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Self-care during COVID

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Have you been looking after yourself?

We’ve all been impacted by the COVID pandemic.  In the case of Prostate Cancer Support Groups, many of us haven’t been able to meet face to face. Many groups turned to Zoom (which wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as meeting in person).  In some states, as COVID was dealt with, they managed to return to face-to-face meetings.

Our group finally got to meet again – in the flesh – in February 2021, which was a great relief.  Several members commented that they noticed some of the lads were looking older and a bit rough around the edges.

Now, most of our members are on the far side of 60.  Some of them may be dealing with ongoing treatment for prostate cancer, or other health issues, or they might be caring for a family member.  So, it can be tough to remember to look after yourself and your appearance.

Why bother?

Taking care of yourself can make a big difference in how you deal with daily issues – things like COVID, relationships, cancer treatment, and your overall health.  There have been plenty of public awareness directives about looking after yourself during COVID.

I’ve noticed that some men (and not just those in support groups) have started to drop the ball around their grooming, clothing choices, and general appearance.  In general, when you see couples out and about, it is often the woman who is well-groomed.  From my perspective, it is usually the man whose appearance leaves a lot to be desired in the grooming arena.

Taking care of yourself can help to lift your mood and make you feel better within yourself.

This shift in attitude may, in turn, affect how well your relationship functions. Just because you have been in a relationship (or marriage) for years, doesn’t mean you should stop “putting in” to the relationship.

And that means putting in effort towards your appearance and grooming.  If you cannot be bothered making an effort with your appearance, your partner may take it that you cannot be bothered making an effort with the relationship.

The easy steps

Smells - Nasty & nice

How do you smell?  Are you showering every day?  Do you use deodorant?  How clean are your teeth?  Do you visit the dentist regularly?

What about wearing after-shave or a fragrance?  When was the last time you shouted yourself one?

Take your partner and go on a smelling trip in a large department store, or specialty store, to reacquaint yourself with some amazing aromas, and show you care about how you smell to your partner.

The nose and its olfactory nerves provide one of our strongest senses – smell.  Those fragrances will bring back memories, and maybe stir those inner emotions to re-kindle the relationship (you might even get lucky😊).

Hair - Where you want it & where you don't

If you are lucky enough to have plenty of hair on your head, are you keeping it clean and well-cut?  Is it greasy or full of dandruff?  Have you gone bald in the middle and adopted a comb-over or a pony tail?  Heaven forbid!

To dye or not to dye?  We can probably all remember – with horror – the sight of Rudi Giuliani facing the cameras, sweating profusely, with hair dye running down the sides of his face.  By all means, if you want to cover up your grey hair, go right ahead – but please get it done professionally.  Home hair dye treatments tend to look obvious and awful.  You can definitely do better.

You have probably discovered the sad truth – as men get older they find hair growing from places it never used to.  Do you have flourishing tufts of hair sprouting from your nostrils or ears?  Do your eyebrows look like they need a pair of hedge-clippers?

What’s happening with your facial hair?  Do you shave every day or do you just leave the stubble in place?  If you have a moustache or a beard, are you keeping them neat and clean – or could a family of small birds nest there?  Is the skin on your face so rough you could use it instead of sandpaper?  Are you making these choices deliberately – as part of your personal style – or are they just the result of not giving a damn?

Clothes - Sloppy or snappy?

How fresh and clean are your clothes?  Do you keep wearing the same things every day, whether they are clean or not?  Do you have food stains on your clothes, or are they torn?  Do your clothes fit you properly?

When was the last time you bought yourself a new pair of trousers, well-fitted jeans, a new polo shirt, new shoes, or a new jumper?  Stretch yourself and step outside your comfort zone.  Try adding some colour to your wardrobe – no boring beige/grey/brown – they’re not very uplifting colours to inspire or catch your partner’s eye.

I’m not saying you should rush out and buy some genuine Hawaiian shirts (I admit that I wear these all the time, so I have plenty of wardrobe colour).

Bringing some brightness or colour into your clothes might put you in a happier, “holiday” frame of mind.  It can be as simple as a pair of coloured socks, and there are plenty to choose from these days.

If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of Op Shops around that have a huge range of quality clothing and footwear – usually at very good prices.

Before you leave home, make sure you check yourself out in a full-length mirror.  Are your pants hanging down at the back and looking daggy?  You might need to get a new belt, or a pair of braces.  Or perhaps you could take your clothes to be altered (or mended).

Keep your shoes clean too.  If you regularly wear sneakers, give them a regular clean and deodorise them too.

If you need any ideas on the grooming front, you could check out this article – 11 Grooming and Hygiene Steps for Men Over 50.  It is an American website, but Australia has plenty of similar products to those that they mention.

More challenging steps

Weighty matters

COVID lockdowns have made it easy to turn to comfort eating (or its cousin, boredom eating).  Have the kilograms been creeping up on you, making your clothes tight and uncomfortable?  This is something we can all relate to, especially as we get older.

How is your body looking and feeling?  Are you exercising regularly?  Maybe you could see an exercise physiologist to get the right exercises to suit you, and deal with any lingering health issues.  Are you carrying extra weight (which we know is not good for our health)?

Exercise is especially important for men dealing with post-surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and ADT.  Brisk walking, swimming, bike riding, and weights can help to keep those muscles working.  Once you get in the habit, your body will feel better, and you’ll feel better mentally too.  You may find that exercise helps to lift your libido, which is a good thing, right?

