November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, with International Men’s Day falling on Saturday 19 November. Men’s Health Awareness Month is a month dedicated to bringing awareness to a wide range of men’s health issues. Mental health is a key component of this, particularly burnout in men.
Should we be worried about burnout?
For far too long, when it comes to men and boys, the narrative has always been one of “boys don’t cry” or the “suck it up” mentality. It has extended to all areas of their health, from the mental to the physical. As such, it is hardly surprising that worldwide men between the ages of 20 and 40 are half as likely as women to seek medical help for mental health issues. This is a scary statistic in South Africa, considering that the rate of gender-based violence is 5 times higher than in any other country in the world.
What is burnout in men?
Burnout is described as a “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”.
According to a 2021 US survey, 52% of workers were experiencing burnout, an increase of 9% from pre-covid numbers. In addition, those who work over 40 hours a week are 6 times more likely to develop burnout. With longer working hours becoming the norm since the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that burnout is becoming a problem for men worldwide.
The reason men are at the center of this story is that they are 7% more likely to attempt to get through burnout alone, rather than seeking outside help. With men making up three-quarters of suicides in Britain, it’s more important than ever to change the narrative around men’s health.
Burnout can be caused by a number of issues. In the majority of cases, work-related stress is a key factor. This can include unclear expectations, feeling out of control, extreme workloads, and a lack of work/life balance.
Symptoms of burnout in men
Women will often report experiencing more emotional exhaustion when feeling burnout. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to experience depersonalization. This is where they are typically left feeling unreal, detached, and unable to feel any form of emotion. Other symptoms can include:
- excessive stress
- anger or irritability
- alcohol and substance abuse
- vulnerability to illnesses
- high blood pressure
In many cultures, men are still expected to be the breadwinner and should be able to support their families in order to be good husbands and good fathers. This is a completely unrealistic expectation given the state of the world today. This stress alone can lead to burnout in many men, who are trying to fulfill many roles to see themselves as successful.
It is time to give men a break from these unrealistic and detrimental expectations. Men need to be supported to take care of themselves. They should also have the freedom to admit when they are at their limit and seek help.
Masculinity as a barrier to mental health
One of the main reasons worldwide why men avoid seeking help for mental health issues is because of the concept of masculinity. The narrative being pushed is that you cannot be a real, strong man if you have to seek help for your problems, especially mental health issues.
By reaching out and looking for help, men realize that they have to rely on someone other than themselves, admit there is an issue, and have to express emotions that many of them have never been taught, or allowed to feel.
What can men do to help themselves if they are feeling burnout?
Unfortunately, there is no cure to fix burnout, but if you are struggling, there are a few ways you can help yourself.
For example, if you feel overworked, make sure you take a full lunch break and create an adequate work-life balance by leaving your work behind you when you leave the office. Exercise and meditation are great ways to help yourself both physically and mentally overcome stress.
Our brain training allows the brain to see the coping mechanism patterns that it is holding onto and how to let these go or learn a new, healthier, coping pattern. When these imbalances are balanced, it means a person is able to deal with stressful situations in a more productive way. It is almost like doing a “control, alt, delete” with your brain, allowing it to respond in a more efficient, rational mode.
Want to know more?
Being one of the biggest names to come out of F1 racing can take a toll on anybody. As such, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton recently opened up about his own mental health struggles.