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The Most Helpful Advice I Got From My Therapist, According to 12 Men

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More men than ever before are going to therapy. While a stigma around seeking such treatment certainly still exists — and the number of men who see attending therapy as a sign of weakness is too high — this is undoubtedly good news. It highlights a promising truth: men are slowly taking their mental health more seriously. And those men can share their experiences and progress to encourage other men to follow suit.

One of the numerous benefits of therapy is that it provides lessons that can be passed on to others, nuggets of wisdom that can cause struggles to shrink and perspectives to shift. So, we asked a group of men about the most helpful advice they received from therapy. Whether their counselors suggested more self care, less self deprecation, or a combination of strategies to help them deal with their emotions, this is the advice these men have heeded in an effort to become their best selves.

1. “Take things one day at a time.”

“I decided to go to therapy because I was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was struggling to connect with my family and friends, and I knew I needed help. I was fortunate enough to find a therapist who could help me. Taking things one day at a time has taught me how to better communicate with my family and friends, and how to better deal with stress, which has made me a better father overall.” – Gerry, 34, New Zealand

2. “Prioritize self care.”

“Caring for myself gives me the ability to bring my best self to my husband and my children. It was so easy to throw myself fully into parenting and not recognizing that I was pretty burnt out. I had gotten wrapped up in taking care of everyone around me and had neglected to take care of myself, whether it was remembering to exercise, eat well, stay hydrated, spend time with friends or with my husband. Now I’m mindful to take the time for myself, even if it’s a 10-minute break to just meditate or squeeze in a quick workout. Doing so means that when stressful moments happen, I have a well to draw from within myself to tackle that challenge effectively.” – Ryan, 48, Oregon

3. “Make your kids your North Star.”

“I was 35, had just gotten divorced, and my life was in shambles. I was – in a flash – newly single with a five-year-old and a three-year-old kid. Every day presented a torrent of choices and decisions that I had to make with my co-parent. The best advice I heard from my brilliant therapist was to use the best interests of my children as my North Star. That concept has guided me in all of the decisions I’ve had to make since then. When I was tempted to be swayed by anger or jealousy, that advice provided total clarity. Now, my co-parent is my best friend, and I am a life coach and author helping men like me create positive new lives. I never miss a chance to share this advice with my clients.” – Scott, 53, Ohio

4. “Grief is love persevering.”

“I know, that’s the big quote from WandaVision, but I hadn’t seen it when my therapist said it to me after I’d lost a very dear friend. She immediately confessed to having stolen it from the show, but it’s still a very powerful piece of advice that I repeat to myself many times each day when I think about my friend. It helps me remember that the pain I’m feeling is because of how much I loved him, and how powerful our friendship was. It makes his memory feel more like a celebration than a loss. It’s amazing how one simple phrase transformed my view of the situation and, while it still hurts, I’m seeing the loss through a lens of love now.” – Chris, 50, Michigan

5. “People you disagree with aren’t your enemy.”

“My therapist told me this recently, amidst all of the political uproar during the midterm elections. I won’t get into my politics, but this advice from my therapist felt like a weight lifted off of my entire body. I had been carrying so much anger toward people I thought were just awful, and I learned that our disagreeing viewpoints were valid, but also eating me alive. When my therapist said this, it was like a lightbulb went off. There was no reason to let these people live rent free in my head as enemies who I offered way too much of my time and energy. I was able to recalibrate and mellow out quite a bit, which has been phenomenal for our family.” – Jeff, 50, Pennsylvania

6. “Avoid the word ‘should’.”

“As dads, we ‘should’ ourselves all the time. I’m actually lucky, because I got this advice after the birth of our first daughter, and now we have three. I was so worried about whether or not I was doing the right thing, the best thing, the correct thing, or the expert-approved thing as a new dad that I really strained myself mentally and physically. I was exhausted, and anxious, and just felt helpless all the time. I felt like I was doing everything wrong, until my therapist helped me rewrite my narrative to include the best interests of my daughter instead of just about everyone else. Not only did it help me become a more effective father to her, it prepared me immensely for raising our next two with much less stress.” – Alan, 54, Oregon

7. “Yelling won’t make a deaf person hear you.”

