Just this past week another one of my friends was diagnosed with cancer. Young guy. 40. Thankfully they got it early and he has a good long term prognosis. But it got me thinking, once again, how so many of my male friends just completely ignore their health. And how many guys I have known who ignored their health until it was sadly too late.
It’s the same narrative every time…”I am so stressed. I am just trying to keep my head above water. I have no time for myself. I don’t exercise. I don’t have much joy in my life. I have to focus on my job and nothing else. I just need to materially provide for my family. I come second.”
I was that guy. For almost 30 years. Til the stress and unhealthy lifestyle got to the point where I just couldn’t ignore it any more. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t relax. I coudn’t sleep. And I finally just decided I needed to completely change my lifestyle and hopefully my health as a result.
In my case, I was always a healthy eater and exercised consistently, but I ignored getting help for the one thing that was going to kill me unless I addressed it and that was MY STRESS. Through meditation, mindfulness and my Buddhist practice, and after a great deal of time spent on discovery and practice, I finally unlocked the keys to eliminating stress in my life and I never felt better. This blog is part of my mission now to help others who are struggling with the same issues I did and share my experiences in the hope I can spur some positive change in their lives.
In our society, women seem to understand the importance of good health, nutrition and stress management so much more than men. Perhaps we think we are indestructible and it’s an ego thing. Maybe it’s because we are lazy. I am not exactly sure why, but women are so much more in tune with their bodies, their physical and mental health. They take medical tests more seriously. They are more committed to life/work balance. And they also seem more focused on the spiritual more than men. It’s not an indictment on men, it’s just an observation.
We men, on the other hand, are pre-conditioned to think our lot in life is to work hard, sacrifice, be stressed, ignore our health, not be present with the family because we are always working and if we get sick as a result, oh well, that’s part of what we signed up for. After all, we tell ourselves, “at least we are providing for our families and they are ok!”
I say, “bullshit!”
At our funerals our kids are not ok. Our spouses are not ok. Our families are not ok. Our friends and colleagues are not ok!
It’s all crap and I am now 100% focused on trying to change that narrative for anyone that will listen.
On my own journey, I was fortunate I didn’t have any health scare to wake me up but I did have an awakening. I was friggen miserable building my career. And while my company and public ego were thriving, my internal narrative was anything but healthy. The stress, the anxiety, the sense of longing to live a more balanced life was banging on my mental doorstep so loud I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
And so to my male friends specifically, I urge you, I plead with you, I BEG you to please make your health a priority. If not for yourself, for your family, for your loved ones, for the sake of not wasting this precious gift you have been given. After all, in the end, no one will remember you for the material things you possess, but for the joy you brought to others. And to do so requires your good health first and foremost!
Here are five, manageable things I would urge my male friends to focus on right now:
- Your diet: While I won’t preach the merits of a vegetarian diet like mine because I know it’s not for everyone, think about how much red meat, processed and fried food you are consuming and be aware of its toxic impact on your health. Perhaps just make small adjustments to portion control and cut back the amount of these types of foods and balance it out with some good old fashioned veggies more often. It’s not always realistic I know to expect men to make radical shifts in their diets , but gradual adjustments are better than no adjustments.
- Your cholesterol : There is zero excuse for getting your cholesterol level checked, at least annually. It’s as easy as getting a blood test which takes a few minutes. It will tell you whether you have a big issue or not. And if you do have high cholesterol, consider yourself lucky that you caught it in time and can easily treat it.
- Get a damn colonoscopy now! I am 52 and have had three done already. It’s a pain in the ass:) for one night, but potentially a lifesaver so please, please, please get it done!
- Exercise daily. While I know I am blessed to be able to get to the gym everyday, most guys can’t. So why not at least go for a long walk every morning before work? I have a friend who wakes up at 5 am and walks 2 miles every day before work! Why can’t you commit to at least doing some kind of walking or exercising every single day? It is also as easy as taking the stairs and not the elevator or escalator. As easy as going for a lunchtime walk at work instead of bs’ing with colleagues or even checking social media. It’s as easy as getting off the couch, not watching TV or checking your phone and going for a walk after dinner each night.
- Focus on your mental health. I had no idea that stress was the single biggest cause of health issues until recently. And through my own meditation practice, I am now fully able to focus on my stress level and do all I can to reduce it. Stress, I have come to understand, is a fully controllable reaction to the situations we face daily and so there is no excuse for not combatting this disease that inflicts most men (and women).
If you are married to a guy, if you are related to a guy, if you’re the parents of a guy, if you are bff’s with a guy and he is suffering from what I am describing in this blog, and you love him, please, please send this to him. And urge him to take ownership of his health now. If not for himself, for his loved ones.
Before it’s too late…