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Mental Health is often misunderstood, especially by those  who have never suffered from it. It is not well prioritized in our society as people are not well informed on what Mental Health actually looks like. Dedoyin Ajayi is changing that narrative.

The psychotherapist with a specialty in Emotional Health and a diploma in Professional Counselling is using her social media platforms to advocate and educate the society on Mental Health.

She’s also a certified Neuro-linguistic practitioner from the Academy of Modern and Applied Psychology. Dedoyin has a thriving counseling practice with an average of thirty hours per week, vested into both virtual and physical counselling sessions. She currently serves in the capacity of a consultant therapist three organizations, and specializes in helping individuals with suicide ideations, depression, childhood trauma, existential crises, and personality disorders.

She shares her inspiring journey exclusively with Esther Ijewere in this educative and insightful interview

Childhood Influence

It started when I was 7 years old. I remember that I’d fantasize about having an office where people came to cry. I’d give them a handkerchief and calm them down. As soon as they felt calm, they’d go outside and pay my secretary. I never quite understood the picture my imagination was painting, but I knew it was my very first inclination towards preparing me for my present career path

Why I pitched my tent in the  Mental Health sector

As a child, I had a profoundly small stature and I was bullied a lot because of this. It created a deep seated low self esteem that led to feelings of bitterness, resentment and inadequacy. I recall that I badly wanted to talk to somebody that wasn’t family. I knew something was terribly wrong and I needed help. I however didn’t know who to turn to. This helpless feeling drove me to a decision: being that person for other people. I wanted to be able to have the listening ears I didn’t have. This led to a voracious research about the mental health sector. My findings were very discouraging at the time, seeing as therapy wasn’t widely accepted and in some cases, even still being stigmatized. I however couldn’t deny the deep longing within me, to tread this path and here I am.

Being a psychotherapist, Neuro-linguistic practitioner, consultant and staying grounded

To be very honest, I’m not yet proud of how I manage it. Thankfully I have a wonderful support system in my husband and a few close friends who are to it that I rest and take my structured breaks. Sometimes I go through mental burn-outs but these episodes are becoming few and far between. I’m however learning to really prioritize my own mental needs as well.

My Mental Health advocacy on social media, and its impact so far

I became an active mental health advocate in 2018. This stemmed from a discovery I made, which was the fact that the Nigerian mental health community was grossly under-represented on social media. We have a few people doing great things but there was a huge content and information sparsity that needed to be addressed. It’s why I decided to become a voice of mental health for the Nigerian community. As for impact, the response was very discouraging at first, but I continued. The past one year has however been explosive. The feedback has been wild to say the least. I’ve had people sending me DMs, telling me how a post I made was specifically for them and this spurred them to book a session. Little by little, the stigmatization surrounding mental health is thinning out. The narrative is changing! I’m super excited.

Why the Government should support the Mental Health 

First and foremost, it’s no news that the government has been very laid back about the mental health sector, especially considering the fact that an average Nigerian today, has a pertinent issue bothering them. The need for structured emotional support cannot be overemphasized. I’d suggest that the government looks into building Walk-In Therapy Centres just the same way we have clinics. This would enable people to readily have access to subsidized mental health care. There should also be a massive Nationwide awareness sponsored by the government, with the aim of sensitizing people about their mental health. The more conversations we have about the mental health sector, the more growth we would experience as a country.

Challenges of my work

The primary challenge is stigmatization. A lot of people reach out to tell me about friends or family members they’d love to recommend therapy to, but would never be open to the idea of speaking to a “shrink” after all they are not mad.

Another issue is social support. While receiving mental health care, it is imperative that the patient has an effective support system which would further facilitate their recovery. Imagine having to go to work during a depressive phase because your boss doesn’t believe that depression is a valid reason to be exempt from work! This needs to change. All hands must be on deck to help rewrite the narrative about mental illness being a sign of laziness or cowardice.

Other projects and activities

Presently, I co-founded a mental health awareness initiative themed HEART CAFE with Olamide Ogidan-Odeseye (@larmmy). It’s a weekly meeting that is held on Twitter every Friday, where people come to unburden, network and most importantly receive psycho-educational tips that keep them up to speed about mental health. I also run a YouTube channel (Thededoyinajayi), where I get to talk about mental health issues as well as conversations surrounding relationships and lifestyle.

What I enjoy most about my job

The fulfillment that comes with seeing a client recover! Most especially suicidal clients. There’s nothing quite like it. I’d literally be grinning from ear to ear in gratitude and satisfaction.

3 women who inspire me and why

One of my major inspirations is Dr. Thema Bryant; a clinical psychologist practicing in the USA. She’s someone whose consistency serves as a major motivation.

Another woman who inspires me is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It’s her self confidence for me. The very fact that she’s able to rock her traditional attires in foreign or westernized settings is a reflection of her healthy self perception and the strength of her persona.

The third woman is Rinu Oduala (Savvy Rinu). She displayed a unique and uncanny strength during the whole #endsars campaign, and her intelligence is phenomenal. These three women are most definitely huge sources of inspiration to me.

When a person should seek therapy

Asides mainstream mental health issues like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on, therapy should be sought the moment you notice any alteration in the default emotional state. Feelings of deep sadness, incessant worrying, loss of concentration at work, relationship issues, abuse of any kind, frequent change in moods, loss of interest in activities as well as a deep gut feeling that something is wrong. The truth is ANYONE can come for therapy. Even if it’s for a holistic checkup. We all could do with emotional support systems.