“This advice wasn’t meant to be taken literally, but it’s kind of a more relevant — for me — take on, ‘You can lead a horse to water…’ It’s also a ‘pick your battles’ kind of thing. Basically, there are some situations in which you can try, and try, and try to make another person see your point, understand your feelings, or agree with you. But sometimes they just don’t. Or won’t. And no matter how loudly you yell, they don’t hear you. It’s taken me a while to admit that I can be stubborn, and I think this advice was a catalyst for that realization. It just made sense to me. And it’s kept me from wasting time with arguments, or ruminating over people’s reactions I can’t control — which, as I’ve learned, is all of them.” – Aric, 37, Florida

8. “Let them sit with the dissonance.”

“My first therapist told me to not always try and resolve a conflict with someone on their terms. Specifically when it came to my mother and her endless thirst for drama. The phrase she used was, ‘Let her sit with the dissonance.’ Before I started therapy, if my mom got upset about something, I would be calling her, trying to make amends, groveling, whatever. Even if I wasn’t really in the wrong. So, my therapist said, ‘If she’s upset about something, let her be upset. Just let her sit with her feelings about it and eventually she will come around.’ And amazingly, it worked. I’ve used it ever since and it was a game changer in how my Mom and I deal with conflict, and how I took back some of my power in our relationship. It’s been almost 16 years, and that advice is still the biggest card in my deck.” – Kendall, 50, New York

9. “Practice makes progress.”

“I was raised hearing, ‘Practice makes perfect.’ But, as an adult, I know that’s not always true. In fact, it’s rarely if ever true. As a parent, imagine my constant stressing when nothing I did was ever perfect, no matter how hard I tried, or how many times I did it. I probably never changed a diaper perfectly. I know I didn’t always give perfect advice. But the thought of, ‘I’ve done this a million times, I should know how to do it perfectly!’ was always in my head. It drove me crazy. When my therapist hit me with that pearl, I realized that I don’t need to be chasing perfection – I need to be chasing improvement. And that’s helped me with every single aspect of my life, from my kids, to my career. I don’t need to do something perfectly, I just need to do it better than I did the last time.” – Noah, 59, Maryland

10. “Face it ’til you make it.”

“Having dealt with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder for most of my life, I’ve gotten really good at faking it. I would plaster a fake smile on my face during meetings, pretend to be happy so I wouldn’t bring others down, and just deny my own genuine struggle over and over and over. My therapist reworded that old cliché, and changed ‘fake it’ to ‘face it’, which seemed a lot more healthy and indicative of my struggle. I don’t have to wallow in my depression. It doesn’t have to define me. But I can’t pretend it isn’t there. So ‘facing it’, for me, is a way of taking charge, and taking some control over what used to have total control over me. I’m more honest, and I’m more proud of myself for continuing to grow as a man, a husband, a friend, and a father.” – Kevin, 38, Indiana

11. “You will learn to manage depression.”

“Before having kids in my late 20s, I started showing signs of anxiety, which runs in my family. I was unable to focus at work, and eventually in my own home. That’s when I knew I needed some help. I was determined to put a stop to it so I could get back to the way things were. Upon going to more and more therapy sessions, my therapist helped me realize that anxiety and depression are challenges you can live with, but never really get rid of. Therapy has given me the tools to live in that reality, managing oncoming feelings and emotions more successfully. My seven-year-old son has begun showing signs of anxiety, which makes me feel even more confident about therapy and how it will benefit him as well.” – Evan, 41, California

12. “People don’t care as much as you think they do.”

“This wasn’t said in a defeatist way or anything. I have severe anxiety and worry a lot about what other people think of me, especially if I might make a mistake or do something wrong. My therapist said this to help me realize my worries weren’t as grounded in reality as I thought. Everyone is going through it in some way or another and if you make a mistake or embarrass yourself, chances are people aren’t going to really home in on it. It’s a small piece of advice that, over time, clicked and helped me worry a bit less about what others think.” — Shane, 39, Alabama

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