Welcome to Part 2 of this episode with Billy and Simon Rinne. Simon is the founder of Mindful Men, a therapy practice that is dedicated to supporting men with mental illness and disability. He is also a licensed social worker.
Simon’s passion for mental health comes from living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, and burnout throughout the last 30 years. 2022 marks 10 years since Simon finally opened up and got help for his mental illness, and he is here today to share his story and inspire other men to share theirs.
Billy and Simon discuss:
–”Footy” and “spray” and what these terms had to do with mental health
–How he feels about the term “snowflake” in the mental health space
–When it comes to fatherhood, where are men struggling based on what they share with Simon?
–Australia’s CoVid restrictions and its impact on men’s mental health
–His advice to men and their family members
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Billy: Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Simon: This is what I love more from this guy's practice so much is because it's not just the meditation which he can do. It's not just using your five senses to ground yourself. It's the deepest stuff, the reflective stuff that once the guys are ready to do that work. That's when you see the biggest change. Some guys still like the Band-Aid fix like I did all those years.
Like to go in there and hope that someone just waves magic wand and fixes me. And for some guys, it does work for a little while. But then I ended up coming back. But once these particular guys who really dive deep, they are the ones you can see it in their eyes over the wakes by the end of the 10th session or sorry, they're like, you know, I can do this on my own for a while.
I've got this. They're no longer in constant crisis mode, and that's where you want to go with therapy. But it takes a bit of work to do that.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. I'm your host, Billy Lahr and educator, personal trainer, meditation teacher and Overthinker who talks to experts who specialize in social and emotional learning, mindfulness, physical and emotional wellness, cultural awareness, finances, communication, relationships, dating and parenting all in an effort to help us better reflect, learn and grow.
So we can live a more purpose filled life. Take a deep breath, embrace the present and journey with me through The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy Lahr. Thank you for tuning in wherever you are. The purpose of the show is to provide a platform that gives people the space and permission to share their expertise and life experiences in order to help others navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half.
And remember this free and useful information is helpful to people of all ages. Wisdom isn't about one's age. Wisdom comes from our ability to reflect, learn and grow from our own life experiences, while also learning from the experiences of others, regardless of what stage of life we are in. Because you just never know what life is going to throw at you.
So there just might be a story or two from past episodes that help you feel better prepared for the challenges you might face in life or that you're facing right now. Whether those challenges be your emotional, mental and or physical health, your relationships with others, including your partner and your children, your career, whatever curveballs life is throwing your way right now, just know that you are not alone in your experience.
And the conversations I'm having here are with people who have been there before or have done the research to help you navigate these situations with more awareness, openness, curiosity and compassion so you can live a more purpose filled life. So if you're looking for some ways to help, you better navigate whatever you've got going on in your life from someone who has been through it before, check out some of our other episodes at www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com or wherever you get your podcasts.
This is part two of my conversation with Simon Renee. So if you missed last week's episode, go back and listen to part one first so you understand why you're falling in love with Simon's accent. Simon I have a lot to talk about when it comes to men's mental health. And as you can imagine, if you listen to my episode 66 rant about Chelsea Fagan's comment about No more men talking mental health on podcasts.
I wanted to double down on this conversation of men talking mental health on podcasts. So in today's episode, Simon shares with us how he helps men struggling with their mental health navigate fatherhood, how the strict COVID guidelines in Australia had an impact on people's mental health there, and what advice he has for those stubborn men out there who just continue to refuse to seek mental health support.
So here we go with part two of my conversation with Simon Renee. Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I am here with Simon Renee. He is a licensed social worker down in Australia. He is also the host of the Mindful Men podcast. You can check out all of his information in the show notes. Simon I really enjoy your podcast.
You and I actually had Dr. Leena Haji on our podcast. She's a blast. I really enjoyed having her on the show and I get to be a guest on your show, so I encourage everybody to check out Simon's podcast. You can get those two episodes if you're looking kind of for a feeler there. And I would also recommend this episode, too, because in one of your episodes you talked about a spray that one of the footy coaches launched on his team.
So we're dealing with two sports terms that I imagine you can make sense of for us Americans out there who have no idea what you mean by a footy and no idea what you mean by spray. But they are crucial to understanding this dynamic within sport. So can you talk about what happened in that scenario and why you felt the need to talk about it in that episode?
Simon: In Australia we've got multiple types of footy, so so we've got football, so Australian Rules Football, AFL, that's what I grew up playing and following and stuff like that. If you ever watch that on TV, it's like American football, but without the pads essentially. But you put a big round oval. Players can come at you from any direction and hit you and so forth.
But we also, depending on where you live in Australia. So I live in Queensland now, so we've got rugby league and rugby union which are also referred to as football as well, but they're like the traditional two teams going at each other face on bit more like American football. We refer everything to American football because I guess that's the only type of footy you have over there.
