Today is Father’s Day. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about an issue that doesn’t get talked about as often as it should which is how father’s mental health also affects family tremendously.
Energies are contagious. When one family member suffers from depression, burnout, sadness, and stress, everyone else in the family feels it too. Being a father is not an easy job and fathers deserve to be praised more often.
Even though women and men are becoming more equal, men still feel that as a husband or a dad, they are to be the provider of the family. It might feel like an easier job than being a mother to many people, but as I’ve observed many men in my life, I can honestly say that men bear a lot of stress on their shoulder. Most of the time they don’t even express it because they feel that it is their duty, their role, their responsibility as a man. Their ability to provide affects their identity. It defines their self-worth. It is what they see as the meaning of their life.
Stress is contagious. If one person in the family is stressed, everyone else feels the effects too. I’d like to take this opportunity to help us learn to become better partners, better friends, and better daughters to the men in our lives by learning to recognize their stress and know how to deal with it without making the situation worse.
As a woman, from my own experience and from having observed experiences of others around me, there are many ways in which we unconsciously respond to how a man deals with stress that makes everything worse. I believe that if we all learn to deal with stress, not just our own stress, but also when people in our lives are stressed, relationships would last longer and families would be happier.
Here are some signs of stress, anxiety, and depression in men and how we can learn to be a better partner, friend, and parent to the men in our lives.
1. Becoming distant
This is one of the most common problems. I’ve been there. My girl friends have been there. So I want to raise this up again so we women are all aware of how we sometimes unconsciously react to things that make the situation worse.
When men are stressed, they become distant and go into their man caves to solve their problems. They could go for days or weeks without speaking much. A lot of men have trouble communicating what’s on their mind, let alone telling others that they’re struggling emotionally. It makes them feel vulnerable and weak to tell others how stressed they are.
A lot of women take this the wrong way by taking it personally and assuming that they have lost interest. As a result, we may become more needy and annoying as we ask for extra attention. This usually makes the situation worse as men would feel they now have more responsibility to deal with on top of the stress they already have with work or finances.
It is not easy to be distant from our partner when they have been close, sweet, and loving before. A lot of men are not great at communicating either so we aren’t notified of the sudden, upcoming change. However, if we can learn to recognize this and know how to deal with it, it will help our relationship and our family. All of these all require practice. We need to learn to not take things personally. We need to learn to give men space. We need to learn to be understanding and patient. Because, oftentimes, when men are distant, it’s not about us. But when we start becoming needy and acting out, the stress starts to become about us - and that makes everything worse.
I feel like this is something that no one has ever taught us. We learn about this through our own experiences and from dating-advice websites. Our moms rarely taught us this. Well, how many parents are still together nowadays? Right? So, here’s to learning to be a better person, partner, and parent.
2. Relying on unhealthy outside sources for relief and joy
Another way to detect that the man in your life is going through extreme stress is when he starts to rely on unhealthy outside sources for relief and joy, such as alcohol, cigarette, drugs, gambling, etc. Anything that is not healthy and has become an obsession is oftentimes a way out of an emotional burden.
When this happens, how we women usually respond to it is by being upset and angry for their behaviors. However, that would only make the situation worse. We need to first start communicating and talking about the weight on their shoulder and how we can start dealing with it in a more constructive way.
Oftentimes when men are stressed, the way they deal with stress is subconsciously mirrored or influenced by how they saw their fathers dealt with stress. If their father used alcohol as an escape from stress, they may have a tendency to do so or feel that it is an acceptable way to do so. This is on a subconscious level, so they may not even know why they’re doing so. Understanding how your man’s father dealt with his stress can help you understand things from his perspective and can find healthier ways to deal with stress together as a couple or a family.
It is not easy to break out of patterns and what we learned subconsciously whilst growing up. It takes a lot of strength, courage, and maturity to be able to face one’s brokenness and deal with it in a healthy way. As a subscriber of this email list, I believe you have started learning to pay attention to your unconscious patterns and manage them for the better. I hope we can do this not only for ourselves, but can also help people in our lives deal with theirs too.
3. Being lethargic
This might not be so obvious. However, it is one of the signs of depression. When you see someone sleeps for 12 hours straight and still feel tired day in and day out, it is a sign of depression. This might go hand in hand with bad diets. It can be a cycle that is hard to break. If we ever spot this pattern in the man in our lives, we need to be a good source of support and encouragement. We need to encourage them to go for an exercise and eat healthy - force them if you will. Don’t let them fall deep into that cycle that it becomes impossible to break out of.
4. Expressing anger
Anger is an outward sign of depression.
One perspective I want to point out here is …. the way we respond to conflicts and the kind of conflicts we are used to are often related to how our parents are. If you grew up with a parent who yelled when angry, you may also yell yourself when you’re angry, and you may not feel as bad if your partner yells at you when they are mad. On the other hand, if you grew up with parents who never raised their voices and always talked calmly, you may be extremely shocked and find it extremely rude and disrespectful to raise voices during arguments.
Have you seen couples who kept shouting at one another? You bet that they both grew up in families who had similar ways of dealing with conflicts.
Usually when someone is attacked by anger, they respond back with anger. That usually makes the situation worse. But maybe that is the only way that they know.
So how can we learn to recognize patterns we may have subconsciously adopted from our parents so that we do not repeat them and pass them onto our children? Because you can bet that your children will certainly learn how to deal with conflicts, stress, and depression the way you deal with them - whether they would adopt similar patterns or go the opposite ways.
Now, let’s go and hug our men and show how appreciative we are of their efforts and everything they’ve done for us. Being appreciated is what men need the most from their women.
We all want to work hard and be successful. At the end of the day, we just want to be appreciated and be loved for all the things we’ve done for those we love.