Nuggets on how to stay mentally and emotionally balanced

To stay mentally and emotionally balanced, the very first step is SELF AWARENESS. You can’t manage what you don’t understand. Afterwards, it’s important to be intentional about taking mental recuperative breaks. It’s a form of self-care. Going for walks, swimming, taking dance/ music lessons, exercising and so on can serve as activities you can engage in during a mental recuperative break. Another vital thing is to filter through your relationships. Humans play a major role in our mental well-being. Surround yourself with people who genuinely love and validate you. Above all, never hesitate to seek help. Very important.

Being a Woman of Rubies

My implicit faith in humanity. I strongly believe that if we have a love-themed world, everything would be more colorful and beautiful. The fact that I choose to heal the world one heart at a time, makes me a Woman of Rubies.

***Dedoyin Ajayi can be reached on social media : @thededoyinajayi on IG, @dedoyinajayi on Twitter. A detailed overview on the services she renders are on dedoyinajayi.com

 

According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally.

Symptoms of depression can include sadness, lethargy and a general loss of interest in life.

There are a number of ways to combat this and a diet for depression can help not only your mental health but your well-being as well. In fact, a 2017 study found that the symptoms of people with moderate-to-severe depression improved when they received nutritional counseling sessions and ate a more healthful diet for 12 weeks.

Just imagine having higher levels of optimism, energy, positivity, focus, and a greater interest in life. Well, you can.

Making some adjustments to your diet can help with your depression. Not only are there foods that you could eat to help with your depression but there are foods that you should avoid.

Foods That Help With Depression

1. Oily Fish

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, light tuna and mackerel are a healthy source of Vitamin D.[3] Research has shown that Vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.[4] Other health benefits include reducing fatigue and improving heart health.

If you run low on energy it can increase your chances of becoming irritable which could lead to a number of other negative behaviors. And this is not the emotional path that you want to go down, especially if you are struggling with depression.

We obtain most of our vitamin D from the sun but dietary sources are also important. Other sources include egg yolks, beef liver and fortified dairy products. When it comes to egg yolks, be sure to check the national label as there can be variances in the amount of Vitamin D.

2. Vegetables

It had to be said. Remember those days when you were told to eat your vegetables?

Well, turns out there was a very good reason. Eating vegetables can help if you struggle with depression.

 

Darker leafy greens contain folate[5] and people that have depression have been found to have a lower dietary intake of folate than those without depression.[6]

They also contain vitamins A, C, E, and K. Which will supply you with a number of healthy benefits such as maintaining brain function and strengthening your immune system.

Injecting some spinach, kale or arugula into your diet could help improve your mood. If you’re not a fan of any of these then you can use lettuce, broccoli or asparagus.

3. Walnuts

Omega-3 fatty acids are a great source of protein to keep a healthy balance of blood sugar levels.[7]

They are also called essential fats, because unlike some other substances, they can’t be manufactured within the human body, and therefore it is essential that you take them in through your diet.

Walnuts are bursting with Omega-3 and they are commonly known to support brain health and lower blood pressure.

In fact, one study conducted between 2005-2014 found that depression scores came in 26% lower among those that consumed about ¼ cup of walnuts per day.

As you can see, incorporating a source of Omega-3 like walnuts enhances a diet for depression.

4. Poultry

Chicken and Turkey are important for a number of reasons. Not only do they contain lean protein to maintain health but they also contain Tryptophan.

The body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin [10] and serotonin.[11] Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin is thought to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain.

You may have even experienced a healthy boost of melatonin levels, in the form of a nap, after you have eaten a turkey dinner.

And while you don’t have to eat a turkey dinner everyday, incorporating chicken or turkey into your routine can give you a healthy balance of rest and energy.

In fact, just 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast offers 123% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

Foods That Worsen Depression

When coping with depression, it’s important to be aware of foods that could have a negative impact on you. If you limit or, in some cases, eliminate these foods altogether you will increase your chances of feeling better.

5. Alcohol

It’s important to mention this because unfortunately a lot of people turn to alcohol when they are having a bad day. However, it is best to limit or eliminate alcohol altogether.

Alcohol is a depressant. When you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse.

This could lead you to make bad decisions that will further your depressive state.

Not too mention, the energy and effort that is put into drinking could be used to make healthy choices, like preparing a healthy meal.

To decrease your chances of drinking alcohol you could refrain from visiting the wine and spirits store, avoid the section in the grocery store that has alcohol, or put a halt to eating at places that serve alcoholic beverages.

It can be too easy to convince yourself that alcohol will fix everything, when in fact it could cause further damage.

 

6. Sugar

An excess of sugary foods can have long-term implications on your health. And while it’s not realistic to eliminate sugar entirely, you should pay close attention to the amount of sugar you consume.

The American Heart Association recommends adults eat no more than 25 (women) to 36 (men) grams of added sugar every day.[12]

Foods like cakes, cookies and pies are high in sugar and can alter your mood. It may make you feel good temporarily but it’s just that, temporary.

Cutting back on sugar will help you keep your blood sugar levels more balanced which will help your mood stay more evenly balanced.

Since sugar offers very little nutritional value, it actually has a drastic impact on the B vitamins.[13] In order for the body to convert sugar into energy, it uses up these important mood enhancing vitamins. In particular vitamin B-12 and B6.[14]

When the body runs low on these vitamins it leads to a lack of energy and poor brain function. This makes it easier to slip into a more depressive state.

7. Fast Food

Refined foods like fast food burgers and fries are loaded with ingredients that should be avoided in your diet for depression.[15]

A study confirmed that the consumption of hamburgers, sausages, and pizza as well as muffins, donuts, and croissants may have a detrimental effect on depression risk.[16]

This is because these foods are high in trans-fat and trans-isomer fatty acids. And these are fatty acids that are non-essential to the human diet.

