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Dealing with Anxiety in African communities

Updated: May 7, 2022

Anxiety is a way your body is informing you that you are stressed. Everyone has different triggers and knowing what those triggers are is really helpful towards being able to manage it.

Before you can deal with anxiety, understanding what the focus around it is, makes it slightly easier to mange. Sometimes it could be caused by an upcoming situation such as preparing for a presentation, an uneasy conversation or fear of the unknown.

Once you are able to take charge of your thoughts, you will be capable of navigating through your anxiety.

Sadly, having anxiety isn't something that is easily talked about much in some African communities. As a Nigerian myself, if I came out to certain groups and informed them I was dealing with anxiety issues, most times all I would hear is, 'just pray about it' 'you will be okay' or 'what is anxiety, your fine' jare (jare is just an exclamation).. 'stop looking for attention' or 'stop being dramatic', 'all is well' etc ...

But the question is ...will it be well? it seems as the thought of it worries people, even writing about this now I feel a tightness in my chest just thinking about the potential opinions towards this topic.

Many African traditional parents encourage their children to go to university, work or have businesses, which is great and good but sometimes they forget the need for balance by neglecting time for play or having fun, not realising that all these unnecessary pressures can cause anxiety.

Also, trying to manage negative thoughts and emotions with negative things happening around you through either work, relationships, family, friends even your economic situation can be tough.

Anything that matters deeply to you can cloud your mindset and make you extremely anxious and when you become anxious it can cause you to become overwhelmed and stressed out to the point you can't sleep, eat or move, you might even start having palpitations or feel like your having a mini heart attack or it could get really bad to the point you literally feel like your about to die.

It's like being conscious of your surrounding but your mind isn't fully there, because you're constantly worrying about things you shouldn't be worrying about. But you want to talk about it but at the same time you want to avoid people saying that you are being melodramatic.

I remember when I emailed one of my former employers to let them know I was signed off from work due to stress and anxiety attacks and she told me that she didn't believe me as she couldn't see any signs.

What fascinates me is how serious this is but yet people expect you to look like your literally dying before they know something's wrong which is really tough and hard because it could terrify you to mention it again or talk to someone about it, assuming that's the type of response you are always going to get.

Telling someone 'you should talk to someone about it' is so easy to say but how about people who are scared or shy or don't actually like to talk much .. because when they do their heart starts to race so fast like it's literally going to jump out their chest, so many things can go through the mind at the same time, also trying to remain calm and sane. So if you ever wonder why some people don't talk about it .. most times they just don't want you judge them.

It's important for people to have a community that supports you, so if you know someone that is going through this, give them your listening ear as a way of support, don't judge or give them it's all going to be fine it's just a faze talk and actually recommend things like therapy, treat them right, don't just say it's all going to be fine because it does not take overnight to heal, it takes a community's support to lift each other up.

It's important for anyone going through anxiety to know:

  • Who they can talk to

  • How to avoid doing regrettable things to get rid of their anger

  • Deep breaths is important

  • Channelling your thoughts to something or someone that makes you happy or doing things that you love to do

Anxiety is very common and is a completely normal feeling. I would also recommend speaking to your GP, close relative or friend, find a support group/system and do something that makes you happy.

If you have any additions you would like suggest, please kindly share

Sewa Adebayo


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