Living in Nigeria is a lot right now. While, we have always dealt with issues like corruption, poverty, hunger, violence, lack of electricity, things have progressively worsened since the End sars protest and the massacre that followed on the 20th of October 2020.
Both incidents understandably took a toll on the mental health of people living in a country that ranks 15th in the world for the number of suicides with 50 million people suffering from some form of mental illness according to a World Health Organization (WHO). A survey by Annals of Nigerian Medicine showed that an estimated 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the country’s population could be dealing with mental disorders.
Commenting on the mental health of the society at the time, Mentally Aware Nigeria told Engage Africa Foundation Blog; “As with every high-pressure situation, people, young and old, are exposed to negative emotions and stress which can be detrimental to their mental health. While some have more long term implications, like the possibility of PTSD, there are some that are more immediate, like panic attacks or emotional breakdowns.”
Currently, the latest addition to the craziness comes from the presidency’s Twitter ban and the attorney general decision to prosecute anyone caught tweeting amidst the surge in killings, abductions, and violent robberies across the country. We also have the nationwide protests on June 12th to commemorate Democracy Day, demand the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari and the reversal of the Twitter ban.
With the ongoing assault on Nigerians’ welfare and state of mind, here is how to hold on to your sanity in a problematic country:
Avoid your phone when you wake up
Reaching for your phone first thing in the morning can have an adverse effect on your mental well-being. Bombarding yourself with all the negative issues this country has as soon as you wake up will only put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
Take some time in the morning to meditate, pray, journal how you feel, check-in with yourself, use a mindfulness app, do whatever you need to centre yourself and prepare to deal with whatever Nigeria throws out.
Limit your screen time
Constantly seeing the bad news and outrage from fellow Nigerians will only stress you out. So, put yourself on a schedule, where you devote a certain amount of time daily to staying informed.
Take regular social media breaks
Social media breaks are the closest thing to curling up in bed under the covers and forgetting all the problems in Nigeria.
They are necessary especially if you are the type to be deeply affected by what you read or hear. Tune the country get when things get too stressful by taking regular social media breaks.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is the cheapest way to keep yourself sane and maintain good mental health. Without proper sleep, you are prone to anxiety, fatigue, irritability, anger, depression and other mental disorders.
Getting a good night’s sleep gives your brain what it needs to reset and reboot.
Exercising, even for 15 to 20 minutes a day, has a positive effect on your mental health. Working out gets your body to produce endorphins also known as happy hormones which relieve stress, pain and ward off anxiety.
Studies show that exercise can relieve the symptoms of depression, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mental health disorders.
Constantly worrying and freaking about this country’s problem will not make them go away any faster. So, take the time to seek activities that bring you joy.
Add as much joy as you can by spending time with family and friends, people you actually like. You can also see a movie, read a book, go out, do whatever brings you joy.
Focus on what’s in your control
Living in this country can leave you feeling constantly hopeless and defeated. Focusing on what you can do, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.
So, figure out what you can do to fix things in your neighbourhood, church, amongst friends. To affect some change in politics, you should also engage in Voter Registration which resumes on Monday, June 28 2021.
Do deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing is something you can do when you are panicking or practice regularl,y even when you are not anxious.
You can learn how to do deep breathing exercises from Youtube videos and apps.
Talk to a professional
These days, it’s so easy to seek professional help. You can reach out to a therapist online, find a mental health agency, download an app or call Nigeria’s toll-free 24-hour helplines.