But then we've got soccer as well, but we some people, some parts of Australia call that football as well. So depending on where you are, depends on what kind of football you're talking about. But I talk about Australian rules football. So growing up in Adelaide, that's Adelaide is a AFL town. It's a, it's Australian Rules Football town. I remember I think it was last year when I was watching the football or footy and there was this big thing in the media about one of the teams in the, I guess the national competition, the national level competition.
They got absolutely smashed. They lost by 100 points or so, which is a belting basically. And what happened was, is like the coach went into the changerooms after the game and gave his team a spray and a spray in sporting terms and particularly Australia is like he yelled at them. He basically went off his head, he blew his lid off and he was just ripping into them like you wouldn't believe.
That's what a lot of Australians mean by when they say, Oh, the coach gave you a spray or your dad gave you a spray or the teacher gave you a spray. It's someone that has just lost their cool and had a go at you. And so it had me reflecting of my own 40 days when I was a kid.
And if we were mucking around at training or we weren't playing the way that the coach had wanted us to play on the day, the coach would give you a spray, but also my dad would give me a spray as well, like and my brothers, if we were mucking around and he could see that we weren't paying attention to the coach or he could say that we'll messing around at training.
He'd give us a spray as well. And it reminded me of just growing up and what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a spray. And, you know, you feel very small in the moment and a lot of the time you just kids particularly just mucking around and playing around. But then what was interesting in this AFL situation was some of the players it actually impacted their mental health and they came out and said like need to professional players, they've already lost by 100 points.
They already know that. Yeah, they might not be in the team next week and when you're not in the team you generally don't get paid like get paid to play professional sports or it might impact their sponsorships and all that type of stuff. So it's, you know, similar to professional sports across the world. If you're not playing up to standard, then it can impact you financially, but mentally, physically as well.
And so I remember like it came out in the media, somehow everything gets leaked these days in the media, and it got leaked out in the media. Some of the players were pretty upset by getting the spray, and it just had me reflecting on this all growing up in the eighties and nineties and getting sprayed and then, you know, it was okay to get a spray and then you had to suck it up.
You couldn't retaliate to the spray and, and all this type of thing. And it was this whole designing Men for the future. But then what happened was, interestingly, like a lot of the commentators who had grown up playing footy in the eighties and nineties, so very tough period of time to play football is they were coming out and saying, well, it's a spray really where we should be going in 2021.
So this was last year and it wasn't so particularly relevant. And I was thinking, well actually I've got them 2020 so maybe it was this year. I don't know. I've lost track of my years as I get older. But anyway, this year or last year when it happened, I think it was this year, yeah. Is it relevant in today's football and in today's landscape as well?
And because, you know, you think about a professional football club or sporting club, there's all these mindset coaches and mindfulness coaches and all this type of stuff. When you're spraying someone, whether or not they're an elite athlete or kid, how much more damage are you doing than benefit? Is it more of a matter of waiting until things have calmed down or and reflecting on that and going, okay, how can we do better next time?
As opposed to just ripping them a new one? So just have me reflecting on all this type of stuff and reflecting on my own footy days. And then and even I guess a little bit in parenting as well. So like often, like when I was growing up and me and my brothers, if we messed around at home, Dad would just automatically yell or spray in that just like, you know, stop doing that or whatever.
And I found myself doing that a few times with my kids as well. Like that automatically you just go into this mode. I think whether it is my dad or whether or not it was the footy coaches and all that and I'm like, Nah, surely there's a better way of doing it. So I just felt like talking about that and just adding to the discourse around whether or not just blasting people because things haven't worked out for us either personally, professionally, is that the way of the future?
Should we be doing better? And I think particularly the football codes, it can be done better. I guess it leads to this whole concept around when a football player gets injured or a late athlete gets injured, like physically and they take time out of the sport. You know, the media is like, oh, you know, when's they're coming back from their knee reconstruction, when they coming back from that shoulder reconstruction or whatever.
And it's very normal to talk about that thing, that stuff in the media. But when an athlete says that taking time out for mental health, it's very hush hush. I just wanted to add to the conversation around normalizing mental health discussions. And, you know, like in 2022 or 2021, whenever that football game was mental health impacts about the way that we interact with our coaches or teachers or parents or whoever like it does impact us.
And the more we talk about it and vocalize it, the more normal we can make it. And so I look then it's less of a taboo and less of a shameful thing and less of a stigma thing. And it's just more normal, I think is what I've tried to do a lot with Mindful men is just normalizing mental health discussions.
Billy: Well, know reminds me, too, of the gymnast Simone Biles when she stepped out of some events in the Olympics for her mental health and she took a lot of heat for that. I'll be honest. Like I remember thinking to myself initially, it just kind of feels like she's given up on the team. I had that initial reaction, too, and I talked about that with my best friend who has a PhD in forensic neuropsychology, and we just kind of process that together.
I'm like, Am I overreacting to this? Because selfishly, I wanted to see Simone Biles perform because she is elite. She is at the top of her skill. And it was like I wanted to see that. And so then selfishly, I was putting my desire over her mental health. And we just kind of process through that and, you know, had some of the similar conversations that you're mentioning, too.