There is very little national value in these types of foods. You would be better served if you were to replace those foods with fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

 

Source: Lifehack

You know there are days when you’re so happy and feel you can take over the world while there are other says you feel like everything is crashing around you.

It is human to shift moods every now and then and it is okay to allow yourself feel every emotion rather than hide or suppress them.

It is okay not to be okay.

It’s important to know that every mood you feel influences the way you act.

You may not be able to dictate how you feel at every given moment. However, you can take an extra step to know what each emotion means to you and how you can assess yourself while in that state of mood.

Why It’s Important to Track Your Mood

Have you ever noticed how you make bad decisions when you’re angry? Or how you can’t think straight when you feel downright sad?

It’s not surprising that the way we think, or the decisions we make sometimes heavily rely on our mood. This is why we need to keep track of it.

One of the best ways to do this is to write down your mood in a journal. Writing things down will help you understand and manage yourself better. You’ll be able to recognize what triggers your moods and find out how you can take actions that best serve your highest self.

A mood journal is a great way to identify personal factors that affect your mood daily.

Not only does writing in your journal build self-awareness, but it also helps you figure out how you can avoid triggers from happening altogether.

5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good for Your Mental Health

Tracking your mood is a helpful way to improve your mental health. If you don’t control your emotions, your emotions will end up controlling you and if you asked me, that is a recipe for disaster.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should start mood journaling.

1. It Helps You Determine a Course of Action

When you’re aware of how you’re feeling, you can better understand what you need.

Think about the last time you found yourself spiraling emotionally. Did you feel like you could make a decision at that moment? Probably not.

When you are overwhelmed, you feel paralyzed to take action.

A mood journal will help you take notice of your day-to-day emotions so you can figure out the best ways that you can respond to them.

2. It Helps You Express Your Emotions

If you are someone who is prone to overthinking and worrying about everything, it’s imperative that you express your emotions through writing.

A mood journal is a safe container where you are given the space to feel without judgment. It’s a process that is both therapeutic and empowering. You don’t have to worry about how someone may receive your words because you’re having a dialogue with yourself.

Trust me when I say that you don’t have to carry around the weight of your feelings for one day longer. You deserve a break, so give yourself the gift of self-expression through journaling.

3. It Will Support Your Healing Process

Mood journaling allows you to sort through the difficult events that have occurred in your life so that you can start making sense of them.

More importantly, this therapeutic process allows you to come to a deeper understanding of yourself, which is a core piece of the healing process.

Healing is your birthright. If you have been struggling to make sense of the trauma you’ve endured, I encourage you to start writing your way towards better mental and emotional health.

4. It Helps Reveal What Your Triggers Are

We all have emotional triggers. It’s a part of being human. Someone will say something that triggers an emotional reaction that throws you off your game.

Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessive emotional reaction within us.

When you don’t do the work to figure out the root of these triggers, your emotions will get the best of you.

Use a mood journal to write down moments when you feel triggered. Take note of how you felt and what your reaction was. As you write, you will start to bring awareness to your triggers and start noticing patterns between how you feel and behave.

5. It Helps You Find the Silver Lining

When negative emotions get the better of you, you can’t help but flounder in negativity. In this state, it can become near impossible to be positive. This is where the mood journal comes to play.

The more that you write, the more that you feel in control of your emotional state and the less stressed you feel. Negativity feeds off of stress.

Journaling presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis, which thereby helps your brain regulate emotions. In turn, when you encounter adversities in life, you will be more inclined to find the silver lining.

When you start to witness the changes that occur as a result of the inner work you’re doing, you will feel more empowered knowing the impact you have had on your own mood. These are the silver lining moments that you want to pull upon when you’re having down days.

How to Write a Mood Journal

Personalizing your prompts according to your preference will help you form a deeper connection with your inner self.

Make a table of three columns. The first column should be for the emotions you feel.
While the second should be for the possible reasons you think affect your mood.
The last column should be for the actions and steps you took as a result of how you felt.

Or you can get a customized mood journal templates online.

When you become aware of a shift in your mood, write down what the change is in your journal. At the same time, observe how you feel in your body when you’re writing.

Also, make note of what you were doing when this mood shift occurred and who you were with. Equally as important is to reflect upon what was going on with your internal world. Name the emotion or thought that was going through your head.

Conclusion

Tracking your mood through a journal will help you organize your thoughts better and give you more understanding as to why and how you feel certain emotions

For Mental Health Awareness week, BLACK ENTERPRISE is interviewing numerous individuals within the wellness community to talk about the racial disparities that affect the Black community in the hopes of creating a safe place to talk about mental health. 

Meditation apps have grown more popular as more Americans begin to prioritize their health and wellness needs. Despite their popularity, many of these apps are focused on a predominantly White audience and do not cater to the specific struggles that people of color face, specifically in this politically-charged climate.

After learning to cope with the recent onslaught racial injustice and police brutality, Katara McCarty sought out to create a meditation app for women of color.

McCarty is the founder of EXHALE, the first emotional well-being app designed specifically for Black women and women of color. The content is separated into five categories for daily mindful practice including affirmations, guided visualizations, breathing, and meditations. In light of the police shooting of Jacob Blake and recent protests, McCarty is providing the premium version of the app for free in September.

BE: How did you get the idea to create EXHALE?

McCarty: During the beginning of quarantine, I was proactive and began to amp up my self-care. I did more things to get still daily, find time to rest, commit to moving my body, and meditate more often.

