It’s no news that we are living in perilous and dire times. There is a worldwide increase in prices of food, groceries and the necessities of life. There is a war in Europe and the effects are already trickling down to every continent. Simultaneously, humanity is faced with nature’s wrath in the form of heatwaves, earthquakes, tremors, storms and hurricanes.
In Nigeria, things are going from bad to worse, the electricity situation is getting all of us cranky, diesel is scarce and where it is found, it is not affordable, we are not sleeping well because of the heat, wasting huge resources in time and manpower by queuing up to buy fuel and ironically wasting the fuel we buy on terrible traffic. Daily, we wake up to horror stories of man’s inhumanity to man in the way of senseless killings and crazy behaviour as we become increasingly selfish and brutish.
It’s very easy to lose one’s mind, become depressed and fear-filled in the situation we have found ourselves in and whilst the number of mental cases on the roads are increasing, the truth is that many are mad but few are roaming.
People’s reactions to situations have become worrisome, a simple misunderstanding and they go overboard in their actions taking out their anger on everything around them. I got a taste of it just recently. My mother has a little garden in our apartment, which she waters daily. Apparently, the water trickled down to the front of the apartment of our neighbour and her child’s clothes which were unclipped were blown on the floor and got wet. Our neighbour, who is barely in her 30s stormed up to our apartment, forced open the door from the hinges accosted my startled mother while threatening her. I met her being physically restrained when I got to the scene. Truly, I had been informed about the dripping water and had procrastinated about getting it fixed but the reaction shown by my neighbour was certainly overboard and out of place.
Same for the many traffic incidents that cause major holdups on our roads. I remember a day I was dropping off my daughter at school. She was running late and I dropped her at a safe distance so she could walk the remaining metres to the school. I was on my way home, though not past the school gate when I hit a lady’s car. It was nothing much, just a light touch of bumper to bumper and I had expected her to drive off when she got down to inspect her car. In fact, I was relieved when I saw that her children wore the uniform of my daughter’s school and requested that we both drive into the school premises so that we didn’t cause traffic. You can then imagine my shock, when she started to rant and rave and pointed out a slight scratch on her car saying she was going to make the same mark on my car, shouting and rummaging through her booth to find something to make the mark. You can only imagine my pity as I looked at her children who were looking at their mother’s public meltdown and the relief I felt when bystanders managed to persuade her that the mark on her car was not visible and finally the amusement when she called out ”Ashewo!” as she drove off in anger.
We are all going through a lot, confronted with varying degrees of crazy situations and people, and it’s rather difficult to keep our sanity in these trying times but it is possible to protect our minds so that even in the midst of all that is happening we maintain our humanity and dignity. My coping mechanism is not exhaustive and you can add to it.
1. Being careful of what and who you allow into your space. I am very conscious of what I allow or do not allow into my mind. I have a very vivid imagination and things tend to run through my mind ages after I have watched or heard them so I am very protective of what I see and hear. I don’t watch bloody or horror films not necessarily because I am squeamish or fearful but because it really doesn’t bode well for me. I do not allow myself to dwell too long or wholly on current affairs. I acquaint myself with the barest information needed in order to carry out a decent conversation and once I have a general knowledge of what is happening I tend to move on. It’s the same with people. Once they show signs of toxicity or are generally pessimistic in their outlook, I either avoid talking to them, switch off mentally when they talk or steer the conversation to brighter topics.
2. Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t control. I focus mainly on my emotions, feelings and the situations I can do something about. So, if for example I am appalled at the high levels of hunger in the land, I try to do my bit by either feeding those I can see or contributing towards a call for action by others. In so doing I focus on the fallen wall in front of my house rather than the ruin of the walls of the city.
3. Be optimistic. I used to be very pessimistic as a child and it took years of being conscious of my thought pattern and making an effort to think positively through affirmations and self-love to change my outlook on life. I am not yet there but I am not where I used to be
4. Practice gratitude. The truth is that there is always someone worse off than we are. So, for example, if you are bothered about the high cost of living be grateful that you can still afford to eat what you like in the same quantities that you want as many others can’t.
5. Be hopeful. The only thing constant in life is change and although change can be unwelcome especially when it’s a change for the worse, the knowledge that situations do not last forever helps to make an unsavoury situation bearable.
6. Sleep. We underestimate the power of sleep especially in this part of the world when we pride ourselves in being able to work 18-20 hours a day but there is a reason why sleep a vital part of our wellness. It is proven that sleep helps our immune system, reduces blood pressure, aids rejuvenation of our cells, tissues and organs, aids digestion, makes for good mental health and that a lack of sleep does havoc to our bodies and is symptomatic of psychological and physical sickness. You may ask how one is able to sleep when trouble rages within and without, especially as we lie in the grips of lack of electricity and humid weather. My answer is that there are many natural sleep aids such as Melatonin, a substance the body makes which is available in pills, tigernut drinks, milk and chamomile tea which aid sleep.
7.Water – apparently there is a connection between water and mental health. I didn’t know this until a few days ago when listening to a professor of psychology state that several researches done have found a link between dehydration and anxiety/depression, confusion and tension. So please drink lots of water.
8. Find your sweet spot. I cannot overemphasise this. Find what makes you happy and do it without any apologies. I have found my sweet spot in music and social gatherings. They rejuvenate me and make my troubles take a back seat. A note of caution here though , please don’t find your sweet spot in destructive things such as over eating, drinking, drugs, etc. They do not help things get better but worse.
9.Exercise – we all know the benefits of exercising our bodies and minds so in difficult times take time to exercise both. A daily walk will do wonders and as someone said, it is now possible via YouTube to walk miles without leaving one’s home. Also, reading books or simple exercises like sudoku and chess will engage our minds so much so that they are free from the pressures of living.
10. Laughter. Laughter, they say, is a form of medicine. Luckily there are many skits on social media that will make us laugh. My favourite pastime nowadays is reading the comments section on stories. Nigerians have a wicked sense of humour and the ability to laugh without restraint releases the feel good hormones throughout our bodies.
Finally, our present day realities call for us to create a safe haven for ourselves, an oasis in the harsh desert of life. Please do yourself a favour, be conscious and mindful of the things that tend to affect your sanity.