And it leads me to, I believe you talked about that we then define people or we then label people as being snowflakes, right? That because they are addressing their mental health, that that means that they're soft. And I know you talked about that in that episode, too, and you shared something that I thought was very interesting. What was that?
Simon: Oh, he's taking me back a few episodes now. Kind of think of, as I just said, I think the snowflake stuff comes around. It was those commentators. So from memory and the commentators were all around, it was divided half and half. So some of these hard players, from when they grow up playing, they're like, It's okay in 20, 22 or 20, 20.
I want to take time out from it. That's okay. And that really encouraged me. But then there was the other side of the campus. I know this is this whole snowflake mentality. Like we all have to be touchy feely around each other and we can't show emotions. And just showing your emotions is a new fad and all of this type of stuff.
And I think the whole snowflake thing comes from I think that old school mentality that again, we need to suck it up and we need to carry on. We can show that. And as you were just talking about, it had me reflecting on when I go to the gym, like I'm not an elite athlete whatsoever. I'm hardly a novice at flying beginner, and so I need to do more work.
But if I go to the gym and my if I'm not mentally present in the gym workout, I don't perform that don't hit that five K on the treadmill, I don't lift the ten k weights or whatever. I might stop halfway through a set, but my mindset is just not there. And mental health does that to you when your mental health isn't present or well and your mental health, you're not performing in any environment, let alone the sports field.
Like I work when I burnt out and or like when I was struggling with dark depression or like at the start of this year even, I just wasn't there presently in my work. And so I wasn't performing at work. And so it's the same at school, my darkest days and my teenage years. I was going through this hugest depression ever, and so I wasn't really performing at school.
And so the more we can normalize this discussion around mental health, it's not so much about being snowflakes, it's just about looking after yourself. So no one would bat an eyelid if you put all your hamstring off or you broke your leg or broke your arm or whatever, don't care. But if you say, Look, I can't perform because of my mental health, that's actually a viable thing because I've been there and I don't know.
And you know, you talk about it in that episode that we had a chat with, You know, you got to a stage where you needed some time out as well. And it's because we're not robots, we're human. And so like when our mental health or physical health is not up to standard or it's not working as intended, the only way sometimes to deal with that is time out.
And so I loved when she said, I'm going to take some time out for my mental health because she was just normalizing that discussion. And so what that does is it prolongs her career because she can go away, take some time out, develop some more tools around mental strength and all that type of stuff, and then have maybe an extra five, ten years on her career as opposed to just burning out completely and just as a young athlete as well.
So I think I commended her and I think the snowflake stuff does come up a bit, particularly in the social media and media around that. People are using mental health as a copout. They don't want to perform, but they actually do. It's just that they're in a space where they just can't physically and mentally to the standard that we probably expect them, whether it's that elite athletes in the Olympics or if it's in professional sport or even if it's just now jobs and stuff like that.
Billy: So then how do you see Australia's love for sports play out and fatherhood?
Simon: Yeah, I guess we touch on touched on a little bit there in terms of getting that spry and stuff like that when you're younger and then we're like, I may spring my kids, like when I've done something wrong and I'm like kind of catching myself in the moment, going, That's not the dad that I want to be. And I talk to a lot of dads these days and in both my therapy but also in my social space.
And a lot of them say that they want to be dads, kind of like for the dad that they never have or the male role models I never had growing up. And for me, a lot of it is being I want to be for my kids, the kind of guy that I never had in terms of talking about mental health because I didn't have that with my dad or my brothers or anybody like that.
Nobody actually. And so when I spray my kids for doing something wrong and it's not anything necessarily them doing something wrong, it's a lot of the time it's me just going into automatic mode with my mental health, particularly my OCD. If I see them doing things in patterns or is that just trigger my OCD, that's when I just go to automatic spray mode.
And the thing is just a lot of it's just luck fault with that. So a lot of our parenting style is a lot of the stuff that we've taken on from our parents even are we don't like it or want to do that. But I think for a lot of dads and a lot of mums as well, it's challenging those things that we all grow up getting the girls or the Smacks or whatever.
And so, you know, taking that sport kind of mentality, that coach mentality and working with my son, particularly because he's just starting to experience soccer, they like soccer at the moment. And so if he gets things wrong, like I'm not, it's he just will just play around that and we'll work out a new strategy as well. And the same for my daughter when she picks up sport as well.
I mean, a lot of our philosophy has been swimming, so it sits around not yelling at them because they're not doing the strokes that they're meant to be doing at swim classes. Is it actually just being happy that they're in the water and doing something as opposed to nothing? And so, yeah, there's a lot of parents and myself particular that are just keen to explore different ways of parenting based on our childhood and based on our sporting experiences and based on our schooling experiences as well.
We're in a progressive period of time, I think, particularly with parenting, and I think it comes from a lot of people's own traumas growing up of what they experienced, particularly those 8970s as well with some of the guys that I work with. Yeah.
Billy: Well, even that visual of the word spray, like when I think of that, I think like you're getting sprayed with spit because someone is so furious with you that they're just letting you have it. And part of that is the spray spit that comes at you. So that's such an interesting choice of words that that you guys have in order to describe that.
