Bonding, a one-time luxury for many members of the busy working population of Nigeria seems to have become affordable under the lockdown directive of President Muhammadu Buhari. Friends are remembering old friends and family members are keeping regular touch on the wellbeing of one another, more than ever. For parents with young adults, the warnings have been stern about not being in the right place at the wrong time, especially as the number of coronavirus patients continues to rise.
Stuck indoors, there is plenty of time most of which is marked by repetitive sleep, poor electricity supply and reducing stock of food supply. Reconnecting with family and friends is helping people avoid boredom, loneliness and depression.
By the second week of the lockdown, Omamogho Oju, a customer experience manager in Lagos had chatted his childhood friend up, picking up from where they stopped in 2019 when she got married. He also dug up the contact details of some of his secondary school classmates to update their friendship.
“It has been a bit tough having not to go out because I’m an extroverted person. Normally I’m always too busy but I have been able to revive friendships during this lockdown,” Oju said in a telephone conversation.
For Oju, his experience of working with a mental health organisation put him at an advantage of knowing what to do. He had activities scheduled in his days to keep him away from the negative effect of boredom.
From feeling restricted to self-reflecting and tweaking of some aspects of his lifestyle, Oshione Okogie, a project manager and forex trader in Lagos also reached out to people he believes will help improve his mind. He has disciplined himself to do things he never got around to do such as reading and has had to eat home-made meals from his aunt’s pot.
Before the lockdown, he was attuned already to working from home but was unfamiliar with not being able to walk into favourite restaurant, KFC, for some crispy chicken or go to the cinema or enjoy the fresh air breeze at the beach.
“When you are in a place you just feel alone and can’t even go out, you have to look into yourself and see things you can change. I didn’t like reading before but I spent time reading. I have missed going to places I want to go,” he explained. At a point during the lockdown, rather than submit fear or depression, Okogie felt the need to speak to a therapeutic expert.
Online games have surged with people engaging in different games and challenges taking place on social media to enliven the lockdown, mindless of the internet data cost. Entertainment stars have also organised monetary giveaways for their followers on Twitter and Instagram.
‘Bingo Challenge’, an edutainment game designed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is a table set of hygiene precautions based on which people can compete with one another in terms of compliance. Participants can tick the box if they cleaned the floor with disinfectant soap and water or cleaned hand touching surfaces.
As the clock ticks for another 14 days, following the extension of the lockdown, the need to be mentally prepared for the stay at home has risen further. Some like Blessing Obi, a young CEO of a snack making enterprise, BMC Foods, found the lockdown a tough one from inception.
The first few days were miserable as she became sick after panicking that she might have caught the novel coronavirus.
“I was doing nothing but panicking at the mention of the virus. Feeding my mind with information from the net fueled the panic and staying alone made it worse. Firstly, I went to stay with family and learned to shut my mind from lots of unverified information from the internet,” she explained to BusinessDay in a chat. “I can’t deny the fact that I panicked-shopped. I had to replace the time I spend online with reading and family time. The virus isn’t over and my mind hasn’t finished healing but I’m hopeful.”
Due to the fact that COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, the NCDC has since prescribed physical distancing of at least two metres away from people, in addition to frequent hand washing and face masking. Government from state to federal level capped that precaution with lockdown affecting social gatherings at workplaces, schools, worship centres, and recreational centres among others.
However, Chioma Nwosu, founder of Olamma Cares Foundation, mental health awareness and support organization prescribes that asides abiding by precautions from the NCDC, Nigerians should practice basic coping skills such as lowering media consumption and staying connected virtually with loved ones to maintain social life.
Leading the talks in a webinar organised by BusinessDay on staying mentally fit under the lockdown, she explained that organizing daily activities helps to improve the mental state.
Apart from those observing the lockdown, people who have had the disease and survived also need a mental intervention just as people who are not sick or have lost friends or family need support as well, she said.
“Plan a routine for your regular activities. It helps you to organize your stress level and stay in control of everything. Also, practice, relaxation techniques like mindfulness,” Nwosu said.