Safeguarding your mental health in 2021

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The year 2020 and all it had to offer really put people’s backs against the wall; financially and mental health wise. It started its journey with the U.S.A against Iran, which made many think a world war was on the verge but Covid-19 made it the faceoff between the two look like child’s play.

Covid-19 gave birth to various mental lockdowns. The World Health Organisation (W.H.O) said on its web site ‘The pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, Covid-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.”

‘“Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation.

Here in Nigeria, Covid-19 gave a voice (so to speak) to the one million boys to make an attempt to reign. Then came the EndS.A.R.S movement and pockets of violence (including robbery, domestic, rape) here and there. Oh! Let’s not forget Boko Haram,another mental menace, inflation to mention a few.

We may be in 2021 now andwhile there might not be a mental annoying lockdown (at least till 11pm to 4 am in Nigeria), S.A.R.S anymore and a vaccine for Covid-19 is available, you might think all is about to be ok mentally; that’s if you ignore WhatsApp’s privacy (intended) new approach that might (have) let your financial details get into the hands of hackers etc, says a colleague of mine.

Putting in mind that a primary school colleague’s Facebook(FB) account has just been hacked and in 2020, there were 85.26 million mobile internet users in Nigeria, a quick online research was done.

This lead to articles that ‘spoke’ about its web malware, unencrypted backups, FB’s planned bid to merge its messaging platforms (to which WhatsApp belonged), co-founder Brian Acton leaving, your being asked to break your end-to-end encryption etc. Forbes.com in an article titled ‘Do you suddenly need to stop using WhatsApp?’dated January 9, 2021, said ‘WhatsApp’s nightmare week has continued to get worse—a backlash against the scale of its data collection quickly followed by its sudden forcing of new terms of service on its users to share their data with FB. Agree to this now or delete your account, it has said. And so, as many users look for alternatives, should you do the same?… The world’s leading messaging platform claims security and privacy are in its DNA, but it is owned by the world’s most avaricious data harvesting machine. Now this WhatsApp balancing act has just become much harder, as it finds itself threatening users with deleted accounts unless they accept new terms that take effect on February 8.’

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Though February 8 might not occur any more from WhatsApp, as a play of words in a bid to cut down on the personal frustrations felt by all of us from the pandemic, it was asked if any (electronic) vaccines for this? Is there anything we all should know about mobile phone and security?

Tech executive, Justice Olley when consulted about mobile device vaccines (or security) first gave a scenario:“The mobile phone has gradually evolved to be one of the necessities in our lives. Just like the (face- italics mine) mask nowadays, one cannot leave the house without their mobile phone and if they do, paranoia kicks in. What if someone calls and I am not around to answer the phone? What if someone (unknown to me) knows my password and goes through my phone? What if my phone gets lost or I am robbed and made to say the password? It doesn’t matter what you have on your phone, but you have to agree with me that the mobile phone is one of the most private things in your life.

“Each piece of information in your mobile phone should be secured, such that you only share with the public what you deem less private”.

In a social media group, another colleague mentioned others that could serve as alternatives. These include;Telegram, Signal, iMessage, while when added security for mobile devises is needed HiOS came to mind. HiOS as an operating system which many are familiar with in Nigeria,‘is found onall TECNOphones and are equipped with the latest technology to help you secure your mobile phone ranging from closed eyes detection, dim environment unlock, vault the second security, the latest inbuilt antivirus for internet malwares and’ to mention a few is the insight. Insight into mobile device security could save us financial and private photos, videos, documents headaches.

W.H.O in a survey found out that ‘Over 60percent reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72percent), older adults (70percent), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61%). 67% saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy; 65% to critical harm reduction services; and 45% to opioid agonist maintenance treatment for opioid dependence. More than a third (35%) reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes; and delirium, often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition. 30percent reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78percent and 75percent respectively).’

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In regards what else should we be doing to maintain our mental health especially during this pandemic, what are the other insights? In one of the online articles Rafael Máñez, head of intensive care unit at Bellvitge Hospital, Barcelona spoke of getting a balanced system. There are certain foods to stock up on that are vital for the normal function of our immune systems, Irish Consultant Dietitian and Nutritionist Paula Mee in the same article agrees. “Vitamin D is so important, it helps to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Hopefully, you will have some stores of Vitamin D tucked away after the sunshine…, but if not, you can get your dose from oily fish like salmon or mackerel, and even eggs have a little too.” That is if you live in Ireland.

