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Men: Take charge of your health with these pro tips

A mental health and a health behavior expert share men's health tips for finding work-life balance and whole-body health
Men's health tip image, showing a boy fishing while his father holds him.

If you are a man who juggles work and family responsibilities, you may sometimes feel guilty or stressed about not being able to do everything perfectly. You may also neglect your own health and well-being, which can affect your performance and happiness in both domains. But you don’t have to choose between work and family or sacrifice your health for either. Andrew Harper, MD, and Ledric Sherman, PhD, two experts at Texas A&M Health, say there are ways to find a balance that works for you and supports your physical and mental health.

Manage your time intentionally

One of the challenges that men face when it comes to balancing work and family is the pressure to conform to traditional role expectations. These traditional expectations include being the primary source of income for their families and prioritizing work over family. This can lead to guilt, resentment or conflict when men want to spend more time with their families or when they need to take care of their own health.

“Work-life balance must be intentional. There’s always going to be more work. If you’re in health care, there’s always going to be more patients,” said Harper, a board-certified psychiatrist, clinical professor and associate department head for clinical care at the Texas A&M School of Medicine. “But if you burn yourself out, you’re not going to be able to take care of any patients. You’re not going to be able to take care of any additional work or whatever you value; you’re just not going to be able to do it.”

It’s important to manage your time intentionally and not let work take over your life. Harper emphasizes that men should set boundaries and limits on their work hours and communicate them clearly to their employers and colleagues. He suggests taking advantage of flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or telecommuting, if possible. This can help save time on commuting, reduce stress and increase productivity.

He also recommends setting aside time for personal activities that you enjoy, such as hobbies, sports or socializing with friends. This can help men relax, recharge and cope with stress.

“Men should not feel guilty or selfish for taking care of themselves, but rather see it as a way of enhancing their well-being and performance in both work and family,” Harper said.

Make healthy choices

Sherman, an associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health who focuses on chronic disease prevention, said one of the most important things men can do to improve their health is to make healthier choices in their daily lives. Many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, can be prevented or managed by following some simple guidelines:

  • Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, added sugars, salt and saturated fats.
  • Exercise regularly for at least 150 minutes per week, preferably in moderate or high-intensity activities that raise your heart rate and make you sweat. You can also do strength-training exercises twice a week to build muscle and bone mass.
  • Reduce or quit smoking or using tobacco products, which can damage your lungs, heart, blood vessels and other organs. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free support.
  • Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men. Alcohol can increase your risk of liver disease, cancer, high blood pressure and accidents.
  • Manage your stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with challenges and emotions. You can try meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, hobbies or talking to someone you trust.
  • Get enough sleep every night, ideally seven to nine hours for adults. Sleep can help your body and mind recover from the day’s activities and prepare for the next one. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, memory, concentration, immune system and metabolism.

“If possible, shop on the outside aisle of the grocery store as best as possible; that’s where most of the fresh items are,” Sherman said. “It’s the inside aisles that get us in trouble sometimes because this is where you’ll find processed foods high in sugar and sodium.” He suggests searching for phone apps to help you select the best food. There are several options that allow you to scan barcodes and food products to get nutritional ratings and suggestions for healthier alternatives, as well as tips and feedback on improving your diet.

Balancing work and family can be challenging for men, but it is not impossible. By managing your time intentionally, using technology wisely, and taking care of your health, you can find a balance that works for you and supports your physical and mental health. For more men’s health tips, check out this helpful infographic.

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