As the news began surfacing about COVID-19 hitting Black and Brown communities disproportionately, my heart became heavy. Almost simultaneously, while that was occurring, the video of Ahmad Arbery went viral. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness, grief, and hopelessness for my community. The weight I felt was not unfamiliar, as I have felt this before with other tragedies due to systems of oppression my community has experienced. As we were reeling about this, we heard about Breonna Taylor’s murder, and the George Floyd murder was videotaped and going viral.

What we were seeing wasn’t new to me, but it felt incredibly insurmountable. I began to ask myself what I was going to do. How was I going to lean into my community and help? I got still, tuned in to myself, and listened for the answer. After several days, I got it! I would create an emotional well-being app for Black, Indigenous, Women of Color. Putting in the app the practices I’ve adopted in my everyday life that have kept me centered and grounded.

I created this app for BIWOC because most well-being apps are predominantly White-narrated, White-owned, and are overall White spaces. The uniqueness by which BIWOC has to weave through life, I believe, calls for a unique and specific curation that speaks to us and the weight that we carry because of racism, anti-blackness, misogynoir, and all systems of oppression.

Why was creating this kind of service for Black women important to you?

The uniqueness by which BIWOC weave through life, I believe, calls for a unique and specific curation that speaks to us and the weight that we carry because of racism, anti-blackness, misogynoir, and all systems of oppression. BIWOC are some of the most marginalized in our society. I was also raised by two Black women who took me in and adopted me after my biological mother abandoned me. Creating this app feels like a full-circle moment for me as I specifically give back to the community who stepped up, took me in, and raised me.

Your service is free for September. What prompted you to make that decision?

We launched our app on August 25th, two days after the shooting of Jacob Blake. When I heard Jacob’s family speak, specifically his sister, I could feel their pain and grief. I decided that I wanted to make EXHALE completely accessible to be a resource for us as we continue to navigate our collective grief, pain, fear, anxiety, and trauma.

Why is it important for Black people to incorporate mediation into their daily routine?

According to the American Institute of Stress, deep, abdominal breathing reduces stress and anxiety. For just 20 to 30 minutes each day, “deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.”

Our parasympathetic nervous system controls the predominant state our bodies should be during downtime, which should be 80% of the time. It’s the natural state we should be living in when not in danger. Our heart rate slows down, our breath is calm and relaxed, our digestive system is stimulated, and our hormones are balanced.

Yet BIPOC are often living in what the body perceives as danger due to racism and other forms of oppression. Our chest is tight. We’re tense. Our breath is short, we’re poised to fight, fly, or freeze, and it is making us sick. It is imperative that we tap into our breath, to reduce stress, to tune into our parasympathetic nervous system, and to heal.

When we experience stress and anxiety, we can use the power of our breath to come back to a state of calm. Tools that provide guided breathing techniques and mediations help individuals harness our breath to inhale calm and exhale stress and anxiety from body.

Taking the time for ourselves and focusing on our breath as BIPOC is both an act of reclaiming our power and an act of resistance. We may not be able to control what’s happening to us outside of our homes, the daily microaggressions and racism we’ll face, but we can control our breath. Our breath is in the moment, now, and we can use that breath to ensure we’re not holding the oppression we experience in our body. Deep breathing becomes an active tool to resist the toll that racism has on our bodies and minds.

Source: Blackenterprise

I have come to accept that being healthy is not impossible, especially as parts of our bodies are wired to work in tandem. Sometimes, we may not think anything could be bothering us or may be on our minds but if you start to have unexplained health issues, especially where all tests come back negative, you might want to check. It might have been pushed back in your mind but still nags at you. There have been times I didn’t realise I was dwelling on an issue until my body started acting up.

A few days ago, I told my friend that my entire system works with my state of mind, which is true. Some of the symptoms I have noticed makes me realise I need to slow down are:

  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Headaches and feeling light-headed.
  • Increased indigestion, bloating, diarrhea.

Although I have no scientific proof, from my personal experience, here are some of the things that always solve the issue:

Rest

This is one of the things we overlook so much but it is vital for our bodies and mental health. If you are like me, you might constantly want to do something, but I’ve trained myself and my mind to not do anything when I need to rest. You hear of people getting burnt out or people losing their minds. We all need to make conscious effort to listen to our bodies and slow down. Rest might be the thing between you and another health crisis. Take time to rest, it is important.

Keep a positive mindset

2020 has been a trying year for almost every single person in the world. Except you’ve been living in a cave! There is so much bad news and negativity, but you need to filter what you allow into your mind and what your mind dwells on. If there are things you’ve identified as constant triggers, do away with them as much as possible. Social media is a source of immense pressure for so many young people. With social media, what many fail to realise is that people post selectively. You would never know what battles or demons people are living with behind the scenes. For instance, we woke up recently to the shocking news of Chadwick Boseman‘s passing. Who knew that he had been battling for his life with cancer for four whole years? Through all the pain, chemotherapy, treatment, the man gave us his very best, then bowed out. He knew he had limited time, yet he put forward light, positivity, and such grace. Who would have thought?!

People have lost loved ones, jobs, and other things due to the pandemic. At a time like this, it is very easy to go on a downward spiral and stay depressed. But I like to say that as long as we are still living, there is hope. What other choice do we have? My take: stay positive and keep pushing, keep fighting.

Eat properly and stay hydrated

Our bodies are meant to be nourished for maximum efficiency. Once upon a time, I used to forget to eat. Then I started to taste bile, my body was overproducing acid and the required food for it to work with was absent. When I went to the hospital, all I was told was that I was not eating enough and the solution was so simple – no medication needed, just food. Eat well and balance out your food with the different classes. Junks can only nourish your body for so long before it starts to attack it. Drink water, lots of it. You’ll see the difference, and you’ll be thankful for it.

