing a more open attitude to mental health, it’s important for men to realise the three self care musts. And like flight attendants always say, you must put your own oxygen mask on before you assist others with theirs.
Self Care for dads tip #1: Embrace Self care
Dads who value and care for their own emotional and physical health know that it is one of the best gifts the can give to their families. Janice: “I have seen way too many stressed out, physically unhealthy fathers who, in the name of giving all to their jobs and families, tragically neglect themselves”. On this physical health front, for example, eating well, getting exercise maintaining healthy body weight, and getting proper sleep are very important for taking care of yourself.
As far as emotional health goes, men still have huge issues with expressing their vulnerability. Well over one hundred years ago, the physician William Osler wrote, “The organs weep the tears the eyes refuse to shed”. These days, 70-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints for men because they tend to internalise their struggles and feelings.
Self Care tip #2: Be loving, loyal, and understanding with your intimate partner.
Taking care of your relationship is a huge part of maintaining your own mental health. Renowned relationship expert John Gottman identified four markers of relationship failure highly predictive of relational difficulty. He calls them the four horsemen, and they are:
- Criticism. This is when you start attacking your partner’s personality or character.
- Defensiveness. This usually takes the form of “it’s not my fault”. It’s the deflection of blame for how you’re feeling or acting.
- Contempt. As subtle as eye-rolling, or as overt as outright verbal contempt, usually this comes from the thought “you don’t understand”
- Stonewalling. this is exactly what it sounds like, it’s as if a wall has been put up between you. You don’t respond, and just block out your partner or your feelings.
These four horsemen aren’t in order, and don’t necessarily come all together. Each one of these is an indicator that some self care is required.
Self Care for dads tip #3: Know the power of listening and understanding your kids.
Part of being a dad is… Well, being a dad. That means spending quality time with your kids. The important part here is distinguishing between quality and quantity. Sitting on the couch with your kids for an hour watching TV and not talking isn’t quality time. You’d gain more from a 5 or 10 minute chat about what you’re watching and how it interests them. As a result, you’ll no doubt be surprised how effective this quality time can be in improving not only your relationship with your children, but also improving your mental health.
For all of Rochelle’s great tips on self care for dads, check out the podcast below: