Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Coping in a Hostile Environment

“Do unto others what you want them to do to you”…this is the golden rule.

In life we must learn the art of relating with people in order to be truly successful yet if you have been around for a while you will agree that this is easier said than done simply because of our diversity.

Look again around your environment and you will find that this diversity can be likened to the kind you find in an animal kingdom but somehow the animals find a way to cope with each other and so we must learn to cope with each other as well and succeed against all odds.

The “Insect” People

These people are subtly irritating and get on your nerves though usually appearing innocent and harmless to observers. They offend you in a way that is constant and usually below the radar. Their stinging words buzz in your ears like the annoying buzzing of a male mosquito; not stinging or biting just buzzing endlessly! Sometimes with them your crime is just being alive or successful at the things you do.

They can even seek you out just to tell you their opinion of you or your success and their opinion usually stings so deep it breaks your heart. To an observer who is not paying close attention or walking in your shoes, the actions of the “insect” might go unnoticed but your own reactions will continually be glaring as you wave frantically and complain of the unwelcome attention of the “insect”. When you eventually explode from pent up frustration, it always seems out of proportion to the current offense and observers always wonder what is wrong with you and never the “insect person”

How to Deal with them.

The only language insects understand is BARRIERS! Such as nets, clothing etc And since we are actually talking human “insects” here, my advice is not to necessarily blow up the bridge that connects you to them but just make sure you mount enough sentries on the bridge.

Don’t build walls and hide simply to avoid them else you’ll just keep hiding forever and they will relentlessly make it their mission to seek you out but just put up a gate and make sure they state their mission before they get past the security guard.

Forgive them when they offend you but understand that they are what they are- insects! That is the best way they know to be and they may not be hurting you on purpose so reduce the emotional stress on yourself by just placing necessary boundaries.

The “Crab” People

I once heard that a sure way of making a captured crab stay in the basket is to fill that basket with other crabs and that way they will prevent each other from escaping. Simply put, crabs pull others down. They back stab, spread rumors and do all in their power to keep you down. You don’t readily detect them at first because on the outside they look like you, sound like you and seem genuinely interested in your progress until you start talking about getting out of the basket and worse still, before them.

How to Deal with them.

It takes a crab to pull a crab down, so don’t be another crab. Your statement should be no defense, no attack just stay focused on getting out of the basket. As you stay focused you start changing and he/she sees that you are no longer the same crab they used to know. They lose interest and let you go while they go find another crab to keep down. So stay focused!

The “Bat” People

They love and choose to perpetually stay in the dark! These people are negative and pessimistic; they boastfully tell you- It cannot be done! They don’t necessarily work to actively pull you down like the crabs but just keep telling you- it can’t be done! It’s not your type! It’s not for you! You can’t make it! Etc. Sometimes they genuinely mean well but you notice the more you hang around them the dimmer your light of hope becomes. Staying around them too long may even quench all your light of hope and make you abandon your dreams because you start thinking they are correct and your dreams are too good for little you.

How to Deal with them.

Bats shy away from light, at least so I gather from adventure-packed movies. So don’t let them overwhelm you with their pessimism, let your light (faith and positive attitude) so shine brightly that it dispels their darkness. If your fire is going out, you may need help from someone else who is also carrying a lamp (another positive person) so sometimes to get free from the bat, you may even need to change the environment completely. So don’t let that dream die, keep the fire burning!

The “Porcupine” People

I’m hoping you already know them; these people are already upset with life generally (due to no fault of yours) they may look perfect on the outside, but have so much hurt sticking out of them like the needle spikes of a porcupine – the spikes grow from inside to outside. So whether they reach out to you in a hug or you reach out to them with a hug, YOU will always get hurt and painfully so as they transfer their personal daily pains to you.

The porcupine was built to coil up as a defense mechanism and hurting others is far more a defense mechanism than an attack strategy. That’s just the way they are - whether attacking or defending, they will still hurt you.

How to Deal with them.

Two things come to my mind…patience and space! A porcupine usually brings out it’s spike when it senses a threat whether real or apparent. Don’t build barriers just go along with them at their pace but keep your distance, walk by their side so they don’t hurt you. However, if you must walk very closely with them, then deal with them from a place of understanding; get a clothing line fashionably made out of steel. Protect yourself from head to foot and enjoy your lessons in needlework.

The Beast People (a.k.a Swine)

Arrogant and generally unpleasant to have around; they seem to be all the other animals rolled into one. They irritate, they are subtle, they tear you down, they play dirty, they are negative, and they hurt. Worst of all-they are intentional! Loving every moment of their rotten nature and the freedom they have to do their dirty stuff. Every new level of rottenness is a cheerful, happy and pleasant adventure to them. They get the idea to jump into a pool of mud and they just do it because they know they can and nobody will stop them. So they take a big jump into the mud and get your beautiful, precious outfit messed up in the process and guess what – They don’t care that your feelings were hurt. In fact most times they don’t even notice. They are just happy that they succeeded at discovering a new level of rotten mud to play in and they did it- dirt is their nature and they are happy to play dirty.