Exercise

We work hard and need some form of release for all the pent up energy. Not everyone might be a fitness buff, but something as simple as walking has so many health benefits. From exercise, new brain cells can be created, it increases the production of neurochemicals that promote brain cell repairs. I’ve also noticed that exercise makes me happy, helps with digestion and I use it as an outlet for frustration. It does me a world of good, always.

Keep good company

We were not meant to be alone or else we would have been individually placed on islands – that’s how I choose to see it. We need people! Human relations are important to how we function, so keep your loved ones close, create networks, and make friends. On a bad day, a kind word from someone may be all you need to light up your day. Even introverts who draw strength from being alone realise that they need company from time to time.

Have fun

Create moments you can look back on and smile. Don’t overlook your hobbies, you can’t take yourself so seriously all the time. Your body needs to be rejuvenated so find ways to do some fun activities. Laugh, play, dance, take note of the small things around you. 2020 has shown us the importance of not taking things for granted. During the lockdown period, so many people wished to just go out, to have fun, and to do the things they would normally do. Celebrate the small things, there is no point always waiting for something big.

Be present

Live in the now, enjoy the moment. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, you have today. Be sure to make decisions for tomorrow but live in the present. I’ve realised that sometimes it is the simplest things that we fail to do that could save us down the line. Take advantage of opportunities now, listen to your body, and take care of it.

Any other tips to add to this list? Please share.

Running a successful business involves being at your best physically, mentally and emotionally. Businesses cannot run effectively if the owners are burnt out.

watched countless guides on how to become a successful startup founder. I have read quite a few myself and imagine my utter shock when the frustration from challenges started weighing heavy. From sleepless nights to anxiety, the way an entrepreneur reacts to failure can sometimes be the real enemy they need to conquer.  While it can be tempting to focus all of your time and attention on your business, it’s also important that you take care of yourself.

Depending on the type of business you run, some of the problems you may have include:

  • Constantly working for long hours to get your business off the ground or meet your business’ demands.
  • Partaking in business-related activities such as the creation of products, replying business emails and having business calls – all of which blurs the boundaries between your home and work.
  • Feeling lonely due to the absence of someone to share business ideas or problems with. Or the inability to have someone who understands the demands of being an entrepreneur.
  • Having multiple roles as well as managing the additional demands of running a business.
  • Dealing with responsibilities such as family financial issues.

Early Warning Signs

It’s important to be aware of some of the common signs and symptoms that let you know that you may be struggling with your mental health.

Some of the early warning signs include:

  • Lack of concentration;
  • Tiredness/Fatigue;
  • Unnecessary emotional response/ crying;
  • Easily angry or frustrated;
  • Inability or difficulty with making decisions;
  • Avoiding social situations; and
  • Drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism.

While being an entrepreneur seems exciting – you’re pursuing a passion, being your own boss, making money and working on your schedule; however, the responsibilities that come with the role isn’t easy.

The following are tips to help you enjoy good mental health without compromising your health.

Acknowledge your mental health above everything else

Running a business is a full-time job. Running a successful business involves being at your best physically, mentally and emotionally. Businesses cannot run effectively if the owners are burnt out.

One rule of the thumb is to dedicate an amount of time for you. It could be as simple as reading a book, drawing, making crafts or listening to music. Learn to relax and involve in activities that would make you happier and relieve your stress.

Learn how to ask for help

Many times, people compare asking for help as a show of weakness.  For example, letting someone know that you’re unable to manage your workload isn’t a show of weakness.

And as a business owner myself, I know that the last thing you want is for your employees to know that you’re struggling emotionally or feeling overwhelmed. However, the longer you try to cover it up and overcompensate, the worse it will end up. As doubtful as it sounds, asking for help is a show of strength. Acknowledging your limits and taking the right steps to overcome them is an attribute of a strong leader,

Avoid unhealthy comparison

Social media would have us believe everyone is living their best lives; travelling, buying property, running successful businesses. The line between reality and perception is becoming increasingly blurred, and when you’re having a bad day, this can make you feel incredibly bad about yourself

Comparison on social media is unavoidable, and psychological research has shown that this kind of comparison leads to a list of mental health concerns. Thinking that you’re the only person struggling with your workload or not having reached this [often imaginary] level of success can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and even depression.

Because social media also allows us to network, connect with our peers and customers, and take our businesses to a global level, it’s impossible to disconnect from it altogether. Managing the amount of time you spend on it and the type of things you do while online is crucial to your mental well-being.

Create a balanced, healthy lifestyle

This one may seem obvious, but sleep deprivation, poor diet, and lack of exercise are just as bad for your mental health as physical. Though it may be difficult in the fast-paced startup life, committing to these important daily activities can be the deciding factor in whether your business fails or succeeds.

Force yourself to go to sleep by a certain time every night so that you’re getting the right amount of sleep and also getting your body into a healthy habit.

Make sure to set aside even 30 minutes of time a day to get in some quick cardio or a short one-hour class at the gym. And don’t neglect your diet! It doesn’t take much effort to take care of yourself, and the benefits are quite literally life-saving.

About Farida

Farida Yahya is the Founder of Lumo Naturals, an Abuja-based natural haircare solutions brand that provides a combination of natural products, techniques, artistic styles and education about African hair and the importance of healthy and natural hair to natural hair owners. She is also the founder of The Brief Academy, a learning hub dedicated to developing and supporting female-owned startups to achieving wealth and scalability. Farida is also the author of Redefining Beautiful, a book that discusses the realities of starting a natural hair business. You can connect with Farida Yahya on Instagram via her personal page @thefaridayahya and her business pages @lumonaturals and @thebriefacademy.

