Mental health advocacy is still in the infancy stage in Nigeria. That doesn’t change the fact that people – ladies – are silently suffering. This article is a brief (yet long) breakdown of how to manage depression as ladies in Nigeria.
Photo Credit: Arowolo Ajibola
Sometimes, there’s this feeling of nothingness that wraps around you like a cozy blanket. It’s a familiar feeling that you prefer to call “tired” or “stressed” because of the stigma attached to more serious terms like “depression”. You’re not sure how long it’ll last or if this will be the last straw for you. You can only try to be strong and keep pushing until you’re fine again. That feeling is depression and it’s easier to deal with when you acknowledge it rather than ignore it.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional (though a Biotechnologist). However, I’ve had my fair share of love-hate relationships with my hormone system and mental health and there’s not a lot of articles on how to manage depression as ladies in Nigeria, hence my decision to write this. I can only hope that this helps you in one way or another.
Understanding depression in women
About twice as many women like men suffer from depression for reasons such as biological factors, inherited traits, and social life circumstances. Depression manifests differently in people and can either be mild or severe. Understanding its signs is as important as learning how to manage depression because if you can find the source of anything, you have a better chance of stopping it. Some of its symptoms are:
- Recurring feelings of sadness and/or emptiness
- Random changes in appetite that cause either weight loss or weight gain
- Loss of interest towards things you used to enjoy
- Insomnia (reduced sleep) or hypersomnia (oversleeping)
- Attention deficiency
- Feeling of unworthiness
- Feeling helpless, hopeless and guilt-ridden
- Having suicidal thoughts
As a woman or a lady, depression can impact every aspect of your life including relationships with people and God, physical health, career growth and self-confidence. It affects the way you function as a friend, colleague, daughter, sister, mother and wife. It is usually influenced by hormones, social pressure. Whatever you might be going through, remember that you’re not alone in that feeling and that you can always seek help.
Some easy and natural ways to get out of the funk before seeking more professional help can be changing your current environment by taking a walk for a breath of fresh air. You can also call a friend that’ll transfer positive vibes your way. Knowing how to manage depression as ladies in Nigeria also requires paying attention enough to recognize the most likely cause of that feeling. Does it manifest just before your period? Or after you’ve had an extremely long day? This will give you an idea of how to manage it and prevent it from happening again.
Common causes of depression in women in Nigeria
Research has shown that women tend to experience depression more than men. This is attributed to the changes in hormonal levels that occur as soon as adolescence sets in. Factors like menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause can cause mood swings and emotional imbalances that affect your daily life as a woman. This section is a brief breakdown of how depression affects ladies from these natural events.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Your menstrual period is accompanied by hormonal fluctuations that can cause PMS or PMDD. PMS is a mild form of emotional and psychological reactivity that makes you feel tired, bloated or unnecessarily irritable. PMDD is a more severe condition characterized by major depression and mood swings a few days before your period starts and abates during the period.
Fertility issues and pregnancy
The hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can contribute to depression. Other related issues like miscarriages, still-born, child death, unwanted pregnancies or infertility could also increase your chances of experiencing depression. There’s also the case of baby blues or postpartum depression where new mothers feel unworthy, undeserving or incapable of providing adequate care to their babies.
In mild cases, these feelings subside after a short period of time but they could also persist long enough to require professional attention.
Did you know that stress has a unique way of worsening already existing conditions? Imagine going through the physical pain of your period or pregnancy, and managing work stress at the same time. You know how easy it is to lash out at co-workers or even your loved ones at the slightest mistakes. And there’s the feeling of guilt that accompanies that outburst when you realize your reaction was unfair.
If care is not taken, there’s a high chance that you’ll dwell on that guilt, dig up unrelated past events and eventually label yourself a terrible person or some other demeaning terms.
Body image issues
The feeling of insecurity about certain parts of the body is more common in ladies than in guys. This is no news to you. This awareness starts as early as the body begins to develop and the mind starts to have a certain definition of beauty. You tend to look at yourself and think, my lips are too big, look at this disgusting belly fat, my feet are ginormous, I barely have boobs to be called a girl, and the list goes on.
This kind of depression doesn’t happen overnight. It creeps in slowly like water through a tiny crack in the wall until it explodes and you have no idea where to start picking up the pieces. This has been happening for years and it’s still happening. Thankfully, social media – which used to be part of the problem – is gradually becoming an ardent preacher of the “stop body-shaming” campaign.
Other possible causes of depression in women in Nigeria include: pre-existing health conditions, depression history in the family, unbearable responsibilities, substance abuse, childhood abuse, sexual harassment at the workplace or in school, and this list is barely scratching the surface…
5 tips on how to manage depression as ladies in Nigeria
Actively embrace support groups
Dealing with depression as ladies take time and effort. I’ll admit that once you’re in that state of mind, it’s difficult to put the effort into anything. Keyword being difficult, not impossible. It’s important that you make positive choices for yourself one day at a time.
The nature of depression in itself makes it difficult to help yourself and also to ask for help. However, there’s always a circle of people (or a person) that you trust. Make up your mind to reach out to them. Thanks to the world we live in, there are different modes of communication that can suit your mood. Phone calls, messages, video calls and good old-fashioned physical visits are ways you can reach out. If you’re feeling a bit out of sync and don’t want a familiar face, there are other effective forms of support.