When you're talking to guys about fatherhood and where they're struggling. You touched on on a little bit, but, you know, where are you seeing them? What are they coming to you with? And then how do you help them navigate that? What's skills are you providing them in terms of, hey, here's how you can be a better father? Not based on because I'm such a great father, but based on what I'm hearing from you.
Billy: Here are some of the things that you're saying you're concerned with. So you could try this skill. You could try this skill. I imagine it's carte blanche in the sense that it's individualized.
Simon: Yeah, A lot of it comes around in relationships like connecting with partners and then sometimes that diverts to the kids as well. Like there was one dad that I work with who really just didn't have a connection with his two daughters. And he had a family that had two. He had four kids, but two. He was separated over 20 years.
And so he had a lot of connection with the first two, but not so much the second time. And so that was just a lot of trying to connect him, find that joyful things that they can both share and start to build that loving relationship. But then that also came with a lot of historical trauma associated with that.
And that was the driving force, the relationship breakdown with this child, similar with husband, wife type stuff or partner partner type stuff. It's how can we address the trauma or abuse or anything like that has come through through the years, which is now impacting the relationship with that other person. So relationships are huge and as often stuff has happened in the past that they just can't let go of or that they're constantly going over in their mind or whether one guy who every time something happens in his relationship, he feels like at the start of the relationship again at that moment where he did stuff up and X years ago, he's holding on to that. And he uses that as his benchmark of a relationship of where he's gone wrong. And Justin continually applies this essentially shame on himself because of what had happened previously. And so this relationship stuff often yeah, intertwined with abuse, trauma, historical stuff as well baggage if you like to call it like that. The other one is identity as well as who we are as guys and dads and partners as well, because my daughters just turned three yesterday actually.
And so we're coming out of those baby years into like the end of the toddler years and into young child years now with our family. And so for the first three, four or five years, when you have kids, you're on autopilot. Everything's Groundhog Day. You lose touch of the socialization part of you. Instead of going out for dinner at 5:00, you're mindful of the time because you need the kids in bed by certain time.
Otherwise, if they're not in bed Boston time, they have a rubbish not sleep and then you're all wrecked the next day. So you're on a very strict routine with a lot of families, a lot of guys. And I felt this myself going through my early parenting journey is you just kind of lose touch with that identity of who you are and because you feel like you're serving others constantly serving the kids, particularly like 99% of the time, and then even with your partner, you might, you know, disconnect a little bit there.
So you've got to bring date nights back in to rekindle the relationship stuff with your partner. And so those are the Turkomans. It's that identity. And then, yeah, the relationships with those around you as well. And so because I do a mindfulness based practice, it's the strategies are all very similar regardless of what kind of issues we're talking about.
Some guys, there's a lot more talking involved and you've got to really dive deep into all the stuff like the encyclopedia of all the history and to really understand who triggers who, what triggers what, how they've been resilient in the past. But other guys, I don't need to go through sessions and sessions and sessions of talking. They can get closer to those tools and tips earlier.
So a lot of it is grounding ourselves in the moment. A lot of it is being just present in the moment because we're often thinking about myself and clear to think about all the other things that we've got to do in life rather than just the kids in front of us, particularly for dads like the kids in front of us, the wife in front of us.
If can be more present on that stuff than the stuff that happened years ago or yesterday or weeks ago, all the stuff that's got might happen in the future. It becomes less important. And so we enjoy more of the here and now. And so it's just helping the guys with breathing techniques, mindfulness based techniques. It's around using our five senses just to ground ourselves.
The next part is getting it out of the thought cycles that we, the guys that I work with, often find themselves in the constantly ruminating about stuff. And so it's simple tips and tricks, like writing stuff down, journaling. A lot of guys thought of journaling, but they don't feel like it's a good thing to do. But then when I encourage them to do it, like they find it really beneficial to get the words out of their heads, and then I can see them for what they are.
They're just words that not if you try to outthink stuff, it goes faster and faster and faster. So these are some basic tips. And then with the identity stuff, particularly, I do a lot of values based work. So reconnecting guys with their core values or helping them identify their core values and going, okay, what makes you get out of bed and what makes you, you and that stuff?
Once we can get through identifying the core values, we can start to reconnect them with their true sense of self or their authentic self, which is really code to see that growth once they start to go, Oh yeah, I value love and respect and connectedness, and then that helps drive them with values based goals. So, so feeling lonely or isolated because I've lost a social circle because they've been a dad for the last five years in that automatic kids mode, like baby mode, then it's using those values to push themselves to go and join a sports club or an art club or go and join a gym or whatever it is that was.
Billy: Made up to meet people.
Simon: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Use that type of stuff. And the values helps drive that helps encourage, that helps give them the confidence to do that because when they constantly going, okay, I'm living by my values now, then it helps them to push themselves out of their comfort zone. And so we're constantly looking at that type of stuff. And then when things go wrong, because it never been therapy, like you have one good wake and then you might have a bad week.