It’s interesting that some of our educated African brothers and sisters (African-Americans included) are ignorant of the reality of depression, even when we experience it. We worry more about what our kinsmen, friends, colleagues, and neighbours would say, rather than find ways to help ourselves, our loved ones or that stranger; crying out for help.

Son: I am depressed, Dad.

Dad: God forbid! It is not your portion!

Son: What does that even mean?

Dad: Rebuke it, Son! Depression is not for us. We are Africans. It’s a term oyinbo people use to seek for attention.

Son: I have been feeling depressed for weeks, Dad.

Dad: Biko, don’t let anybody hear you say that nonsense again. Tufiakwa! Abomination!

The next morning, this father found his only child in a pool of his blood, with a blood-soaked suicide note on his bedroom floor. All the signs were clearly there, just like in many cases.

***

Not many people experiencing depression express it or seek help. The question remains: how many people are attentive to these signs? How many people offer help?

There are several triggers for depression. Each trigger depends on an individual’s experiences, lifestyle, and/or thought-process.

There’s no shame in feeling depressed. It is not an abomination or a sin against God or Allah. Depression is real, as real as you can feel your breath under your nose. It is as real as the pain and emptiness it comes with.

Depression is a poison that can numb you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Who can relate? Say I.

You don’t have to have experienced depression to know it is real, or show empathy to someone experiencing it.

Depression literally kills many people on a daily basis. It does not discriminate, just like death. Even children as young as seven feel depressed. Many children and teens have committed suicide because they were depressed. No one is immune to feeling depressed. Many “normal people” have lived it too. They all felt depressed: lost, empty, alone, scared, and hopeless.

We need to educate Africans and families that depression is not a taboo. We need to be open to new information to better ourselves and wellbeing. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of to say, “I am depressed,” or “I need help.” It’s interesting that some of our educated African brothers and sisters (African-Americans included) are ignorant of the reality of depression, even when we experience it. We worry more about what our kinsmen, friends, colleagues, and neighbours would say, rather than find ways to help ourselves, our loved ones or that stranger; crying out for help.

All the signs are there. They are always there. We just have to pay more attention. When we are the ones experiencing depression, we should find the courage to talk to someone. Bottled emotions are like time bombs that will eventually explode. Rebuking “depression in the name of Jesus” is like rebuking the blood dripping on your face from a cut. You see the blood, you wipe it clean to treat the cut, and then ask God for healing, or you call your doctor for antibiotics. Being ignorant of the fact will simply make the cut/bruise prone to infection.

We need to know the difference between ignorance and foolishness. Being educated doesn’t equate to having common sense.

August Strindberg said, and I agree: “There are poisons that blind you and poisons that open your eyes.”

Depression is poison that can either blind us or open our eyes. It is like death slow in coming, if/when not taken care of.

Love can certainly help cure depression. Agape-kind-of love.

After all is said and done, what we tell ourselves takes root in our minds, therefore, controls our emotions and steps. Easier said than done, right? But, when being strong becomes our only way to survive, we start to see things differently, and we become the best of us … eventually. No doubt!

About Nkem

Nkem DenChukwu is a bonafide creative writer and filmmaker. In 2019, she became Houston Literary Awards – Reader’s Choice Winner. She delved into the arts of filmmaking and creative writing in 2012, and has since then, written 7 inspirational books for children, teens, and young adults. Nkem has produced 14 indie films in Texas. In 2018, she was featured in Forbes (Digital Edition) while five of her creative verses have been featured in Oprah Winfrey Magazine. Nkem was a Huffington Post Contributor. For more details on Nkem DenChukwu’s work, visit www.nkemdenchukwu.com

We all know what anxiety can feel like; it can be utterly debilitating and soul-destroying. Many of us are familiar with the pounding chest where you feel your heart is about to explode. Your face flushes or goes suddenly quite pale. You can feel the blood draining from your face.

The panic inside you says: “People are going to notice you experiencing this. Get out of here!” And the stinging fear of embarrassment and humiliation can overwhelm you to the point of tears.

Such experiences can be completely terrifying. We often want to stop feeling these symptoms altogether, however we need to recognize that in many cases, experiencing anxiety actually serves us well.

Our brains are biologically wired to help us survive. What’s happening here however, is our innate fear response has become hyper vigilant in a way that no longer serves us. It’s working in overdrive when we perceive (often subconsciously) there is a threat to our safety but there may not actually be a physical and real threat.

There are strategies you can use to regain control but you will need to consciously learn how to manage anxiety and reduce the emotional, mental and physical experiences you’re suffering.

1. Work with a Professional to Identify and Get Familiar with Your Triggers

Your experience of anxiety will be different to the next person and the next person after that. It’s important to recognize that the specific prescription of tools and techniques that work for you will be different to how they work for someone else.

Spending time to recognize patterns and common features of your anxiety should be a primary step in your management and recovery plan.

Despite popular belief that we need to go back to the root cause of how and why your anxiety started, it’s important to know that sometimes significantly traumatic events and/or experiences are better contained in the box with the lid on. In other cases, accessing the catalyst can be a lengthy and experience and near impossible.

Working with a qualified and trained mental health professional can greatly help you to gently and safely assess and determine things which can derail you. Doing so will not only help you protect your emotional and mental health, but add a greater sense of control in mapping and identifying graduated steps to work through as a treatment plan.

Look to partner with a supportive, empathetic trained professional in your corner who can see risks and help you develop suitable tailored action plans to manage and reduce symptoms that trigger your symptoms. You’ll increase control of your own progress, and your growing confidence can exponentially increase your recovery than trying to go it alone.