You can offer to help someone out with something, and you can reach out anonymously to share your feelings with a virtual support group. The mental awareness Nigeria Initiative (MANI) on Twitter is a perfect choice for this. There’s help out there. All you need to do is reach out.
Exercise or try yoga
One of the symptoms of depression is the unwillingness to make any real progress in daily activities. You don’t feel like getting out of bed or eating or talking, talk less of doing something as active as exercise.
But exercise is a natural depression fighter. It promotes certain changes in the brain that encourage feelings of calmness and well-being. It releases endorphins that make you feel good by energizing your spirits. It is also a form of distraction that takes your mind off whatever is causing that depression and makes you focus solely on moving and stretching your body.
Do one thing when you exercise: practice mindfulness. You know, pay attention to the way your chest heaves, the way your feet make an impact with the floor and the sound of your breath. Just be present in that activity; it’s the perfect form of distraction from negative thoughts.
Regular exercise can help foster high self-esteem, better sleep routines and stronger resilience. The icing on the cake here is you don’t have to sign up for a gym workout. You can start with something as easy as a 30-minute stroll or speed walking, and be faithful to it. With exercise, even the smallest effort is better than nothing.
Sleep like a baby
Depression can either make you sleepless or sleep more. Finding a healthy balance is an effective way to manage depression. I’m sure you must have heard the 8-hour sleep rule. While that’s good advice, it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Ideally, you might need more or less. It’s not just about the quantity, the quality matters too. I mean, what’s the point of sleeping for eight hours if you spend half the time tossing and turning around your bed?
Optimize your environment to favour your sleep hours. Choose a dim light rather than a bright one. Play relaxing music if it works for you. Do light relaxation stretches just before bed if you think it’ll help.
Remember depression is in the head. If you’re not trying to relax your body and mind, you’re not helping.
The things you eat directly influence your state of mind. Modifying your diet and nutritional choices can help relieve the depressed feelings you have. Foods rich in vitamin B and low in salt are good choices as they can help balance hormonal fluctuations and potentially reduce mood changes. Examples of these include citrus fruits, leafy vegetables, fish, eggs, etc.
Don’t just eat healthy foods, eat them at healthy intervals too. Don’t skip meals for flimsy reasons. Your body needs it and honestly, so do your tastebuds. Water is important here too. Make it a habit to satisfy thirst before indulging in junk food (if at all you want to). Sometimes, all you need is the cooling effect of water on your system, not munching or chewing.
Being intentional is key here. There are a hundred and one reasons why you might be stressed. There’s family, friendships, relationships, school, and even the mere process of growing up. But you can let them get to you. I don’t want to sound like a motivational speaker, but still…
No matter how tough things get, there’ll always be certain activities that naturally destress you. It could be writing, poetry, sports, reading self-help books, seeing movies, whatever; there’s always that one thing. Find time for it and let it supply you with all the dose of pleasure it has. If you’re not sure what to do, check out this post for some stress management tips that’ll certainly give you some insights on how to manage depression as ladies in Nigeria.
Also, try to stay away from situations that automatically stress you. Stay away from bad energy.
5 things to avoid when dealing with depression
Girls, ladies, women are more in touch with their emotions than the other gender. That’s what the common trend has shown. For this reason, we tend to indulge in some bad habits that do more harm than good. Dealing with depression as ladies, and trying to find your healthy state means staying away from these bad habits.
Jumping to conclusions
Don’t make assumptions, sister. It sucks. You’re not a mind reader or a fortune teller. If you’re not sure, leave the space blank and don’t fill it until you have enough evidence to back your conclusions.
Seeing things in black and white
It’s never always either good or bad. There’s a colour called grey. Don’t have an all-or-nothing mindset. There’s always a middle ground to which you can belong.
Fixating on the negatives
Even when beauty is staring you in the face. Do I even need to explain any further? You don’t have a flat tummy, so what? There’s more to you than your belly fat. See that beauty and accept it for what it is.
Words are truly powerful. Don’t call yourself a loser or a failure because you’ll only feel worse, and you might even start believing those words. While it’s good to pay attention to criticisms, you shouldn’t let them define you.
Yes, you have to get a promotion. You need to achieve this and that. Don’t set goals that aren’t flexible. Give room for changes. Forget about the things you think you should do and focus on the ones you’ve already done. It’s you against you, nobody else matters.
Depression is common, normal and treatable. It is also a serious health condition and should be handled as such. It’s quite sad that almost every event associated with your femininity can predispose you to depression. However, just because it is associated with normal aspects of your life as a woman doesn’t mean you should ignore it, suffer in silence, or hope for some miraculous recovery.
Be intentional about seeking help and be ready to accept it when it comes. Hopefully, these tips on how to manage depression as ladies in Nigeria would contribute to your healing and general mental health awareness.
Thank you for reading.
- An experienced SEO content writer and an author of several short stories. She helps individuals and businesses communicate effectively with their audience; by writing, proofreading and editing. She believes in the power of words; the structure, tone and flow. And she's a devoted lover of the paranormal and fantasy world.