As a man, you may have a hard time showing your emotions, or you may display them differently. It sounds cliché, but this is a reality rooted in what we know about psychology.
For example, if you were in a car accident and it was traumatic for you, you might lash out in anger in response, rather than being vulnerable and admitting the situation scared you.
Men, compared to women, also tend to show feelings physically. For example, you might tense your muscles or grit your teeth when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, as opposed to expressing those emotions verbally.
Going back to the above example of PTSD, it can take men longer to process what they’re feeling and understand more about it than women. You might not even recognize what you’re experiencing for quite some time.
As a man, when it comes to dealing with and expressing emotions, and especially difficult ones, the following are some tips to keep in mind.
Take a Step Back from the Situation
As was mentioned, men tend to react with anger when they’re dealing with an emotion that’s challenging or uncomfortable for them.
You may feel extremes in some cases or intense emotions.
This is why it’s a good idea when you’re feeling strongly about something to disengage and take some time. You don’t want to escalate the situation based on what you’re feeling at that moment. Since it can take you longer to perhaps pinpoint what you’re feeling, then by disengaging, you’re giving yourself time to process rather than possibly causing more conflict.
Taking a step away is almost always a better option than communicating from a place of charged emotions that might end up being harmful in the situation.
Choose Healthy Coping Mechanisms
The tendency to want to turn to unhealthy coping mechanismsisn’t exclusive to men—it’s something many people do.
You might want to deal with difficult emotions by numbing them with alcohol, as an example.
Temporarily, this can work and alleviate your symptoms. Then, after those feelings of intoxication go away, you might end up inan even worse situation. Alcohol as a coping mechanism is especially harmful because it can throw off the balance of chemicals in your brain, worsening anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. It can also make you perhaps more aggressive or more likely to lash out.
When you rely on something as a way to cope with how you’re feeling, evaluate whether or not it’s going to make your situation worse or lead to problematic behaviors.
Try to find replacement activities. When you’re feeling that urge to numb yourself or escape, you should ask yourself what you can do that might give you emotional relief while being healthy. Working out is a great option.
Dealing with Anger
So many emotions that you might be feeling at your core as a man might be expressed as anger.
Identify and Label Your Emotions
Rather than inherently attributing everything to your sense of anger, as you deal with emotions, you want to work on identifying what you’re feeling, as we talked about above. From there, it’s good to label those emotions within yourself. Be aware of the feeling and then, as part of practicing mindfulness, tell yourself exactly what it is. For example, say to yourself “this is anxiety.”
Don’t deny what you’re feeling. Acknowledge and acceptance are key.
At the same time, remind yourself that these emotions aren’t permanent, and they will pass.
Investigate within yourself what triggered you and why you feel that way.
After you’ve explored what you’re feeling, you can let your emotions unfold without self-judgment.
These are hard things to do but when you can practice mindfulness as far as what you’re feeling, it’ll help you stay in control and calm. It will also help you deal with your emotions more productively because you’ll know what they are.
When you avoid your emotions, there can be severe consequences and complications. If you don’t learn to be mindful about how you feel, it can lead to depression and anxiety. In men, it also increases the risk of suicide.
Men tend to learn that they should behave a certain way when they’re children, which can stick with them into adulthood. You might get used to turning off emotions or coping in unhealthy ways, but you’re putting yourself at risk.
Learning to be vulnerable as a man can be a huge challenge but a worthwhile endeavor. You’ll learn to be more comfortable not only accepting your emotions but even showing them. You’ll feel better, reduce your risk of mental health complications and likely have stronger, more fulfilling relationships as a result.
Finally, if you cannot begin to explore your emotions and practice mindfulness on your own, or you think your problems are too severe to manage on your own, see a therapist. You can see a therapist in person or online.
Men are less likely than women to see a therapist because of the stigma, but this is a safe space to explore how you feel and begin to learn to be both mindful and vulnerable.
You can find specific strategies so that you can cope with emotions productively.
While it remains a challenge, luckily, the stigma surrounding men and mental health is starting to diminish, so you can begin to look at yourself and see where you might need to make a change.