Make an effort to eat healthy foods.  If you can cut back on processed foods, this will really help.  Sweets should be only an occasional treat.

To smoke or not to smoke?

Actually, that’s a silly question.  We should all know by now that smoking is really bad for our health.  Then there is the expense of buying the “cancer sticks” – couldn’t you find a better use for that cash?  Another bonus for quitting the smokes, you (and your clothes) will smell fresher, which is much more enticing for your partner.

To help you kick the habit, have a look at quit.org.au for some great ways to improve your chance of quitting for good.

Who's in control - you or the booze?

How much alcohol are you drinking?  The information is out there, so I don’t need to repeat it here.  Drinking too much may be a sign that you aren’t coping with the side-effects of your treatment.  Alcohol definitely won’t help you and it won’t help your relationship either.

Some people drink alcohol because they feel depressed.  Unfortunately, alcohol is itself a depressant, so it will only make matters worse.  If you think you may have lost the battle with booze, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation has a helpful page about drinking in home isolation – with heaps of really useful information and links.

Is your GP helping you or not?

How long have you been with your current GP?  Are they up to speed with all health issues?  Do they remind you about health check-ups and immunisations or leave it up to you?  Do they check your blood pressure?  If they aren’t proactive about your health, maybe it’s time to look around for someone else.  You need a GP who you can work with and trust.  Taking care of yourself is vital if you want to maintain your health and wellbeing, and that of your relationship.

Remember that your health records belong to you.  If you have any tests done – such as blood tests for PSA – make sure that you are given a copy.  Keep your eye on results and watch how they’re tracking.  No GP is 100% perfect or guaranteed to notice everything.  It’s your health, so make sure you know what’s going on with it.

Relationships in general

For men and their partners, facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, deciding on treatment, and dealing with the aftermath of those treatments, will put any relationship under duress.

I know we mention this site a lot, but the Men’s Line website is full of fabulous advice and help for men.  If you struggle with relationships – either the one that you’re in now or relationships more generally – Men’s Line has lots of help on offer.  You could start by checking out their Men and Relationships page.

Being a carer and dealing with prostate cancer as well will obviously put you under additional pressure and stress.  A really useful source of information and support for all carers is Carers Australia, a non-government organisation.

Relationships Australia is another great go-to resource.  Their website, like Men’s Line, has so many links and practical information on things like communicating with your partner, relationship breakdown, family violence and loneliness.

Looking for a new relationship

For single men, dealing with prostate cancer and all that it entails is a different ball game.  I don’t profess to have all the answers, and I don’t know how to go about getting back into a relationship, if that is what you want.

Having said that, if you are getting back into the dating game, or you’ve put out the word that you are back on the market, self-care is crucial.  You will need to demonstrate that you care about yourself, your appearance, and how you present to your future date.

[A quick note about one danger to avoid when looking for new love – many people have fallen prey to online scams.  If you are checking out dating websites, or connecting with prospective dates online, make sure you read this Scamwatch article first.]

Keeping connected

Taking care of yourself and your relationship takes time, commitment, and love.  You need to love and care for yourself, and this shows in how you treat yourself, and how you take care of any relationship you are in.

If you are single and you don’t want to get into another relationship at the moment, you still need to ensure you’re staying connected.  Loneliness and social isolation (not helped by COVID) can be very destructive.  Keep in touch with friends and family – including those great blokes from the Support Group!

Joining a local Men’s Shed can be a great way to meet new friends and form a supportive network.  You could learn new skills, or share your own skills with other men.

COVID lockdowns have a silver lining because they force us inside for extended periods, which means we have a great opportunity to look at our lives (and our bodies) really closely.  We can come up with strategies to make ourselves, our health, and our relationships work better every day!

Drawing on the writings of Sylvia Silk, and her piece on the The Silk Touch, the following statements are good to keep in mind.  Her full piece is in the link here.

  1. Neglect:   Ignoring your body.  A slow, steady, silent deterioration that takes years to detect.  Requires no effort, no time, no money in the present, but will in the future because it leads to …
  2. Breakdown:  Consequence of neglect.  Feelings: hopelessness, resignation. Behaviour: acts in the extreme, has difficulty problem solving, life gets predictable and boring.  A breakdown in one area affects the total being: physical, mental, and spiritual.  Denial – you are blind to your own deterioration.
  3. Restoration:  Requires maximum effort, time, and money.  Symptoms of breakdown may only be noticed in one area (e.g. physical), but restoration will be needed for the total being (physical, mental and spiritual).  Must find the right tools for restoration in each area and the proper application of those tools.  Unfortunately, the original can never be duplicated.

Important Note

If it exhausts you to even think about doing any of this, you may find it is time to get some professional help.  Serious lack of energy and poor self-care can be associated with depression.

If this sounds like you, please seek help.

1 thought on “Self-care during COVID”

  1. Hi Alan & Fiona,
    Great news to hear that the Group is now ‘up and running’ again and I hope that all members are going well, particularly in these difficult times.
    I enjoyed this article generally and the GP helping item in particular – I think it’s time for a shake-up of mine who seems to be hiding somewhat behind TeleHealth – it’s like a ruddy firewall!
    All the best and kind regards,
    Michael

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