Your Mental health is as important as your physical health. They are interwoven so much that once one is not attended to, it disrupts or shuts down the other.
Africans, Nigerians in particular, tend to downplay the state of mental health. Not until recently did we begin to understand its essence, how it affects our everyday life and how to take care of it.
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health has to do with our psychological, emotional and social well-being. It is responsible for the way we think, feel, respond and act.
The state of one’s mental health determines how the person behaves, handles stress and relates with other people.
There are different types of mental health illness but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on depression.
Depression was popularised in recent times in Nigeria, let’s say about 2-3 years ago because of the incessant suicide rates especially with the deceased leaving a death note online.
Depression is a severe and common mental illness that affects the way you think and feel but it is however treatable.
I used to be shocked when I heard someone committed suicide because they were depressed and in my head, I couldn’t process it or fathom what could drive a person to that edge?
But I came to understand that peoples thresholds are of different capacities; people process things differently and act according to what is perceived. Depression is for real and if you are in that state or know someone who is, i’d be happy to share a few ways to deal with depression.
HOW TO HANDLE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH/DEPRESSION
Talk/say how you feel: Talking is therapeutic. Saying how you feel goes a long way in easing the burden, sometimes you just need to get it off your chest.
Find someone who can listen to you or who you can have a conversation with and just let it out. It’s like when you have a terrible big secret no one knows about, it weighs heavy on you but the moment you tell someone, the weight reduces and when its no longer a secret you are no longer bothered by that same thing. You can talk about your emotion be it Love, Sadness, Excitement or Pain.
Exercise: it has been proven that exercising has a way of making you happy and relieving you of stress. When you exercise your body releases certain hormones called dopamine and serotonin they are both neurotransmitters which are responsible for so many bodily functions from metabolism to sleep and are popularly called happiness hormones. Dopamine is particularly responsible for almost all pleasurable experiences.
You should, therefore, make an effort to exercise regularly both because of this hormone and for your physical health.
There are other ways exercise can help you; it gradually builds and sculpts your body, and when you have a perceived perfect body, it makes you very confident and excited.
Exercise gives you something to look forward to whether you workout every day or just weekends, the anticipation makes it fun. It distracts you and helps clear your mind even if it’s just for a bit, you are not thinking about work or anything else. At that point all you want is to achieve your fitness goal.
Engage with family and friends: I say this all the time, sometimes I’m tempted to believe that I live the best life, my definition of best life may be different from yours. The fact that I have friends and family around when I need them is bliss.
Don’t try to live in isolation, with the advent of smartphones and the internet that is supposed to make the world a global village, it has somehow pulled people apart. Make an effort to reach out to friends when you need them and vice-versa. You also don’t have to physically go to anyone if you can’t. Technology has also bridged the gap and made it easy to see and talk to family, friends and acquaintances any day and time.
Seek medical assistance: Mental illness is not a spiritual attack from your village! Inasmuch as we love to pray don’t let cases like this deteriorate because we spiritualise it. Depression is a medical condition that needs medical attention.
Open counselling now has hotlines in Nigeria that you can call when your mental health is threatened. There’s no shame in seeking help because acknowledging you need help is your first step to getting better.
Eat healthy meals: The cooking process can be therapeutic as well especially, if you know and enjoy the art of cooking. Aside from cooking, there are certain nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Eat a balanced diet which should normally consist of 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fats.
Make sure to always include fruits and vegetables to your meals. Take for instance eating a plate of food with almost all the content white and eating another plate of meal with white, yellow, green, orange and red content. Between they two which one do you think will be an exciting meal?
A good diet is good for your physical health as well as your mental health.
Engage in fun activities: Do what makes you happy. Do that thing that you are good at. If you love to sing, karaoke should be your escape; learn to dance, go to art class, be Picasso for fun, go to the beach, be a writer. Do whatever makes you happy, don’t be caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.
Join an active club or association: Clubs and associations tend to look out for their members and they always organise fun activities. It can be a fitness club, bikers club, a social club, a sapiosexual club.
There are so many clubs you can associate with and meet new friends. Friends and fun activities will serve as an escape and a break time from stress.
Cry if you need to: Usually, when I feel sad and a little depressed for whatever reason I just stay indoors, turn off the light and cry. I know that sounds weird but once I’m done crying, I feel energised and clear-headed.
People often think crying is a sign of weakness but in the contrary, crying releases pent up emotions. During the process your heart rate increases, you tend to sweat more and your breathing slows that’s why crying seems to have a calming effect.
Set short term exciting goals: I can’t wait to start my podcast in a few months! I get this adrenaline rush whenever I think about it, I don’t know how to do it but I’m looking forward to it.
So, think of something you’d like to do. Maybe, learn to play a musical instrument, or learn to bake a cake. Setting and achieving those goals will give you a certain gratification that is priceless.
Control alcohol consumption: alcohol is known for its ability to drown your worries or make you forget about them. But the sad truth is that when it wears off your worries will be right there staring you in the face and you will even feel worse than you were feeling before because of the anxiety and irritability that happens during a hangover.
So, moderate your alcohol consumption or totally avoid it if possible.
Be responsible for someone/care for others: when you care for a person or a pet, you are likely going to look after yourself more knowing that they are dependent on you. Also, there is a greater satisfaction that comes with doing good and looking out for someone else.
Depression is real and your mental health must be guarded at all cost. social media can be toxic, you should know when to shut it out, sleep when your body requires it and most importantly; know that you are responsible for your happiness and happiness is a choice, a state of mind that no external person or thing can offer you.
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