Nigerian Women Share: How to Improve Your Mental Wellbeing in and out of relationships
Mental well-being is closely linked to mental health. This part of us affects how we perceive ourselves and inadvertently plays a huge role in how we interact and form relationships with other people. Today, four Nigerian women share how they improve and maintain their mental well-being in and out of (romantic) relationships while living in an environment that can be volatile.
What is mental well-being?
Our mental health refers to our emotional, mental and psychological state at all times. It affects how we think, act and feel, while mental well-being refers to how you feel about yourself, how you handle stress, situations and the general happenings of life.
Though these two concepts are closely linked, our mental and even physical health is influenced greatly by our sense of meaning and general well-being.
Characteristics of stable mental well-being
Good mental well-being can be identified by certain factors and/behaviours, some of which are: a positive outlook on life, a sense of purpose, ability to cope with stress, amongst other things.
Of course, mental well-being can be affected by several things like violence, sexual abuse poor work/life balance, loss or bereavement, illness, etc. This in turn can affect mental health, physical health and our relationships with others.
How to improve mental well-being.
Mental health practitioners have many suggestions on how to improve your mental well-being, some of which seem obvious but do help. They suggest talking about our feelings, physical exercise, eating healthy, and asking for help, among other things.
It’s important to seek professional help if your mental well-being is consistently low, and is affecting your mental health.
Situations are peculiar to different people, and Nigerian women deal with a certain level of poverty, violence and live in a patriarchal society. Four Nigerian women share how they improve and maintain their mental well-being, in such a volatile environment, in and out of (romantic) relationships.
One of the most important things is to share your feelings because your partner might not know what is wrong until you tell them. It prevents resentment because after sharing how you feel, you can have an honest conversation about it.
Communication is so important. Communicate about everything, even what you *think* is unimportant. It gives clarity on how to navigate situations with your partner.
It is important to be independent in your relationship. As much as you love being with someone, you are an individual and you also have a different life from your partner. It is healthy to have hobbies separate from them, go out on your own sometimes, with your own friends – basically thrive on your own. It is also essential to recognize unhealthy or abusive behaviour in any relationship. It can leave one damaged and very unhappy in the long run.
Understand and respect your boundaries, know the things you can put up with, know to what extent you can compromise and what ideas you can compromise on. I don’t think compromises can be completely avoided in a relationship, but have your limits.
Humans can be very complicated. When they know you can put up with anything, even people who claim to love you can take advantage of you. Personally, as a feminist, you must pair up with someone (a man) who aligns with your ideals. You can operate outside of gender roles and build an equal partnership.
For improving mental well-being outside of a relationship, I just delete every memory of them, make them disappear on my socials and I am good in a short period. I’ll also add to get engaged in other things – work or something else. Meet new people, if you are into that kind of thing. Spend time with people who love you, this is why you mustn’t discard your friends when you start a romantic relationship.
Honestly, a whole lot of well-being is about liking yourself.
Think deeply about yourself and what matters to you. I find that a lot of the time, we don’t consider ourselves first in a lot of situations. But if you genuinely like yourself or even work towards liking yourself, you start to understand you deserve better and there is only one person who can truly always give it to you. And that is you.
Being out of a relationship:
- Try to focus on finding yourself
- Build new and different types of relationships
- Explore! Explore! Explore, sensuality, places, food, experiences. Find new things.
- Self-respect is also imperative.
Being in a relationship:
- Alone time is golden; make out time for yourself to do and enjoy other things outside of your relationship.
- See a therapist either alone or together.
- Put more value on other relationships and work on them too.
- Be aware of what you want and need, communicate that to yourself so you can articulate it to them.
I suffer from anxiety and before my relationship, when I got uncomfortable or stressed out, I would go into a panic attack and spiral, maybe isolate myself.
But when I got into a relationship and started I living with my partner, living with someone that I value so much made me adjust my coping mechanisms, because they weren’t healthy.
Witnessing first-hand how my behaviour affects him made me do a lot of critical thinking as to why I act the way I do. That was when I started finding ways to channel my feelings in a more well-adjusted way, taking walks, cooking, crying, and laughing with him.
Then I started becoming better for myself. It also helps that he’s very nurturing, so when I’m off doing what is best for me, I don’t have to worry that he’s not going to wait for me on the other side. I have fewer panic attacks now.
A learning moment happened after a huge fight we had. We had a lot of difficult conversations and at the end of it, I was just in awe of how much I didn’t know and how much control I lacked in my life. In that moment, I realized how much I was projecting my fears and my mother’s fears onto him. Now I handle situations better. I make so many plans for everything because uncertainty has always messed with me. He would probably describe me as a proactive, anxious person, because instead of being overwhelmed, I have four contingency plans in the bag.
If a situation goes bad, my feelings won’t automatically turn into aggression aimed at him. I’d say it helps to have healthy habits and energy outlets. Take walks, have hobbies, do something with your hands.
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