During one of my conversation with a friend. She mentioned that when trying to count down through the months of 2020, she could only count January, February , Covid-19 (March-September) and Violence. Coming from one who lives in Nigeria, this is totally understandable.
In the past two weeks, the global community has witnessed the #EndSars Movement, a call for the dissolution of the notorious special anti-robbery squad. The movement gained momentum as the young people of Nigeria protested against police brutality. For the past 11 days, Nigeria has witnessed an incredible outpouring of support and sharing of common ground by young Nigerians across all strata of Nigerian society, with #EndSARS protests having been held in more than 30 Nigerian cities. However, this peaceful protest got cut short as military men opened fire on the peaceful protesters and killing over 70 while many remain injured at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
“We were sitting on the ground singing the national anthem, most of us had flags in our hands and we raised it up. They opened fire at us … it became total chaos.” An eyewitness revealed to the BBC.
Witnessing a gruesome event such as that is enough to have a bout of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, if you are have been experiencing insomnia, flashbacks, low self-esteem, and a lot of painful or unpleasant emotions. You might constantly relive the event or lose your memory of it altogether.
So how do you keep your head above water?
It may sound silly, but many people do not breathe properly. Natural breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you breathe out, your belly should fall. Over time, people forget how to breathe this way and instead use their chest and shoulders. This causes short and shallow breaths, which can increase stress and anxiety.
Fortunately, it is quite possible to re-learn how to breathe deeply from your diaphragm and help protect yourself from stress. Practice simple deep breathing exercises to improve your breathing and combat anxiety.
Self-monitoring can be a helpful way of getting a handle on your anxiety symptoms. We are all creatures of habit. We often go about our day without thinking, being unaware of much that goes on around us.
This may be useful in some situations, but other times, this lack of awareness may make us feel as though our thoughts and emotions are completely unpredictable and unmanageable. We cannot really address uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety without first being aware of what situations bring up these feelings. Self-monitoring is a simple way of increasing this awareness. You can also take breaks off social media and snap out of depressive thoughts.
Over and over again, research has found that finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD. Having someone you trust that you can talk to can be very helpful for working through stressful situations or for emotional validation.
However, simply having someone available to talk to may not be enough. There are several important pieces to a supportive relationship that may be particularly beneficial in helping someone manage their anxiety, which is why a counsellor or support group led by a professional may be helpful.
Using journaling to cope with and express your thoughts and feelings (also called expressive writing) can be a good way of coping with anxiety. Expressive writing has been found to improve physical and psychological health.
In PTSD in particular, expressive writing has been found to have a number of benefits, including improved coping, post-traumatic growth (the ability to find meaning in and have positive life changes following a traumatic event), and reduced PTSD symptoms, tension, and anger.
Your mental health is one of the most priceless you ‘ve got. Protect it!