How to Deal with them.

One simple statement…don’t trust a swine! Hating him or her is a waste of time. Bring out your entire defense line. Be discrete around them, mount a battalion of sentries on the bridge, stay focused, keep hope alive, keep your distance, put on your armor in understanding and be very prayerful for them and yourself but I repeat, never ever trust them even in the most harmless looking situations not to mention precious things.

The plan is not for you to isolate yourself from people and start analyzing everyone in your life till you have a nervous breakdown. Rather the idea is to understand the different types of people around you and then know how best to get along with them.

Even the good book teaches that Jesus got along well with everybody but he treated all of them differently and showed them love against all odds. How did He do it? The answer is simple- He understood the human nature and dealt with them from a place of understanding.

I hope this article empowers you and helps you rise above whatever dilemma you might face in relating with someone in your today or in your future.

“Everything that Irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” – Carl Gustav Jung

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SLEEP HYGIENE part two…for those with problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep or poor quality

Last time I talked abut dealing with problems with falling asleep, maintaining sleep or not feeling refreshed after sleep all of which is otherwise called insomnia. In the last edition I also explained that insomnia becomes a clinically problem when it occurs 3 or more times in a month and has lasted for at least a month. Studies have shown that insomnia can be improved just by practicing some simple but effective methods without necessarily using sleeping pills. I also mentioned that sleeping pills should be the last line of action taken to address the problem of poor quality sleep. Using sleeping pills could be helpful but when taken for too long (longer than 4 weeks tops) highly increases the risk of becoming addicted to it such that when it is stopped the individual finds it extremely difficult to sleep to an extent that may sometimes be worse than the initial problem for which it was initially taken to address.

I had earlier discussed about one non-drug treatment for insomnia called sleep hygiene, in this edition I would like to conclude by sharing two other methods you could simply practice at home without constantly visiting a pharmacist or a doctor for sleeping pills. My advice is that all this various methods should be practiced together rather than in isolation; it’s more effective that way.


This entails not lying too long on bed when you observe you are not falling asleep and only going to bed when you are sleepy. It also entails eliminating circumstances or activities that tend to keep you awake e.g. work, watching T.V. etc, the idea is that your body then unconsciously associates the bed with sleeping. Studies have shown this method to be the ideal for treating long standing problem with insomnia.


This obviously sounds like a paradox because the problem here is not having adequate sleep and I’m saying sleep should be restricted? Well it has also been proven to be a very effective non-drug treatment for insomnia. This entails several steps

· Keep a sleep diary for 7-14 days to allow the determination of the average time you spend on bed by the usual time you go to bed to the usual time you arise from bed, and the average hours you sleep during those periods.

· Then you eliminate the time you spend not sleeping while on bed by working back from your wake time. For example if you wake up by 4:30a.m and you sleep an average of 4 hours that means your actual ‘bed-time’ is 12:30. You then only go to bed at about 12:30 even if you feel like going before then you ‘restrict’ yourself. The idea is that since in this hypothetical case you sleep 4 hours most of your time between 12:30 to 4:30 would be spent sleeping unlike the usual lying on bed for perhaps 8 hours but staying awake for 4 hours.

· Do this new ‘prescribed’ bed time for about a week such that most of the time you are on bed (at least 85%) you are actually asleep. No day time naps is allowed despite however tired the individual may feel.

· After this has been achieved go to bed fifteen minutes earlier than your prescribed time and observe if you are still able to sleep 85% or more of the time you are on bed.

· Keep gradually adding fifteen minutes before your prescribed bed time as long as you are still achieving 85% or more of actual sleep until a satisfactory amount of night-time sleep is achieved.

Like I have earlier said all three techniques should be practiced together. To all those with poor quality sleep problem, practice these various therapies and have a lovely night rest…sweet dreams.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I HAVE A DREAM! testimony

This is actually a previously published article with a few adjustments, I thought I should share it with my new (blog) friends...

“Sorry we won’t be able to publish your articles monthly… you know this is not a psychiatry magazine”. These were the words I was told after my first article was published in June edition of Genevieve 2008, and I was trying to push for a second publication. Some people suggested I should publish in any of the health magazines (for heaven sake, how many people even read that…I don’t…and I’m a doctor), many other lifestyle magazines kept turning me down and I must confess I sometimes felt discouraged.

