Take charge! Be in control of your mental health this year.

Counselling Services Unit

Compliments of the New Year and a hearty welcome to the 2nd semester for the 2023-2024 Academic year! Having a sound mental health has so many covert and overt dividends more so with respect to academic performance and work productivity. In this write-up, we shall delve into the significance of self-care and why it is essential to seek help and common misconceptions about counselling.

Self-care

Self-care is delineated as the process of establishing behaviors to ensure holistic well-being of oneself, to promote health, and actively manage illness when it occurs. Individuals engage in some form of self-care daily with food choices, exercise, sleep, and hygiene. In this article, we shall discuss five aspects of self-care which are;

Physical Self-Care

The body and mind inextricably intertwined. What happens to one aspect inevitably affects the other. Physical self-care involved taking care of our physical health through, regular exercise, Sit in the sunlight, practice good sleep hygiene drink water healthy eating or diet, regular medical attention and check-ups among other things.

Social Self-Care.

As humans we are social beings thus we are not meant to live in total isolation. We all need social connectivity to thrive in life. That is why the definition of health incorporates “social well-being.” Isolating oneself usually creates an environment that fosters negativity and negative rumination without recourse to alternative opinion. Negative thoughts are at the centre of maladaptivity and mental distress.

 

 

Psychological Self-Care 

This involves learning, thinking, and growing. Psychological self-care activities might encompass personal and professional development. We should give attention to things that are in your control (your sphere of influence). Take time for personal reflection and notice your inner experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Cultivate self-awareness through things such as journaling, getting feedback from others, meditation, coaching/counseling, places where you have the opportunity to grow, learn, and reflect. Psychological self-care prioritizes aspects which enhance psychological well-being. Stress management is one aspect of psychological self-care which everybody must priorities every day. What are the aspects of stress management? Exercise, journaling, mindfulness (being aware in the present), using affirmations, relaxation techniques (deep breathing, music, meditation, prayer) among others. The key thought is when stress comes, it must be managed because stress is a constant hence it will always be there. Our duty is to manage it and be in control so as to fulfill our life goals.

Spiritual Self-Care

Spiritually oriented people have life filled with hope. Without hope, many distressing situations are exacerbated. When people come together to worship, there is an aura of peace and fulfillment which enhances mental health. There is also a chance to socialize and interact and sometimes share our burdens and as the cliché says “a problem shared is half redressed!” It is thus crucial to be involved in worship, singing, reading the bible and fellowshipping as a mental health strategy.

 

Emotional Self-Care.

The last aspect of self-care is emotional self-care. Humans by our nature we are emotional and thus it is easy for us to be angry, emotional and vent out. Emotionality is not the problem, but what we do when we are angry or irate. Anger management is crucial for us to maintain peace with self and others. Emotional intelligence involves the ability to recognize the emotions of others and of oneself, and being able to act appropriately. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. Emotional intelligence involves, Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. When you are angry, if you defer action for under 16 seconds, you may do yourself long term favor than acting impromptu! A company might be willing to employ an emotionally intelligent candidate than one who is academically intelligent!

The importance of seeking help

We are different as we are many and that also translates to our help-seeking behaviors. There are introverts who are more inclined towards being alone and dealing with their own issues. On the other hand there are also extroverts who are more open and talk about their feeling. Some are in between and so forth. Seeking help when distressed is recommended particularly when you feel that the personal coping recourses have been depleted. Advantages of seeking help are many and some are as follows;

  • Improved communication and interpersonal skills
  • Greater self-acceptance and self-esteem
  • Ability to change self-defeating behaviors/habits
  • Better expression and management of emotions, including anger
  • Relief from depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • Increased confidence and decision-making skills
  • Ability to manage stress effectively
  • Improved problem-solving and conflict resolution abilities
  • Greater sense of self and purpose
  • Recognition of distorted thinking

 

Some common misconceptions about counselling

  • If I need help, something is wrong with me. I must be broken or abnormal. Just like with physical illness, mental illness and addiction are medical problems. You wouldn’t say that someone who has cancer or the flu is broken.
  • The counsellor will tell me what my problems are and how to fix them– Counselling aims to empower individuals and groups through inculcating problem solving skills. Telling people what to do is disempowering and unethical. A person ordinarily has the mental capacity to brainstorm and come up with solutions provided a supportive environment is availed.
  • No one will understand my problem. I don’t deserve help. There are many people who know are here to listen and help. You deserve to feel healthy and whole. Counsellors are trained to help and facilitate problem resolution. 
  • If I come in for an appointment, you will send me to the hospital.Students are often concerned that if they disclose that they are contemplating suicide, they will be hospitalized or asked to take time off.  While the College’s highest priority is the health and safety of our students, we understand that many students experience suicidal thoughts without ever acting on them.  We work with students to determine what will best address their needs, which often means jointly creating a plan to ensure their safety.
  • If I just try harder, I won’t need treatment.Mental health and substance abuse treatment is for people who have an illness that deserves treatment, just as much as any other illness. It can’t be cured by trying harder or ignoring the problem.
  • Therapy is just a lot of talking; I can get the help I need from my friends.While a strong support system of friends and family is very important, there are things that we can help you with that your loved ones might not be able to. Our training and experience helps us know all the tricky ways that mental distresses can trip you up and how to overcome your hurdles.
  • If I get treatment, I’ll have to keep going forever.Our goal is always to get you back into your “normal” functioning as quickly as possible. While some people may need long-term treatment, many individuals just need a few weeks or months to deal with their problem.
  • Seeking counselling is a sign of weakness- Not at all!A person who is concerned about their health is not weak but very strong. They recognize the dangers of deferring help-seeking and know what is best for them.
  • Counselling is only for severe problems– A stitch in time saves nine! The ealier one seeks help, the better are chances of managing issues before they proliferate and get worse.
  • Counsellors don’t do anything. They just sit there, write notes, and nod occasionally-There are so many strategies and interventions which therapy promotes. High level active listening is a crucial skills for Counsellors and key in problem identification. Therefore, listening ad nodding are key especially during the initial phases of sessions. The latter does not constitute what the whole process is about.

Conclusion

As the semester and year 2024 is starting, it is paramount to prioritize our mental health and being proactive in help-seeking. Whenever we feel overwhelmed, we need to take charge and take action through utilizing counselling and psychotherapy services available free of charge for students and staff. Our mental health is our responsibility that cannot be abdicated for whatever reason. Success in academic pursuits and in our work hinges on the state of our minds remembering that there is no health without mental health!

 

E-mail                         :           counselling@africau.edu

Office              :           Office No B3, Bishop Arthur Kulah Main Administration Building, West Wing

Mobile             :           +263 774 068 265/+263719 56 2825