At any given time, an average young Nigerian is worrying about a stressful job or lack of a job, poor academic infrastructure, being broke, having inadequate savings, bad governance, police harassment, lack of basic amenities, black tax, or even climate change. In a world where there’s so much to worry about, it’s easy to focus mostly on the negatives and drive yourself into a state of constant stress, anxiety or depression.
It’s not that older generations did not have to deal with all these issues, but in this fast-changing digital world, the pressure is more. Studies have shown that young people today are more likely to be depressed and self-harm than ten years ago. With social media, there’s an overload of information constantly making your failures and other people’s successes seem amplified.
It’s important to consciously practise self-care in a world where everything seems set up to harm you mentally or physically. You must be proactive about your wellbeing, and find ways to take care of your body and mind. Taking time out to care for yourself will reduce exhaustion, and improve your physical and mental health. Often, people only realize the importance of self-care after they have had a physical or mental break down.
Self-care encompasses just about anything you to do be good to yourself including actions and attitudes. It’s about being as kind to yourself as you are to others. It’s about acknowledging when you are running low physically or mentally, and stepping back to replenish yourself rather than letting it all drain away. Self-care is about making yourself feel good, but not everything that feels good is self-care. Don’t be tempted to use unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs, excessive alcohol, over-eating, and risk-taking.
Here are some healthy ways to practice self-care.
- Eat Healthily
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the core elements of self-care. Our bodies require sufficient nutrients and hydration to exist and be in the right shape. Our daily food choices affect our overall health and wellbeing – both in the short and long-term. What we eat can have a huge impact on our mood, our ability to cope with stress and our overall physical health and wellbeing.Ensure to add fruits and vegetables to your diet, drink a lot of water and avoid over-eating or stress-eating. Cut down on sugars and sodas, and eat healthier snacks.
- Exercise Regularly
Exercise is not just beneficial physically, but also mentally. Regular exercise can improve your physical health, decrease your risk for serious health conditions, help you feel better emotionally, improve your sleep, help you feel more confident and motivated. Often, people put off exercising for a myriad of reasons including lack of time, laziness, or lack of knowledge. Consider adding 20 – 60 minutes of exercise to your weekly routine. It can be running or walking every other day, skipping every morning, or signing up at a gym for a more intense routine.
- Take Breaks from Social Media
Constantly being online on social media can be entertaining, but can also be harmful to your mental wellbeing. Being on social networks can be time-wasting, can negatively affect physical and mental health, reduce productivity and elicit feelings of envy or self-hate. It’s advised to take regular time outs from social networks. This may be harder for people whose jobs require them to be on social media or stay updated on happenings on social media. But even a short break on a weekend, or during a vacation can be very helpful. Sign out from social networks, or delete the apps from your devices. Use the time you would originally spend scrolling endless feeds to read a book, take a walk, or spend time with loved ones instead.
- Make Time for Your Hobbies
If your life feels too serious or stressful, a good way to introduce some fulfilment is to spend time doing something you genuinely love. Many people are guilty of setting their hobbies aside to focus on chasing the bag. Chasing the bag is important, but it’s also important to do things that ground you and bring joy. If you love drawing, painting, playing football, knitting, swimming – whatever your hobby may be, then find time on a weekend to do it.
- Get Adequate Sleep
Many young Nigerians suffer from sleep deprivation. For some, it is inevitable; returning home from work or school late, waking up early to beat traffic. For others, they’re simply unable to stop tweeting or watching movies until its well past midnight. Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is proven to improve your mental and emotional health, increase your lifespan and keep you alert and sharp. It also makes you kinder, funnier and even makes you look better. Some helpful tips for getting healthy sleep include maintaining a sleep routine, limiting the use of electronics before bed, and avoiding consuming substances with caffeine or alcohol before bed. If you can’t get eight hours of sleep during the week because of unfortunate schedules, then try to hit the 8-hour mark on weekends and holidays.
- Spend Time Around Positive People
The people around you have a huge impact on your life. It’s important to consider the people you’re spending time with, the same way you think about what you eat and how you’re exercising. Spend more time around positive, happy people who enrich your life, inspire and empower you, make you feel good about yourself and cheer on your successes. When you’re surrounded by good people, it positively affects your own attitudes and outlook on life. You’ll be less stressed and find more joy in daily things.
- Practice Gratitude
Practising gratitude regularly has been scientifically validated as one of the best things that you can do to maintain your levels of personal happiness. It can be as simple as taking a minute to sit down and acknowledge in your mind the things you are grateful for, or occasional journaling. Nothing is too small really – if it sparks joy, acknowledge it. It’s easy to lose sight of the positive things happening, especially when work and personal stress levels are high. In these moments, writing down the things you’re grateful for can help you feel better.
- Declutter and Stay Tidy
Clutter in your living or working space can be a cause of stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Decluttering might not be the most exciting form of self-care but it’s one of the most effective ways to make yourself feel instantly better. Dedicate time to regularly declutter your spaces and you’ll notice the instant gratification that a clean and clutter-free environment gives.
Phidelia is a writer and communications manager based in Lagos. She loves chopping life, and spends her free time thinking of new ways to enjoy life. Tweet at her @the_phidelia if you enjoyed reading this.