Movember’s Challenge for Checking In With Male Friends During COVID-19 Isolation
Physical distancing is essential to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) — the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — but it means the things we typically rely on to connect have been lost. Just taking five minutes to touch base with a friend who’s struggling could make a massive difference to their mental health.
We all know the importance of getting our five-a-day in. Five servings of fruit and vegetables each day help to keep us physically healthy and reduce the risk of serious disease. But what about our mental health?
During this unprecedented time of isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and anxiety levels around the world are understandably high – so Movember wants you to take regular steps toward maintaining positive mental health.
Just like you need your five-a-day to stay physically healthy, we want you to take five minutes a day to look out for both your own and your friends’ mental health.
Physical distancing is essential to combat COVID-19, but it means the things men typically rely on to connect and look after each other — like going to a bar to watch the game or heading to the gym — have been lost.
While this global crisis undoubtedly affects all genders, we know men can struggle to connect and talk about how they’re feeling at the best of times. In the current situation, communication is vital for men now more than ever. That’s why Movember is encouraging everyone to take on the “Five-A-Day Challenge.”
The challenge is simple: Make a commitment to spend at least five minutes a day checking in with a friend who might be struggling. Send a text to see how they’re coping with isolation, FaceTime to see what they’ve been doing to keep busy or have a chat on the phone about what’s for dinner.
Be prepared to give them more time if you need to delve a little deeper, but a general catch-up might be all they need. Regular conversations will help you look out for the men in your lives and also keep your own mental health in check by ensuring you stay socially connected.
Movember’s Dr. Zac Seidler, clinical psychologist and men’s mental health expert says sharing our own challenges can be a good place to start.
“If we are going to look after our friends, we need to be open about sharing what’s going on in our own lives first,” he says. “Just because the sports we love are canceled and the bar is closed doesn’t mean your friends no longer care or want to see you. We’ve got more ways to connect than we know; it just takes an open mind and some inventiveness.”
“Life is going to take some strange turns for the next while; staying connected regularly with your friends is a sure-fire way to stay grounded. Adapting to this situation means putting in place a quality routine to stick to every day, not railing against it. While often helpful, pretending this is business as usual isn’t the best approach here. Make the call, connect and check-in; we’re stronger getting through this together.”
Movember wants men to make the call to look after themselves and others around them. In these incredibly tough times, it might feel uncomfortable, and it’s OK to not know what to say and not have all the answers. But this isn’t time for a stiff upper lip; it’s time to rally together.
Don’t assume your friend doesn’t want to be bothered or doesn’t want to talk about it. Just make the call — it’ll go a long way. Things may be tough right now, but if we commit to looking out for ourselves and each other, we can get through this.
What should I say?
Sparking a conversation doesn’t have to feel heavy. Try getting over that initial hurdle with some of these conversation starters:
- “Hey man, what are you up to today?”
- “How are you finding working from home?” Or, “How are you feeling going to work?” (For key workers.)
- “I’m working my way up to becoming a master chef in isolation. Have you got any recipes you’ve discovered to share?” Or, “Let’s both try our hand at making the same dish tonight.”
- “I’m seriously missing my sports fix these days. What are you watching instead?”
- “I’m struggling to get motivated to work out. Are there any apps you have been using? Do you want to schedule an at-home digital session with me?”
If you’re concerned about a friend and don’t know where to start, use the ALEC conversation model: Ask, Listen, Encourage Action, Check-in.
Start by mentioning anything different you’ve noticed. Maybe he’s dropped out of the group chat or isn’t so active on social media anymore.
“You’ve not quite seemed yourself recently. Are you OK?”
Trust your instinct. Remember, we often say “I’m fine” when we’re not. So if you think something’s wrong, don’t be afraid to ask twice.
Try to give him your full attention without interruptions. Don’t feel you have to diagnose problems, offer solutions or give advice. Just let him know you’re all ears, judgment-free. Follow-up questions are good too. They’ll help to let him know you’re listening.
“That can’t be easy. How long have you felt that way?”
Help him to focus on simple things that might improve his well-being: Is he getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating properly? Maybe there’s something that’s helped before? Suggest he tells other people he trusts how he’s feeling. This will make things easier for both of you. And if he’s felt low for more than two weeks, suggest he calls his doctor.
Suggest you catch up soon — over the phone, on FaceTime or even just a message. This will show you care. Plus, you’ll get a feel for whether he’s feeling any better. If you’re worried that somebody’s life is in immediate danger, go directly to emergency services.
Visit Movember.com/stayingconnected for more information.
Visit movember.com/stayingconnected for more information.
Struggling with anxiety due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:
- 7 Things to Do If Social Distancing Is Triggering Your Depression
- What to Do If the Coronavirus Health Guidelines Are Triggering Your Anxiety or OCD
- How Can You Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and COVID-19 Symptoms?
- How Is the New Coronavirus Treated?
- 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend
Image via Movember