A Perfect Fit: June and Men's Health

June 2024 | By Brian Cole, Ph.D.

June is National Men's Health Month and a call to prioritize men's mental and physical well-being, the bedrock for success in all aspects of life. Leaders know that our health lays the foundation for our career achievements, team relationships, and overall resilience. However, one piece of men's health puzzle is often missing in our conversations. 

 

Various ALULA Graphics

 

The Workplace Mental Health Crisis  

While awareness around men's mental fitness is growing, stigma persists - especially in professional settings. Research by Movember reveals some alarming insights from American men: 

  • 34% think discussing mental health struggles at work could jeopardize their job; 
  • 30% hesitate to disclose problems due to potential career repercussions; 
  • 46% fear negative comments from colleagues if they mention mental health issues; and 
  • 36% believe sharing difficulties could hamper their prospects for promotion.
     

This data implies that we have a long way to go before the men on our teams can feel supported enough to address and ask questions related to health issues. As Brendan Maher, Movember's Mental Health Director, states: "We need to tackle that stigma so men aren't discouraged from getting help...In the workplace, this starts with leaders encouraging open conversations." 

For leaders, this means proactively creating psychologically safe spaces. We can model vulnerability by sharing our own experiences and framing health as a practical challenge with tangible next steps. Let’s encourage employees to develop plans for physical wellness and to strategically identify how their wins impact their work performance. Training that builds mental health literacy is useful too. Most importantly, our words and actions should reinforce how supporting ourselves is a strength, not a weakness. To fit the pieces of our health together, here are some things to try: 

  1. Mental Fitness: The Leadership Edge
     It’s critical to acknowledge that mental fitness will look different from leader to leader, but this is a good thing. Why? Because it confirms how mental fitness can empower all of us to do something incredibly courageous: be our authentic selves. 

    A mentally fit leader can tactfully express truths, even amid conflict or adversity. This self-assurance garners trust, respect, and buy-in. It also depends on the prioritization of a real work/life balance that includes opportunities to disconnect from professional demands. One company required vacations for employees, which resulted in higher levels of “creativity, happiness (mood), and productivity.” It’s clear that quality time with loved ones, solitude, and recreation recharges our batteries for peak performance. 
  2.  Physical Activity: A Mental Health Plus
    Don’t underestimate the value of physical exercise. It's a reliable defense against mental health struggles. Built into our daily routines, activity is, according to the American Psychological Association, the key to lowering “stress, anxiety, and depression.” We owe it to ourselves to say “yes” to a walking meeting, explore a nature trail, or join a local sports league.
  3.  Nutrition: Food for Thought  
     Many leaders value the role that innovative thinking and detached reasoning play in their success. So why not keep those skills intact with wholesome, nutrient-rich meals that can fuel cognitive function and emotional balance? There’s a payoff to minimizing processed foods prepared outside the home. Plus, small sustainable swaps like infused waters instead of soda can substantially upgrade our diet quality. 
  4. Restorative Rest: Sleep for Success
    Adequate sleep is paramount for the emotional IQ and business acumen that leaders must exercise and model effectively. Although it can be difficult to establish a relaxing pre-bed routine without screen stimulation, the cost of not doing so may become a bellwether. As the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warns, sleep deficiency can increase the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. 

The Path Forward  

A commitment to leadership can also be a commitment to holistic well-being that benefits us, our careers, and our organizations. Still, let’s remember that dismantling the stigma around men's mental health requires community effort. We build a more supportive culture by: 

  • Messaging that self-care is a priority, not a luxury; 
  • Providing resources like counseling, meditation apps, and gym memberships; 
  • Celebrating and recognizing employees who model work/life balance; and 
  • Establishing clear policies that enable people to truly unplug while on leave. 

This Men's Health Month, let's all accelerate a cultural shift so that men feel empowered to prioritize their well-being without fearing personal or professional repercussions. United, we can cultivate a society where "being human" isn't a vulnerability, but a superpower. 

 

Topics: Team Culture, Culture

Brian Cole, Ph.D.

Written by Brian Cole, Ph.D.