Here in Nigeria, Guardian Life (April 2018) says similar in its online portal. It added raw milk.

Also, ‘“Vitamin C is an interesting one, says Paula, people assume it’s a safety net, and it is important, but contrary to popular belief, it only shortens the length of colds, rather than preventing them in the first place.” Ideally you would eat it fresh, she goes on, “broccoli is a great source of vitamin C, as is cauliflower, and so are kiwis!”

In Nigeria, Vitamin C found in sweet orange was found to contain the highest amount of vitamin C (56·0 mg100 g edible portion), sweet banana variety II contained the lowest amount (9·4 mg100 g edible portion), Lime, grapefruit, pawpaw and ‘agbalumo’ were found to contain considerable amounts of vitamin C, having 46·5, 47·0, 43·2 and 48·0 mg100 g respectively says Food Chemistry (Volume 5, Issue 2, April–June 1980, Pages 163-167).

The mineral zinc also helps develop white blood cells, the immune cells that fight off foreign bacteria and viruses. A zinc deficiency can greatly increase our risk of infection, Paula says. “Zinc is found in abundance in oysters and shellfish. Lean red meat is another good source but vegetarians have to rely on other foods to ensure adequate zinc, such as pumpkin and other seeds, fortified cereals and low fat yoghurt and milk.”

In general, maintaining a healthy diet and building your immune system is about “breadth and coverage”, says Paula. “It’s no use overdosing on one fruit/veg that is particularly high in a certain nutrient, it’s all about balance. Probiotics are also extremely helpful at forming that resistant barrier, try natural yoghurt, fermented foods, tofu or miso soup for these.”

In Nigeria, ‘zincish’ foods include tiger nuts, beans, okpa (bambara), African oil bean seed, ofada rice, periwinkle (snails), meat, beef, poultry,oats, milk, dates (dabino), bitter leaf, crabs and shellfish, potatoes, eggs, avocados says HealthGuide.ng

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For wellness and sustainability influencer, Danielle Copperman, staying healthy is a state of mind. “For me, the easiest way to cleanse and work to protect the body against viruses is to focus on three elements when it comes to food – fresh, active and alive.”

“I eat seasonal, natural foods on a daily basis which, combined with a regular exercise routine, has meant that I haven’t had a cold in years. I feel rundown when I’m eating badly, it’s a cycle that affects everything from my energy to my skin, and my mood tends to be sluggish too. I’ve learnt that your gut and your brain really communicate.”

All you can do is what makes your body and your mind feel good, says Danielle. “I prefer fresh fruit and veg for example as, not only does it taste better, there’s no risk of the healthy enzymes being frozen, as can be the case with freezer food. I also take multivitamin supplements and cook with herbs, roots and spices like turmeric powder.”

She also recommends making date, cashew and ginger balls.

Paula points out that one benefit we can see is that families are spending more and more time in the kitchen, “it’s a great time to feel inspired, try new recipes and take the time to cook with your kids,” she says.

W.H.O earlier mentioned, has its own advice:

“Keep informed. Listen to advice and recommendations from your national and local authorities. Follow trusted news channels, such as local and national TV and radio, and keep up-to-date with the latest news from @WHO on social media,” it says.

“Have a routine. Keep up with daily routines as far as possible, or make new ones; get up and go to bed at similar times every day; keep up with personal hygiene; eat healthy meals at regular times; exercise regularly, and allocate time for working and time for resting,” W.H.O adds, among many others.

Finally,

‘O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has wither’d from the lake

And no birds sing.’

These are the words of Keats, found in an online article titled, EIGHTEENTH CENTURY LAUGHTER, A TONIC IN COVID TIMES by Charles Jernigan. Here he informed about how in these Covid-19 times, ‘some enterprising (opera) companies have started to find innovative ways to present opera live, staged socially distanced and offered remotely and ensure we ‘put a smile on our face’ Lagbaja style.

Stay (mentally, mobile device)safe and positive.(Whether you believe the pandemic is in Nigeria or not, use your nose mask in public and have it washed immediately after use). Be sure, we will get through all these mental challenges.

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