When we get a huge major cut on our arm or a certain tumour nests itself on a vital organ of the body, we do not simply shake it off and will it to go away when it can. No. We take action, we seek help, we take medication, we nuture whatever wound results and give ourselves time to heal and bounce bank. Since we do this for our bodies, why then do we neglect our soul, an equally important part of our existence, possibly more important. Why do we shake off wounds to our souls and will them to go away?
There is a toughness that comes with being Nigerian or living in Nigeria if I may say. A toughness that accumulates daily. In between the economy going south, and loosing a loved one, to a one month power outage to failing woefully at your first business and to unemployment that looms cross country, sometimes showing up as resilience or doggedness or hustling or whatever else name we choose to call it. It affects our mental health, shrinks us slowly and keeps getting infected because we don’t know how to or won’t deal with it, so we adjust to hiding in between the layers and soon everything comes crashing hopelessly and it’s hard to pick up the pieces. We have a responsibility to our precious souls as much as we have to our bodies. This is why I have listed below tips for enriching our mental health. It is important for safety and sanity.
Be in the moment: It’s easier to be caught up in thoughts of your future and what you need but it is important to practice mindfulness.Be present in your mind. Even while you seat through frustrating hours of traffic and fuel queues try to be in the moment. Feel the sun warmth on your face, stick out your tongue to taste a drop of rain. If it is safe, roll down your car window and let in fresh air, buy street food. Take a picture of a setting sun or a cloud formation. Notice things. This consciousness is important for your mental health.
Be Kind to yourself; Don’t be too hard on yourself. Appreciate your progress or growth no matter how slow. Insist on being good to yourself. If something is within reach and you want it, encourage yourself to take it, tell yourself that you deserve it. Buy that perfume or that car. Do your hair, eat that last piece of cake in the fridge. You deserve happiness. Do Things You Like – Travel, read a book (books are my hiding place, my escape), do crossword puzzles, pamper yourself at a spa, knit a scarf, DIY stuff, invite friends to play Ludo (buy drinks for them atleast biko), paint, go see a movie, binge watch your favourite TV show, eat. Whatever you like, whatever makes you happy.
Set Realistic Goals; Tell your mind that everything doesn’t have to happen at once. Don’t just decide to start “fitfam” tomorrow especially if you have never run a day in your life or decide suddenly that you want to be spiritual. Take easy reachable steps. You get a better sense of accomplishment and fulfilment when you see your little, step by step progress. You want a better relationship with God does not mean you should go into fasting, praying, thanks giving, meditation, speaking in tongues all at once. You want to eat healthier, introduce the healthy meals in bits say once a day, until your taste bud has accepted them fully. You want to exercise, begin with short runs and this goes for everything you set your mind too academically, professionaly etc. You want to ensure you take on new things in relatable sizes so your failure to meet up sometimes doesn’t cause you anxiety.
Quiet Time/Meditation; In the hustle and bustle of life we must alway ensure to observe quiet time. What you do in your quiet time is up to you be it prayer, meditation or just drawing imaginary shapes on your bed as you lie down. It’s important for our minds to experience stillness. Even in the office, decide sometimes to eat lunch quietly on your own. Once in a while, on your drive home except you desperately need traffic updates on the radio, drive in silence. Take walks to clear your head, shut your eyes in the bath. Just be still in your mind.
Give yourself to others; Be it pushing your kids on a bike (even though it is the last thing you want to do) or helping someone pick up groceries, spend time doing things for others. You don’t necessarily have to give out all your money to the poor but you can cook and give some to the security man. You can buy a 12 yard fabric and share half with your mom. Look out for an elderly person you know, just check in to see if their TV remote control works – might just need new batteries or if their telephone cable hasn’t fallen out or just to be good company sometimes. Your mind will be happy for this little but tangible gesture.
Surround your self with support; healthy support. Family, friends, acquintances, sometimes even strangers are the best support. No man is an island. Even whatsapp groups go a long way these days just for when you need to talk, or when you are bored and feeling miserable. The goal is to support and enrich your life and people, no matter how unfamiliar have a way of enriching lives. Just keep your relationships healthy. Toxic ones send you right back to your state of misery.
Rest,Eat Well and Exercise; You have heard this before and you will hear it again. It may be tough to keep up in our part of the world but it is doable. Listen to your body. If you have to sleep then you have to sleep. You can’t cheat nature. Sleep restores your mind and body and lack of it is a leading cause of depression. Practice good sleep habit – regular times, regular prescribed hours etc. Eat balanced meals too. Pig out occasionally but eat real food. Exercise your muscles. You don’t have to train dirty like Vin Diesel, but take walks, skip, play basketball, football, tennis, jog up the stairs, dance. Exercising apart from the benefits of a healthy ripped body largely improves your mood. I know this for sure.
Seek Help and Guidance; A perfect worry free life does not exist anywhere. So if you feel overwhelmed, talk to someone. If you need help ask, if a nanny will make life easier for you, hire one, discuss with your friends to help with everything from baby sitting to borrowing money. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
If you feel dejected, a continuous feeling of misery and hopelessness, unexplainable anxiety when you wake up everyday and it doesn’t pass by doing the above or just having friends over, please seek help. While help may include Spiritual leaders and many times senior mentors, it is mostly advisable to seek professional help. If facing a professional already sounds agitating enough, there are many hotlines that you can call anonymously to express your feelings. This is usually a good start if you feel shy or ashamed. Know however that it isn’t something to be ashamed of.
Your mental health is priority.
Bonus; Add to do nothing to your to do list.