How to Prioritize your Mental Health as a Dad
A Q&A with Zak Williams, Co-Founder & CEO of PYM (Prepare Your Mind), Mental Health Advocate, and Father.
It can be difficult as a dad to find time for yourself because it feels like there are so many responsibilities pulling at you in every direction – but taking care of yourself physically and mentally isn’t selfish; it’s necessary if you want to take care of those around you too.
It’s very hard to be present and calm when feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. In general, Dads (and all parents) need to prioritize their mental health so they can grow the capacity to show up for their family and the people they care about.
We asked Zak Williams about his perspective on breaking the stigma around men’s mental health and to share his mental health experiences as a father of two.
How can we better address the needs of dads and their mental health?
The first thing we can do is identify the biases that make up the stigma associated with mens’ mental health and then share and have open dialogues about those biases. From there, it’s important to acknowledge what we can do to break down those biases with simple, repeatable steps. Finding opportunities to address the stigma through everyday rituals is how we as a community help develop and foster healthy relationships with dads and the people we love.
How do you manage your mental health as a dad?
When it comes to managing my mental health as a dad, I always make sure to check in with myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed so that I can ensure I have an understanding of what it is I need. Whether it’s food, social connection, fresh air, or time to myself, it’s that “self-diagnostic” that I do that gives me the opportunity to commit time to self-care. I generally need to do this at least once a day.
Should men manage their mental health differently than women?
Men can certainly have identical and similar approaches to managing mental health than women but it’s important to note that in my male-focused communities and subcultures, mental health is still quite stigmatized. As a result of that, often groups or communities of men don’t have healthy or productive ways of resolving conflict, trauma, or dysregulating feelings. Acknowledging that stigma and finding novel ways to break it down are two key actions that need to be prioritized for men in particular.
How can women best support men in their mental health?
Women can support men in their mental health by establishing safe spaces and opportunities for the men they care about to be open, safe, and vulnerable. It’s also essential for women to challenge men on what they might view as normalized or acceptable behavior that might otherwise be masking or coping mechanisms for deeper, underlying issues relating to mental health. The truth of the matter is that I think all genders need to be patient in learning about the issues and biases that other genders experience. Learning takes time and certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
How do you balance running a business and being a dad?
Launching PYM as a dad required me to take a step back and question what it meant to be an entrepreneur while being present for my family. Work and life balance is really hard when it comes to start ups and I found myself having to be very conscious when it came to making time for my son, and now my daughter, every single day. If I don’t consistently prioritize making time for my family I end up losing that vital connection with the people that matter most in my life.
What are a few tips on how dads can prioritize their mental health?
- Make a list of the things you appreciate and keep that list close to visit whenever you need.
- Check in with yourself every day. That personal check-in is essential in working out what we might need to best take care of ourselves.
- Understand the biases that make up the stigma that prevent us from taking care of ourselves or others. Acknowledgement of these biases helps break them down and ultimately helps us be freer from the burdens of stigma.
- Go easy on yourself and the people you care about. Life is stressful and being critical or overly tough on ourselves and others can make things way more stressful than they need to be.
- Try not to take things personally. Figuring out how to do this well will be very freeing.
Healthy babies begin with healthy parents. No matter what parenthood throws at you, you deserve to have something on hand to help you through it. Get the Gift of Good Mood with PYM.