Last month, I turned 30. I’m happy to confirm that just like in the 2004 film Suddenly 30, arriving at your third decade is exciting because it feels like you are starting a new chapter of your life. One where you have enough experience that you might actually be able to pull all those dreams and aspirations off! But here’s the deal, getting to 30 wasn’t sudden.
While you age, you learn a lot about yourself; what you like and don’t like and who you want to be. Along with this not-so-sudden wisdom, I’ve also learnt my health is a vital part of being my best self.
My Nana always used to say to me “if you don’t have your health, then you don’t have anything”, and to her credit she was absolutely right. When you are sick or struggling with an aspect of your health, it can tend to throw everything into disarray. Taking care of you is priority number one! So where do we get started?
When you have a health concern, get it checked out
Weird moles, sore knees, tired eyes, mood swings – whatever it is, pay attention to your body and get it checked out before it potentially becomes a bigger issue. A GP is always a great place to start.
Talk to your friends about it, usually someone has a similar experience and might be able to recommend a doctor, physio, psych…
If you do start seeing health specialists of any kind, costs can add up. Consider if health insurance might be helpful with reducing your out-of-pocket or put aside part of your pay into an account specifically for health expenses.
Explore your sexuality – learn how you enjoy sex and intimacy
Everyone’s journey into understanding their sexuality is unique. Some of us immediately know what we want, while for others it’s a process of discovery. Each new experience, each new partner can give you a clue to what you like. It’s up to you to be your own detective and investigate how a hook-up made you feel after the fact.
Some of us may already be in touch with what we like sexually and look for in a partner, but then discover it changes over the course of our lives. Wherever you are in this process, go forward with an open mind ready to explore different types of sex or intimacy and discover what you enjoy.
Paramount to this will be using open communication with your partners. Let them know what you are looking for or want to experiment with, and see if you can come to a mutual arrangement. If you don’t know what you want, then that experience is equally valid and OK. Your current or future partner(s) may also have some ideas.
Knowing how to protect yourself and your partners from HIV and other STIs is also important. Go into the moment prepared. Whether that means taking your PrEP daily / on-demand or throughout a period, relying on a partner’s undetectable viral load or using condoms, know that you are responsible for your own health, no one else.
Test for HIV and STIs
Regular sexual health check-ups were not something discussed at school, let alone gay sex! If I could travel through time to tell my younger self something it would be to:
- Practise safe sex
- Get tested regularly for HIV and STIs, and
- Buy shares in Google
Finding a sexual health clinic or GP where you can get tested without judgement can make a world of difference.
Getting an STI isn’t the end of the world. There are treatments out there and your partners will hopefully understand or even appreciate that you let them know.
You are what you eat
You used to be able to eat anything without suffering consequences. Now, not so much. Eating junk all the time can be a recipe for low energy and weight gain. Weight gain isn’t inherently bad, and bodies are beautiful in all shapes and sizes, but there are consequences to your general health you should be mindful of.
Things like meal planning and prepping can go a long way to curbing unhealthy eating habits. Hate all that? Meal kit services can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Or sharing cooking duties with housemates or a partner can help motivate you to stick to more nutritious meals.
Plans change, so if you can’t stick to your diet every day don’t sweat it. If it’s an important goal and you fall short, find a way to make up for the loss and get back on track.
Make time for mental health
Looking inward can be a daunting process, but knowing how you are feeling on a day-to-day basis is a good practice to foster. Neglecting your own mental health can often impact other aspects of your life too, so taking steps before small issues become big ones can be a good approach.
Tending to your mental health is unique to each of us, but for me, mindfulness has become a big part of how I connect with myself. Practising mindfulness not only gives me cues as to when I might be mentally agitated, but also helps me self-soothe by connecting to the present moment and getting out of my own head. There are plenty of resources on mindfulness online or through books if this interests you, but there are plenty of other ways you might also try and get in touch with your own metal health. It could be walking in nature, journaling, listening to a guided meditation or even just venting to a friend!
Sometimes it can be really beneficial to seek out a counsellor or psychologist to help you through, especially if you don’t know where to start or if what you’re trying isn’t helping.
Let’s get physical
Homophobia has a way of creeping into male-dominated spaces like the sporting field, so for years, things like team sports was something I avoided. However, after spending time working on my own mental health and seeing other gay/bi/queer men I know enjoy exercising, I’ve also been able to get my own physical fitness on.
The secret to enjoying a workout is to find something you enjoy. Whether it’s weightlifting or taking dance classes, don’t limit yourself. If you need help with motivation it can be a great idea to sign up to a gay/queer team sport or something you can do regularly with a friend.
If you have an injury or any other physical limitations, ask for advice from a physio or personal trainer to find a workout you can perform safely.
Find your way, spiritually
Whether you are fighting off the existential dread that can sometimes come with aging (hey, 30s club), or just wondering what you want to accomplish in life, exploring your spirituality can be a great avenue for personal development and lead to a sense of fulfilment.
Religion is usually one’s first leap into exploring spirituality, but for many LGBT people, for obvious reasons, even just the word ‘religion’ can be a trigger point. But there are other ways to feeling good spiritually that doesn’t necessarily mean being religious. For some of us, we can feel a sense of spiritual connection to either a form of faith or part of our culture, and that can be a positive and fulfilling experience.