“I am a father of two beautiful girls. I have a wonderful partner and a job I am grateful for,” says Jerry Cavalier, a software developer from Los Angeles, California, “So I should have no complaints right? But the truth is, I do stress and worry a lot about our future and have doubts about how I fare as a parent—am I spending enough time with them? Am I as available as I should be? How do I make sure they are healthy and thriving after I am gone? These questions do stress me out sometimes. But I prefer to not speak much about it since I realize the futility of worrying.”
The Stress Problem in Men is Not that Simple
Cavalier is not the only one who prefers to deal with stress with stoicism. What’s with the pressure to ‘man up’ in dealing with life’s curveballs? Here’s a fact we have let slide for too long: Suicide rates among men are three times that of women. Men play various roles at home and at work—father, husband, son, brother, boss, coworker, sometimes even financially supporting the family—and they all want to be successful.
Research suggests men and women react differently to stress and use different coping mechanisms. Compared to women, men tend to have a more pronounced stress response and often respond with heightened aggression, isolation, and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, drugs, and drinking. Men are also likely to go in for a fight-or-flight response versus women who tend to adapt and assimilate under stressful situations. This makes men susceptible to much higher levels of stress in some scenarios. We won’t go into the serious lack of peer support for men—we’ve all seen the viral “who do you call when you’re at your lowest” TikTok video making the rounds. (If you haven’t seen it, the answer is basically no one. Down with toxic masculinity!)
We need to worry for our men—young and old. Depression often goes undiagnosed due to symptoms not being present or the expressions being muted. For example, depression may be expressed as anger and irritability (which may otherwise be common behavioral responses) and not as sadness. Lack self-care and regular checkups, combined with chronic stress, have led to cancer and heart disease becoming the top two causes of male mortality in the US, according to CDC, with colorectal, skin, prostate, and lung cancers being the most common. Men are also at a much higher risk of becoming diabetic at lower body weight than women.
All of this means that men also need sweet vacations for the mind, body, and soul. Getaways where they can de-stress, meditate, spend some time in nature, eat healthy and sumptuous meals, clear their minds and bodies of stress, engage in creativity and fun; and recharge and rejuvenate their spiritual batteries. Men need to learn how to make their mental health a priority and that it’s okay to need help, be vulnerable, and practice self-care. One way to do this is to go on a retreat.
How do retreats help?
In many beautiful and meaningful ways, actually. Making the space to listen to one’s own voice, engaging in spiritual practices that relax the mind and feed the soul, stepping away from daily life and all its challenges—even for just a couple of days—can be transformative. Add to the spiritual component healing arts bodywork and therapies, a nurturing community of like-minded individuals, and time in nature to ensure total integration of mind, body, and spirit.
Me-Time is Important
Every waking hour is spent either in the company of family or office colleagues. A retreat offers a much-needed contrast, quality time away from the distractions of everyday life—no pressing emails, no bosses to cater to, and no worries about relationships and families. You might think it’s too difficult get away from work or your family, but spending time on yourself, even just a few days a year, serves your and THEIR mental health. After all, who wouldn’t want the prize of a happier, healthier, stress-free father/husband returning home?!
Make friends. Build yourself up. Relax.
Retreats are a great way for men to meet other men in a non-competitive and emotionally open setting, where they are allowed to be with themselves in total authenticity and where vulnerability is welcome. The friends you make at such retreats are usually bonds you form with deeper connections and are likely to last longer. In such a setting of non-judgment, you are free to share your deepest self.
All the stressors and worries of day-to-day life add up and can negatively affect your energy or life force. A clear and well-rested mind enables you to do much more with clarity and focus. When your body and mind are purged of toxins through meditation, yoga, time in nature, and better self-care, you feel re-energized and replenished. You’ll discover compassion, relaxation, and the joy of life that every human being deserves.