And so we can use the bad week to go, okay, what was happening in that wake that triggered you against your values? What Will clashed against your values? But then conversely, on the good week, we can guy, what were you doing this week that you were living by your values and made that week really good. And so it's this constant like you know reflective process which is really great in the model.
This is why I love them often as I practice so much is because it's not just the meditation which you can do. It's not just using your five senses to ground yourself. It's the deepest stuff, the reflective stuff that once the guys are ready to do that work, that's when you see the biggest change. Some guys still like the bandaid fix like I did all those years.
Like to go in there and hope that someone just waves magic wand and fixes me. And for some guys it does work for a little while. But then I ended up coming back. But once these particular guys who really dive deep, they're the ones you can see it in their eyes over the wakes by the end of the 10th session or sorry, they're like, You know, I can do this on my own for a while.
I've got this. They're no longer in constant crisis mode, and that's where you want to go with therapy, but it takes a bit of work to do that.
Billy: It's interesting that you bring that up because I went twice a month for six months and once I had finally developed a mindfulness practice, then I was able to stop going to therapy but continue the mindfulness practice and then I would use therapy as sort of an oil change, you know, that maybe I would go to on occasion.
And now that I'm in this life transition, I've talked about better help on here a couple of times and I'll link the referral code that I have in the show notes, because just with the amount of things that I'm going through and they're not life crises, I mean, I'm traveling the world right now, but I'm transitioning in my life right out of this career in education, into the great unknown.
And so there's a lot of stress that comes along with that. For the first year, I didn't do coaching. I didn't do therapy because I'm like, I just wanted to have the experience. But now recognizing I have a lot of thoughts and all this, I have a lot of feelings when it comes to this transition. So I need to talk to somebody about that now.
I have the mental awareness to do that, and you and I both know that men are a bit stubborn. So what advice do you have for family members and significant others when it comes to initiating these conversations in a way that doesn't put the other person on the defensive?
Simon: That's a hard one because I was there like when before I started my own mental health therapies ten years ago, I was that defensive one. I was the one deflect and say, It's not me, it's you. And it's different for each person as well. You now do it on the head there with inside, like the mental awareness like that, your awareness that you had something mentally.
And that's where I'm at at the moment as well in my own journey when things are wrong and not going so good or bad or whatever, I've got that awareness now to go. I need to get help. I need to go talk to someone about this. Ten years ago, 12 years ago, 20 years ago, I didn't have that.
A mental awareness didn't know what. I just try to outthink it myself. I tried to work for myself, but what I keep coming back to with a lot of this comes up a lot, this question, and I just keep coming back to just holding space and it's the best thing any therapist can do it. Any person can do it.
If you're having a mental health discussion and someone comes up to you guys, I'm really struggling and you're not a therapist or whatever, or your brother or sister or your mom or dad is not a therapist. Just hold the space. Just be quiet. Shut up. You know, you don't talk because you're not there to solve anything necessarily. You might help solve something.
You might give a different perspective, but a lot of it is just them wanting to talk and just offload. And we all feel that when we've offloaded something in therapy or to a good friend or family member, we just feel so much better. And so just holding space, just being quiet, being comfortable in the uncomfortable moments, all at moments where they awkward pauses and you're not sure, like a lot of us, like to fill the gaps when there's a pause in the conversation, but it's just about holding space.
So you just picture yourself just holding on to it like this. I have my hands out in front of me and and say, Just hold the space, Don't fill it with anything, just hold it. And so that's the best tip. And I do it all the time. My therapy. I'm a therapist and I don't have all the answers.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. I don't want to know all the answers because my brain is already full. But I love holding space. I just love sitting there in that quiet and letting the guys just offload whatever it is and there's no bias on it. There's no I'm not going to shame anybody for whatever and then just let them fly, like just let them talk.
But if you're in the discussion and all sudden you start getting uncomfortable and that can happen because some topics do trigger us, myself included. Just say just be honest with the person. Just say, Hey, I'm not sure if I'm the right person for this particular discussion, but maybe I can help you connect with someone. Maybe it's your doctor.
Maybe I can take it to the doctor or help you booking a doctor's appointment. Just go and talk to them because doctors are fantastic and they're impartial to your family and friends who know often a lot about you. And they sometimes some of them gossip around you back as well. So you got to feel safe. Whoever you talking to, there's mental health hotlines available, particularly Australia.
We've got hotlines you can call like men's law. And for example, there's a dedicated men's line. We can talk to people I found out about one other day called Friend Law. I didn't even know that existed. But it's if you're feeling just lonely and just want to talk and people will be on the other end of the phone holding space for you just to talk.
And these are for free in Australia. You can just call them up. So these are wonderful thing. But for men particularly, just recognize and yourself. If you're about to unload or be, if you're holding space for someone who's about to unload, just recognize that it's okay to be not okay. It's not weight to speak up about mental health.
We've done it now over countless hours. You know, you and me, we barely know each other. You know, we've connected over the Internet and say, Hey, let's have a chat about men's mental health and mindfulness. And it's easy. We just shown how easy it is to just talk about whatever there's no judgment. It's just talking and it's fantastic.