If you can’t access face to face or group workshops, online therapy (e.g. Better Help or Talk Space) is becoming much more widely available. There are options available for everyone.

2. Have Breathing Techniques up Your Sleeve

The mistake often made by those in the throes of experiencing heightened symptoms, is trying to recall specific ‘helpful’ thoughts to eradicate the unhelpful ones in that moment. This doesn’t work very often. It’s like trying to open the door of a front loader washing machine just commencing a spin cycle to put more laundry inside!

If your symptoms are highly intense, such strategy is unlikely to succeed. Your mind is the washing machine, by the way.

The way we breathe has incredible power beyond simply inhaling oxygen and expelling it from our lungs. The rhythm, pace and depth all have significant calming and healing effects on us.

Neuroscience documents that by switching focus to managing your breath halts certain neurons sending panic signals throughout your body.[1] The result is calmer physiology.

Making it your job to calm your breath first helps reduce intensity of those tangible symptoms screaming at you.

We breathe in two ways: through our thoracic region and through our diaphragm. The latter is the one you want to focus your attention to:

  1. Place your non-dominant hand, palm down flat over your chest and place the other just under your ribs on your diaphragm.
  2. Either close your eyes or drop your gaze to a 45° angle and choose a spot to loosely focus on.
  3. Draw a breath in through your nose, gradual, slow and smooth as silk for three counts.
  4. Hold the breath for a split second.
  5. Purse your lips and expel your breath again for 4 or 5 counts, slow, smooth as silk. Control the exhalation.

The next breath cycle, you may want to breathe in for three counts and exhale for five counts. Practice this for at least 5 cycles or at least till you start to notice you are physically calmer in some respects.

If you suffer from panic disorder,[2] you can initially feel increased panic or anxiety doing this technique. Stop and practice again a little while later. You need to switch focus from thoracic (chest) breathing which is common during panic attacks, to diaphragmatic breathing.

Don’t wait until you’re in the heat of the moment to try putting the technique into effect. Practice during a time when you are calmer so your brain and body develop a familiarity of the process and what a reduction in your symptoms feels like.

Like a competitive sport, you practice off the court so that when you get on the court, you’re well familiar with what you need to do. You only need to press the proverbial button and let a more automatic, practiced process wield its magic. Practice.

3. Learn Grounding and Distraction Techniques Which Give Your Mind Something to Do

Such techniques are distractions. Do they get rid of your anxiety? Unlikely. Do they help to cope with and reduce the intensity of your symptoms? Yes, so that you can recalibrate yourself to a more organized mental state from which you can engage cognitive exercises that challenge and reframe unhelpful thoughts.

If you’re never thought games such as eye-spy would ever come in handy in your adult years, here is news for you!

Start with the letter ‘A’ and look to name everything you can see around you starting with ‘A’. Move on then to the letter ‘B’ then ‘C’ and so on. Search as far, wide and deep as you can looking for objects that start with your letter of focus.

Or, use colors. Work your way through the colors of the rainbow sequentially identifying as many things as you can that showcase that color. Fully immerse into the exercise and give your mind something to focus on. Spend a few minutes to do this.

A tangible grounding technique is to focus on what you have physical contact with. Pay attention to the sensations; how your bottom touches and squishes into the chair or your back muscles press into the back of your seat.

How do your feet feel in your shoes? How do your clothes feel against your skin? You’re tasking your mind with an activity which decreases capacity for it to focus on your present symptoms of anxiety.

4. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Professor Jasper Smits and Professor Stefan Hofman have conducted extensive research into the most effective treatments for managing adult anxiety. They published findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry from an extensive meta-analysis which revealed CBT to consistently have strong impact in the treatment and management of anxiety.[3]

CBT involves addressing, challenging and reframing negative thoughts and re-shaping unhelpful behavior. A task-based, practical approach is applied to help clients recognize maladaptive thinking and habits, learn more helpful and positive ways to behave and think; and in turn, transform their symptoms.

For individuals to really experience benefit, undertaking regular applications of doable homework exercises is most effective. CBT is highly effective but requires individuals’ regular commitment.

Expect to work with a mental health professional on a weekly basis for three to four months. Find someone who won’t just give you homework sheets (that’s lazy therapy) but is closely attuned to providing you with good education, comfortably assess any resistance to change, and be able to modify and adjust exercises that best enable you to do them.

You won’t just experience a reduction in your symptoms because you develop such strong self-awareness and self-monitoring skills. You’ll learn mental skills that will strengthen your resilience and propel you further forward toward goals of how you want to feel, think and behave.

5. Try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT which involves applying light repetitive pressure to meridian points, is becoming increasingly documented as an effective symptom reduction technique for anxiety.[4] Also known as ‘tapping,’ anyone can learn to self-administer it with the guidance of a practitioner.

In collaboration with professional associate Gary Craig, Clinical psychologist Dr Roger Callahan[5] developed a simple yet effective self-administered process where individuals self-apply pressure to acupressure points on their body.

Using techniques from neuro linguistic programming and thought field therapy, individuals consciously lean into degrees of discomfort concerning their thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms.

Best learned under instruction and support of an EFT practitioner or trained professional, you initially apply mindfulness to consciously become aware of your anxiety symptoms – thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

As you tap, you gradually start to experience relief and reduction in your symptoms. However, remember the level of impact felt will differ and progress at different rates from one person to the next.

Research shows that the positive effect of tapping is long lasting, particularly for anxiety disorders and post traumatic stress. It is becoming used more widely for other mental health challenges including weight loss, grief and loss, low self-esteem and confidence.

