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Learning how to prioritise my own wellbeing

Digital Marketing Apprentice Nilesh, shares his experiences learning about how to manage his own mental wellbeing, and why he feels men's mental health isn't always treated as a priority.

Having recently finished college, and trying to figure out what it is I want to do, the option I was always pushed towards was university. Teachers, family and friends always seemed to frame it as the ‘right’ choice, but I struggled with education and never felt like it was really for me. Worrying about that choice had a big impact on my mental health, which was exacerbated by not knowing how to cope with the decision without judgement or stigma. Taking time out and exploring my options allowed me to learn how to prioritise myself, my own mental health and my own self-care. That experience made me want to talk about why, for men, mental health and self-care are not typically prioritised, and how learning to do things that make me happy, regardless of the ‘stigma’ .

Feeling lost

Despite only being 19, I have always felt like I don't have enough time or have not quite done as much as anyone else. I have always been surrounded by people who knew exactly what they wanted to do and who have followed a very linear pathway. I would listen to those around me talk about their goals, dreams and 10-year plans and I would sit there almost jealous that I didn't have that.

Feeling lost and overwhelmed, it seemed like the most logical decision was to go to university and follow the same path as everyone else. Despite having struggled with education my whole life, and very clearly not wanting to carry on with it, I looked into the option, and even applied to some unis, just because it's what I thought I needed to do.

By trying to conform to the expected path, my mental health got even worse and I struggled to find my purpose. I felt that if I didn't have a plan then I was wasting my life and that feeling just kept spiralling. I also didn't know how to express it. I felt that talking about feelings in this way was embarrassing and that was reinforced by the people I was around at school and college.

Taking things at my own pace

I knew I was only forcing myself to do what I thought was expected of me as I didn't want to be left behind. I'd watched most people around me head off to uni and I couldn't see myself following the same path. I took a year out and focused on finding what I wanted to do, prioritising my wellbeing.

Giving myself the reassurance that it was okay to take life at my own pace allowed me to find what I wanted to do and be comfortable about my decision. At this point it had been a few months and I had been applying (and rejected from) many jobs. Now I can see that it worked out for the best, but I started feeling somewhat defeated as nothing seemed to be working and once again I felt stuck in my life.

This was made even worse as I compared myself to friends who had now gone to university. I watched them all make new friends and love their courses and I started to think that maybe I had made the wrong choice.

Being scared of self-care

Having struggled with my own mental health I’ve always found the difference between men and women interesting when it comes to handling it as well as how it is perceived and prioritised. I’ve found when speaking to my dad, brother or male friends that it isn't a priority for them. That they’ve been taught to ‘man-up’ and that mindset was very clear in the behaviours of people I was around. It was normalised to never show weakness or emotion, and if you did then you were not manly enough.

However, when speaking to my mum or female friends, it has always been clear that it’s okay to show emotion; they rely on each other for comfort and if their mental health isn’t great they are given the time and space to work through it. This also applies to self-care, where men only seem to engage in activities considered ‘manly’. The idea of a spa wouldn't even cross many of their minds for fear of what people might think of them.

I carried this idea at the back of my mind when starting my apprenticeship at Being given the opportunity to take part in different treatments, workshops and experiences, I have had to push myself out of my comfort zone and allow myself to experience these things. Having internalised the idea that these experiences were not ‘manly’ made me apprehensive as I thought I would be judged. I know from speaking to the people around me that spa treatments are only thought of as being for women and I came in with that idea.

Protecting your own health and happiness

From both being at and also allowing myself to prioritise my self-care however, I now feel that the concept of spas as gendered shouldn't be (and isn’t) the case. Self-care by definition is the act of ‘protecting one's own well-being and happiness’ and this comes with doing anything that makes you happy, regardless of judgement or embarrassment from anyone else.

Now, having started my apprenticeship, I have found what works for me. I know that my path is not the same as everyone else's and allowing myself time to figure it out was perfect for gaining my own self worth. Taking time to prioritise my wellbeing, regardless of judgement, made me comfortable in my own journey without needing to compare myself to anyone else.

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