7 Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health While Protesting

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Over the past week, young Nigerians have been making their voice heard in an effort to end SARS and for an overall reform of the Nigerian police force. In this period, we have been met with much hostility, some of us have been killed, injured, unlawfully detained, teargassed, etc. But our spirit remains strong, as we see that our efforts have caught the government’s attention and has not been for nought.

Everything happening seems like it’s straight out of a dystopian film, the injustice is infuriating, to say the least. We have experienced even more trauma for expressing the frustration of past trauma and this in itself is heavy on the mind. We’re at a point where we must keep the persistence and consistency that has gotten us this far, and we’ll need our minds to stay as solid as possible from here on out.

Here are 7 tips to care for your mind as we fight for our rights:

Eating Well Helps the Mind

The importance of nourishing yourself cannot be understated, because it greatly benefits the body and mind. You should also drink plenty of fluids before, during and after protests to stay hydrated. The mind and body are very much connected, nutrition and removal of toxins from the body are a big part of mental health.

Watch out for Burnout

Protesting is an activity that takes a lot of energy and can be very mentally stressful due to what you may experience at one. Protesting for a considerable period without breaks is a surefire way to get burnt out. Burnout can lead to demotivation, lethargy, and even depression. Make sure to plan breaks between tasks of high exertion. Stretch and take a walk (in nature if you can) when you get up in the morning. Engage in a meditative activity to monitor your energy levels.

Take time to talk with loved ones

As much as our time and effort are needed towards the cause, remember the people you feel safe talking to about things and connect with them from time to time. Ultimately we are social beings, having friends around (physically or virtually) is good for your mental health. Talking to people also helps us couple our ideas better, balance emotional impulses, and calms anxieties. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything going on, DON’T suppress your feelings.

Try not to use Alcohol and Drugs as fuel

It’s tempting to take drugs and alcohol to give yourself more energy, but constant use may lead to addiction, and hurt mental and physical health. We want to keep our stand for our rights for as long as possible, and daily hangovers is precious time wasted. Also, if the authorities find drugs on you at a protest it doesn’t help the cause.

Take a Step Back from Social Media Sometimes

Social media has been an integral tool in pushing the movement to end SARS and police brutality. Young Nigerians have used social media to create and maintain awareness, organize protests, and pass information to help out detained protesters. However, the constant flood of news, opinion, and graphic content takes its toll on your mental health. You can take a step away for some periods in the day. If you feel like you’re betraying the movement by stepping back, there’s much work you can do offline like contacting constituency reps, or going to a protest, constructing your opinions to share later online or to converse with people not yet aware of the movement.

Take Time to Meditate

Meditation helps you take a break from anxious thoughts and emotional triggers which I think have been on the high in the past week. When your mind is relaxed, you can make more conscious decisions which help your mental performance and confidence. Taking 5 to 10 undisturbed minutes a day to sit still and focus on your breath will go a long way in helping you process your thoughts, and go back out in the world even more resolute.

Seek Professional Help If You Have To

At the end of the day, we can only help ourselves so much. If you’re feeling especially weighed down by the state of things, seek a mental health professional like a therapist. If you can’t visit one physically right now, you could also have sessions via Zoom. Professionals have the appropriate information to advise you based on your specific situation.

To Help Others, You Need to Take Care of Yourself First. Let us keep going in the struggle to end police brutality. #SARSMUSTEND

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Nasir Ahmed Achile

Philosophy nut. I recommend Albert Camus and Eckhart Tolle to everyone I know.

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