6. Use Imagery to Help Manage Anxiety

This is such an under-utilized but very powerful mechanism of our brain when it comes to directing our thoughts and behavior in a way to serve us, particularly in the context of anxiety.

Our brains are neuroplastic. We can train and rewire them to work better in our favor, yet we often live the majority of our day unconsciously by default.

Think about how many times you have day-dreamed today. When your tummy starts growling just before lunchtime, can you easily hook into images of what you want to satiate your hunger?

Often we engage imagery without thinking, but guided imagery is a key technique that helps with the reduction of anxiety with diagnoses of PTSD, social phobia and performance anxiety.[6]

Your brain’s amygdala plays a key role in emotional regulation[7] and hence those emotions connected with perceived fear responses when you feel anxious.

Imaginal exposure therapy (vividly imagining the feared object, situation or activity) works to dampen amygdala activity and reduce the intensity of emotions experienced in anxiety. You have the advantage of visiting memories in a safe, controlled space interspersed with grounding/relaxation, and gently exposing your mind’s eye to that which you feel anxious about. Starting this process should be done with a trained professional.

7. Ensure Relaxation Techniques Are in Your Toolkit

Being anxious is exhausting. For those who suffer from general anxiety, your stress response mechanisms are constantly running, so you need to learn how to tell your body to relax.

Having a couple of meditative instructional relaxation apps you can instantly access through your phone should be on your list of essential management strategies.

In your choice of apps and relaxation techniques. consider choosing one which engages as many of your senses as possible. The more physical feedback you’re directed to notice a reduction in your physical symptoms throughout the relaxation exercise, the more likely you will stick to it and be motivated to repeat it.

Progressive muscle relaxation should be in your anxiety management toolkit. This method directs you to focus on noticing the different feeling between active tension and resulting relaxation when you release the tension of a muscle. Sequentially working through muscle groups in the body from head to toe, your mind is directing and telling your body to become calmer.

You need to be sensible with this one where you might be recovering from an injury or be at risk of developing a physical injury. Certainly avoid this exercise (and meditation) whilst driving.

Again, practicing this one at regular times throughout the day gives your brain and muscles a mental blueprint to relax such that it will be more effective in anxiety-provoking situations. Because you can also feel immediate tangible differences, it can boost your confidence earlier than starting with exercises that are purely cognitive.

The Bottom Line

Reviewing your diet and exercise regime is a given. Reducing caffeine intake, processed food and improving physical movement you engage in daily has incredibly strong impact and makes the strategies above even more effective when you do them.

However, for you to get a strong handle on how to manage and reduce your experience of anxiety, you’re going to have to develop a commitment to regularly applying changes.

If you don’t know where to start, get in touch with a therapist. Your first step is to develop a strong awareness of what you’re experiencing and what could be triggering it.

When you know and understand more, you can do far more in the pilot seat to land your anxiety back on the tarmac and potentially never let it take off from that runway again.

Author: Helen Dasilva

Missy Elliott is one of the hardest working entertainers in the game, but there was a time when it seemed more like the game was working on her, both mentally, physically, and emotionally. On a recent episode of Sway in the Morning, the 48 year-old-artist opened up about why she ultimately had to step away from the industry to continue to effectively walk in her purpose.

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To Missy, her time away from the music game acted as a catalyst for self-care in her personal life, and she recommends that no matter what line of work you’re in, you take time to take care of you, first, sis: The entertainer, who just came off of a 14-year hiatus with the release of her EP, Iconology, said that in the past, her struggle with Graves’ disease affected her career in a major way, even most recently during her recent performance at the VMAs

The singer recently told Angie Martinez that only hours before her show, she was rushed to the hospital because she couldn’t breathe. Despite her condition, Missy says she took some cough syrup and did the damn thing: Missy, who’s been open about her health struggles in the past, said that it was for this reason that she decided to bring her music career to a halt in the first place. The Virginia-born star first revealed her diagnosis with Graves’ in 2011 after she almost crashed a car due to muscle spasms.

She explained that at one point, her disease got so severe that she couldn’t even pick up a pen to do what she loved anymore:Despite Missy’s absence from the game, she’s back like she never left, but that didn’t come without some well-needed time for self, proving that it pays to take care of you, the world can wait.

Source: Hzeppfeed

Selena Gomez is speaking out about her hiatus from the public spotlight and mental health journey.

About a year ago, the singer went off the grid as she announced she would be taking a break from social media and later checked herself into a facility for help with her mental health.

Gomez has now opened up about what she called the “scariest” time of her life and her decision to finally seek help while receiving the 2019 McLean Award at the McLean Hospital’s annual dinner held in Massachusetts.

In her acceptance speech at the award ceremony, she said; “I think that we are better when we tell the truth and, so, this is my truth. Last year, I was suffering mentally and emotionally, and I wasn’t able to stay all that kept together. I wasn’t able to hold a smile or to keep things normal. It felt like all of my pain and my anxiety washed over me all at once and it was one of the scariest moments of my life”.

Gomez then explained that after she sought out help, doctors were able to give her a clear diagnosis, which she said was both terrifying and a relief. “Terrified, obviously, because the veil was lifted, but relieved that I finally had the knowledge of why I had suffered for so many years with depression and anxiety,” the actress explained.

With her new knowledge, she said she felt equipped to face it head-on. And while it is still an ongoing battle, Gomez admitted that she is in a much better place a year later.

“After a year of a lot of intense work. I am happier, I am healthier, and I am in control of my emotions and thoughts more than I’ve ever been. So, I’m very happy about that” Gomez went on to say that while it isn’t easy to share her story with the world, she knows that others will benefit from hearing it.

 

 

Credit: LIB