This year’s Men’s Health Month comes amidst the unprecedented stressful times of this pandemic. Staying healthy both physically and mentally has never been more important, and more challenging. Social isolation, disrupted routines and exercise regimens, financial losses, unemployment and ruined businesses, fear paranoia and divisive politics, all make it likely that everyone is struggling now more than ever. While everyone is stressed, and stress is a normal reaction of this crisis, men may be extra vulnerable due to their common tendency to both not reach out to others when in need and their typical lack of social support. I will share below some exercises and resources to stay mentally sound during these times.
First, a reminder of the importance of social connection. Having a sense of being socially connected is associated with a host of physical and mental health indicators. Social connection strengthens our immune system, helps us recover from diseases faster, is connected with lower rates of anxiety and depression, and is often integral in us feeling good about ourselves Unfortunately, men were less likely to feel socially connected even before the stay-at-home orders were in place. If there is a friend you’ve been meaning to call who is by themselves during this time, after you are done reading this is literally the time to pick up the phone and do so. Men, make it a point to reach out to your buddies, or someone you havn’t spoken to in a while…for both their sake and your own.
Since social connection’s power to influence our health largely comes from the internal sense of connection we can have, doing Loving-Kindness Meditations can be an effective solo practice during these times. It can be especially helpful for your sense of feeling connected and a host of other important health benefits when done regularly. If you need the proof on this, a great list of 18 positive health effects of Loving-Kindness Meditations can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201409/18-science-backed-reasons-try-loving-kindness-meditation
You can try out a Loving Kindness Meditation by one of the leading researchers here: https://self-compassion.org/guided-self-compassion-meditations-mp3-2/
A suggested moment by moment reflection on the qualities: Ease and Grace. I love these two words. What do these words conjure up for you? Who do you know who goes through their day with a sense of Ease and Grace? Then, the question to carry with you…How can you bring more Grace and Ease into what you are already doing each moment of the day? What would that feel and look like? Would it mean unfrowning your face a bit as you wash the dishes, or feeling a bit more softness and flow in your body as you sit at the computer? Would it feel like a bit more joy or gratefulness, or perhaps carrying your sadness or anxiety with a little more ease, a sense of “this is so hard, but I do got this”? Is there a false belief about yourself or life that you need to let go of in order to allow the Grace and Ease? Id love to hear from you about the moments you’ve found the gift of bringing more Grace and Ease into your day.
At the link HERE, you will find my go-to, 4 minute meditation to become more present at any moment of the day. When we take a few brief moments to turn our attention inward, put what’s on our mind “on the shelf” for a few brief moments, our whole system can finally relax a bit. We feel a bit more spacious and at ease, a bit more centered and with increased focus and energy. It is an active, 4 minute meditation to be used at any time of the day and for any level of meditator. Enjoy.
Lastly, If you have been interested in meditation as a newbie or continuing student, but need the consistent guidance, HeadSpace.com has made all of their meditation programs completely free for LA County during this pandemic time. They have excellent meditation programs for anxiety, sleep, productivity, children, and a host of other topics. You must be physically in Los Angeles County when you activate a new account with them. Take a look, they have a lot to offer and have made this extremely easy for everyone.
Be Well, (and make that phone call! 🙂
By Kevin Kunkel, MA, CMT, CYT, LMFT, is a somatic therapist and meditation teacher at the Akasha Center. You can schedule an appointment with him by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.