But then if you want to take it further, that's when therapy is really useful. If you want to develop those mindfulness practices, therapies, fantastic. For that. There's a wealth of podcasts around or internet YouTube stuff. You can get a lot of stuff for free these days. You don't actually have to book in for a doctor. But also if you're sitting there and guys, particularly if you're sitting there going, I'm about to go to the pub again this week and drama stories, or I know that it's just feels good to go to the pub and just get wasted and not think about this type of stuff.
Think about the two, three, four or 500 bucks you might spend at the pub, and instead of spending at the pub, invest that same amount of money you can get probably to psychology or social work counseling sessions in Australia about subsidized psychology and counseling and social work sessions so that you might even get three sessions with the subsidize and just recognize how good it feels for having a long term fix as opposed to the bandaid fix at the pump.
The pub is fun to go to. Like, don't get me wrong, you know, we've both been there.
Billy: Right? And there's a social element to the pub, but as long as you recognize it as a social element and not a bandaid to whatever is ailing you at the time mentally right, emotionally at the time. Because if you're going there on a regular basis, I personally have had an issue with having a beer with dinner every night or the Miami wine culture.
I've talked about that before. I have an issue with that because in my opinion it is a masking something. Right? And we talked about that with Kari Schwear in episode 61. If people want to go check that out, better help is $180 a month for four sessions. I look back at how much I spent on alcohol in my twenties and it makes me cringe when I look back on it.
It is just preposterous how much personal and mental development I could have done had I just invested in my social emotional learning, my social emotional development. And guys, if you're out there, especially you guys who are in your twenties who already know everything, you're ten feet tall and bulletproof. At this point in time, you'll recognize that you may look back on some of the things that you're doing now and be like, Maybe I wish I wouldn't had done that.
To me, that's kind of the power of regret. I always think regret gets a bad rap, but when I look back on some of the things, there are absolutely things that I regret, but then I'm able to process them. I'm able to reflect, learn and grow and move forward in a way where I can say, All right, I don't want to do that again, or that's something I didn't do, and it's something that I'm going to take advantage of now that I have the means that I have the resources.
And if you don't have the means and if you don't have the resources, get in contact with one of us and will direct you to the resources that are manageable for you. And that in turn might be an investment in itself that will pay dividends in and of itself so that you're not still wallowing in this funk that a lot of us are wallowing in following COVID.
And you and I are right now in the same hemisphere. We're in places where the COVID protocols were the strictest in the world, far more than they were in the United States. So I'm curious, what sort of impact has that had on men's mental health down under based on your conversations?
Simon: Yes, George, absolutely huge. And I think one of the good things that has come out of COVID is this mental health discussion, because before that we weren't really openly talking about it, but all of a sudden Harvard helped. You know, we had lockdowns. I think the first lockdown that we had five or six months or so, and I was probably in a bit longer because we had two young kids think our daughter was like one or under one.
So we had a bubble in that period. So we were home a lot more, a lot harder than other people. And even in the work that I was doing at the time, because I worked in the disability sector, they consider that highly vulnerable. So we went into lockdown a little bit earlier and for longer in terms of our work, whereas other workplaces were opening up a little bit quicker.
So just the impact of that first lockdown and then we had a few subsequent lockdowns, I'm thinking people in Melbourne living in Melbourne, they had some of the world's longest lockdowns as well, so they came out a lot longer after we came out of ours. And so it just accelerated this mental health discussion that the isolation that came from lockdown and not being out of go anywhere or except for to your local grocery store and as and only in singles and not in pairs or family units and all that type of stuff, people just found a lot more comfort and just saying, hey, I'm struggling.
And even workplaces that were actively asking people how you're going harm you are connecting.
Billy: Really, really. So workplaces were being intentional about asking their employees, Hey, how are you handling this work From home situation?
Simon: Yeah, absolutely. So they're always in the public service. So the Australian Public Service got government work for 15 years finishing this year. And when we went into COVID before that work from home was a taboo thing. No one was really working from home unless you like the senior leaders. For some reason they got to do it. But I would then tell everyone else, like the parents like me, Now you can't do that.
You have to go to an office and all that type of stuff, which is just B.S., really. But what we found is once lockdown happened, our productivity went through the roof. Our agency said, Wow, this is an amazing thing. Everyone's productivity was good and it was good. Like, I love working from home because I guess I'm a bit socially awkward and I guess the social anxiety in May comes out of law.
And so I like having my own space and for people like me, I could work better hours. I could work at 7 a.m. in the morning to 3 p.m. instead of doing the traditional 9 to 5 and an office, which we would tend to do. And it was just amazing. But then a discourse around mental health also changed that There was a lot more managers going in, Zoom meetings or whatever, or teams meetings going, Is everyone okay?
What can we do? And then they started pets coming into meetings and kids coming into meetings, and it became more of a family friendly environment. And I think that contributed to the improved productivity. But what was interesting is when lockdown finished and all of a sudden people weren't going flocking to the cities, they were saying, Oh, we really appreciate it.
Like work from home. And the government was saying, but we really want people to go back to the cities because the all the businesses in the cities didn't have the clientele, the cafes weren't getting the coffee. People in the mornings and lunch, you know, And so it was really impacting on that. That's when we first started noticing, I guess, the economy impacts of lockdowns.
I mean, we couldn't get things like toilet paper for months on end. And I'm not sure if you saw the media over there, but Australians went crazy for toilet paper. So was people.
Billy: Going to.
Simon: Hoarding toilet paper. And that is a little bit of a black market toilet paper thing going on even now. We make it here in Australia. But it's weird. Yeah, but like I thought from that type of stuff and not been out to get things like new cars and technology select parts from Asia, particularly the economy really started coming to the fore when lockdown had finished and the government wanted people to flock back to the cities and to spend more and be more in pubs and restaurants, in the supermarkets and the shops and all that type of stuff.
But a lot of people weren't doing it. They're like, No, we've just work from home for three or two years or whatever it is. And you're saying productivity is through the roof. Why would we want to go back to the office? And so some workplaces kind of did it really well. They're like, you know what, you can work from anywhere and it's to others were like, now you've got to start gradually coming back into the office, but now we're going to do a hybrid.
You can work from home two days a week or three days a week, and then we really want you to come back for that social connection. And I think that did help. In some cases, reconnecting with colleagues in person was certainly useful. But these are the things coming up in therapy as well. For guys like the isolation. There's lots of people that lost jobs.
You know, if you think about the hospitality sector, they had to go from dining in to strictly takeaway. Only think about things like zoos and going to the movies and supermarkets, all that type of stuff had to really change the way that they did things. And now it's actually interesting to see a whole lot of supermarket trucks driving around now doing home delivery, whereas that wasn't really a thing before COVID.
You might see it once every now and then, but now you see trucks everywhere delivering people's groceries to the horns. Cause I don't want to go to the supermarket now and get potentially exposed. I mean, we've got another peak happening at the moment, but now we just don't hear about it anymore because everyone's over it now. Everyone's really worried about the economy as that's the biggest pressing, pressing point in Australia.
And so these things coming up, homelessness, you know, it was a huge that is a huge thing. We saw house prices went through the roof during the COVID period and rentals increased as well. And so you find in the particularly the media, we're very lucky where we are, but people that have never been homeless or never been at risk of homelessness, all of a sudden landlords were selling houses they were renting out because they were cashing in or the rents were going up.
So you you're finding people that have never been homeless, now homeless, sleeping in cars. Burnout was huge as well, trying to juggle parenting from home for those who had to school kids, you know, installing kids from home as well, also working from home. So I've got this little room here. Then I'd walk out of my door and some guy from work mode, dad mode, husband mode and all that type of stuff.
So that was another huge one. But also inability to socialize. We talked about that a few times, going to the gym, going to the pub, see inmates going fishing, all those types of things with common themes coming up for guys, particularly the therapy. But everyone really.
Billy: And if people are listening and they're like, Well, we had to go through that too, in the States. We had to go through that in Europe. But Imagine if you had to do it for twice as long as you did. I think that's kind of the important idea here, is that in Australia, in Asia it was going on for a long time and the restrictions were far greater than they were in the States.
Like I went back to the States after my time in Korea, I was like, This is freedom like America, You know, it was just wild to me, just the differences in those areas. And I had heard about Australia really being locked down. I'm going to get you out on this. Coming out of COVID. You have this vision for mindful men and you have been very vulnerable and you've been very clear about your experiences with mental health.
What's your vision with this Mindful Men movement?
Simon: World domination?
Billy: Your episode of Follows our conversation with Janine Faith, who talks about surviving narcissism. It's on the heels of the self-improvement movement that that is really is it a sham that's really just luring people into your cult. So no. All right. So what Simon is saying is the smile will just move. It is all a cult that is leading a sports world.
Simon: It's something something like that. I do have this vision in the future. My comment is it's a lot of it at its core, is creating community and community around positive mental health and wellbeing and mindfulness wellbeing. So I actually do have a vision for community spaces for people to come and connect and you know, I've got this vision of I'm also CrossFit.
I've been to a CrossFit gym and at this industrial style warehouse and most of them are just picture that in your head and it's a place where guys can come and girls exclude anybody. People can come in, they can do a workout or they can shoot hoops, they can come and raid and have a cup of coffee or whatever, have a baby on a weekend, have a barbecue, also get therapy, also do yoga classes, do mindfulness based work.
And I want these pockets of these little gyms around the world so that people can tune into mindfulness based practice more easily and readily, but not isolated from the rest of the world. I can do it with other people who are like minded. And so when I say world domination, it's around that. It's around these pockets of mindful communities just down the road from your house and stuff like that, I think that would be really cool.
But in the meantime, that's a long term vision. But in the meantime, it's around just normalizing these discussions. But through the podcast and maybe on other people's podcast, you know, ideas, write books and stuff like that. But at the core of it is also just the therapy stuff for guys like having a space where guys can come and talk about whatever and we can do a bit of more from the stuff on the side.
But most of it is just them talking. And to me it's not enabling or having a space for guys where they don't have to blow it up for 20 years like I did, you know, from 8 to 8. Not talking about mental health. I want to go to come in after one year or one week. And you said a great point with around the COVID stuff is like in the US, like we didn't have to do it for so long.
I think that's a really great thing that I talk about for mental health. Is that your mental health and my mental health can be completely impacted in different ways. So you might have survived a horrific car accident or whatever, and I might have just lost a dog or a cat or a goldfish or something like that to the outside looking in at those two people that go with this guy here who survived this horrific car accident.
He's got a lot to be grateful for. He's got a lot of issues he's going to have to work through. His issues are more important than the person he's lost, his goldfish. That goldfish could have meant the world to this person. That could have been the world to this person. And so that kind of stuff, we have this comparison culture in the world.
I think social media does that, you know, Instagram and all that and the Facebook. Tik Tok. But doesn't mean your mental health issue is less important than the person next to you. Same with Kobe. You know us COVID was very different to Australia, but it doesn't mean people in the U.S. weren't impacted as profoundly by whatever happened in their situation and across the world.
And so I think that's really important for people to recognize is that in particularly a mental health space, a lot of times that no matter how small you think your issue is, just don't get help for it. Like you don't have to pull it up. You don't have to compare yourself, to somebody else who has it worse off than you, because, yeah, they're going to have it differently to you.
But your story's worth telling to somebody.
Billy: You know, I love that vision of a community center because kids have community centers. We have YMCA is all around. You have impassioned, I mean, now in helping you make this community center of mindful men a reality for you. So, Simon, thank you so much for sharing. This was a really long and much needed conversation, and I just really, really appreciate the time that you took to have this conversation and share your experiences.
Share your expertise with our listeners, and thank you for sharing your Mindful Men vision with us. We greatly appreciate it.
Simon: Betty. Thanks so much for having me on. I've really enjoyed our chats. We've had a few now and looking forward to touching base in the future and seeing how you're going, but also sharing more about mindful men.
Billy: Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. If you're enjoying what you've heard so far, please do me a favor and hit the subscribe button. Also giving the show a quick five star review with a few kind words helps others find a benefit from this podcast just like you are. Finally, please spread the wealth of free knowledge and advice in this episode by sharing it with the people in your life who may find this information and my mission to help others live a more purpose filled life valuable.
My hope is that these conversations resonate with others and inspire people to live their best lives. Thanks again. And now back to the show. Hey, if you enjoyed this week's episode, might want to check out these episodes as well. I've got a lot of them here for you. I'll link them all in the show notes. Buckle up, get ready.
We've got episode 2 where my good friend and old co-host Brian on the bass and I discuss research from the Samaritans Project about what factors may be driving middle aged men to suicide, which is an important topic to discuss because middle aged men have the highest rates of suicide in any demographic. And quite frankly, I don't think people are talking enough about this mental health crisis for middle aged men.
So we want to bring this conversation to the forefront. Episode 3, where I share my story of navigating my own mental health crisis using mindfulness as my guide out of a Life of misery. Episode 11 where we talk to brothers Scott and Lee Moretz about how this podcast helped the two of them open up to each other about their own mental health journeys.
You can check out Episodes seven and nine where Brian and I discuss research from Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book, The Male Brain, and what that research says about the way men parent and why men in particular need to do a better job of socializing as we age. You can check out fan favorite Tom Cody and Episodes 10 and 35.
He shares all sorts of wisecracks and truth bombs about how he's avoided becoming a crotchety old man despite being a crotchety middle aged man. We love Tom Cody around here. We also love the boss by Tanja Rutledge. She's in episode 22. She discusses with us how to prioritize and normalize mental health conversations with our children. And then finally, you can check out episode 62 with Bryan Piatt, who talks to us about how OCD has impacted his life and how he uses both meditation and medication to balance out his mental health.
As I said, you can find links to each of these episodes in the show notes or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, all of Simon's information, including links to his mental health services, will be available in the show notes. Don't forget to subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts. If you're an Apple listener or leave a five star review with a few kind words.
And if you're a Spotify listener, think those five stars under the show. Art. If you'd like to share your thoughts on this week's episode, you can find all of my contact information in the show notes as well. Feel free to email me your takeaways from this conversation at MindfulMidlifeCrisis@gmail.com. You can also follow me and DM me on Instagram @mindful_midlife_crisis.
You can send me a message on LinkedIn at Billy Lahr, that’s L A H R or go through the contact page at www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com. While you're there, feel free to sign up for the newsletter so you can get access to the free meditations I send out every Sunday. Finally, I know Simon and I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this episode with the people in your life who may benefit from Simon's expertise and life experiences.
The purpose of this show is to help you navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. And we hope this conversation provides you with some insight to help you reflect, learn and grow. So for Simon, this is Billy. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy and loved.
Take care, friends.