It all started with an idea, or should I call it a dream in 2007. I had come to the conclusion that there was a great dearth of information regarding mental health in the general population in this part of the world. My resolve was to be an agent of change by enlightening people so I started scribbling my thoughts and experiences into articles hoping that someday it will be published in a nationally renowned lifestyle magazine-precisely, Genevieve. Someone told me my style of writing wasn't good because I was obviously a columnist 'wanna be'..." I needed to be more professional". The dilemma with this advice was that, if I was too professional I'll be boring and not too many people will get the gist.

During all those times I was turned down by various magazines including my dream magazine, the words of Otunba Gaddafi, one of Nigeria’s thriving entrepreneur, kept ringing in my heart; how he had persisted with his 'mobile toilet' idea… so I persisted.

Someone read one of my article and felt it was good enough so he introduced me to blogging where I could post my thoughts without being harassed by any editor and make some dough (cash) while at it…did you really think this was strictly for charity?

Anyway the main gist is, I look back and in the last 7 months from March till this month in 2009, my articles have consistently been published in Genevieve, they even gave me my own column... In The Pink (I wanted "Stop This Madness...notes from a concerned psychiatrist" but this name is cooler abi? It doesn't carry the stigma that comes with kolo health).

I may not have it all…yet! But like my pastor will say "the Journey is the Joy", it may look fuzzy and hazy sometimes but it pays to persist and keep at it, who knows, if only you just took one more step, the fruits of the whole waiting process would have been harvested.

In closing I want to give props to Tobenna of Shirak! who have inspired me and keep inspiring me in this blogging business. Also I really do want to appreciate aunty Betty Irabor for the priceless opportunity through Genevieve magazine as a platform to inspire right perspectives towards mental health and a more fulfilled life in general, indeed it is a dream come true.Also a big thank you to all of you who have been commenting.

To all my fellow bloggers, especially all up-coming artistes like me (until I have done one year in this business before I will agree I'm 'old')… keep at it; you are indeed making a difference…whether good or bad (lol).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SLEEP HYGIENE …for those with problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep or poor quality sleep

Sleep is a behaviour shared by all animals. The need for sleep is not fully understood but it is agreed upon that sleep gives the body ‘time-out’ to recuperate. Some people sleep an average of 5 hours while others sleep an average of 9 hours a day. On the average about a third of our lives is spent sleeping.

Sleep is usually taken for granted (at least I do); we take naps both during the day and at night, however sleep problems are quite common. Most of us have experienced a day or days with difficulty with sleep probably due to a temporary stress. About 30 percent of adults are said to have experienced difficulty with initiating or maintaining sleep at some point in their lives. Statistics show that women and the elderly are more susceptible to have such problems. About 6 percent of people actually suffer from persistent difficulty with sleep which is so severe that it interferes with their social or their occupational functioning.

One could be said to have a sleep problem called insomnia when you find it difficult falling asleep, maintaining sleep or waking up not feeling refreshed. Persistent insomnia becomes a clinical problem when it occurs at least 3 days a week for up to a month.

There are a lot of factors that may cause this problem with sleep ranging from factors from within, like anxiety, sadness, jet lag, to factors without like the environment, drugs, and meals. Poor sleep could also be associated with both physical and mental illnesses. In certain cases some individuals have had a life long problem with sleep which is referred to as idiopathic insomnia.


I have noticed that most often than not when people have a problem with sleeping they self medicate themselves. Sometimes, when they have access to a doctor, they get sleeping pills to help them sleep. Sleeping pills can be very helpful a lot of times but the problem with its frequent use is that it can become addictive. Sleeping pills are only meant to be used occasionally, never use them everyday consecutively for more than 14 days if not you run the risk of becoming addicted to it. Once an individual becomes addicted, the sleeping pills then have a rebound effect such that it starts causing insomnia and the individual finds it difficult to sleep without the pills and may sometimes have to increase the quantity needed to fall asleep. Interrupted use of sleeping pills will reduce the risk of becoming addicted to them. The use of sleeping pills should also be a last resort or used in severe distressing cases.

Like it is said a problem understood is half way solved so you may need to first identify and address any underlying problem; is it due to a medical, psychiatric or a psychological condition? Could it be the environment, stress, drugs or perhaps persistent pain? Sometimes you may need a professional to help you identify this.

Let me share with you a better way to address that problem of poor sleep before resulting to the use of sleeping pills…


This can be defined as "all behavioural and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep. It is the practice of simple sensible guidelines in an attempt to ensure better rest. I like to remember these guidelines with the acronym S.E.A. (just imagine you are by seaside taking a nap).

Sleep environment

· It should be familiar and comfortable

· Dim light and quiet


· Consistent bedtime and waking up time with not more than one hour variation even during weekends or holidays

· Thinking about problems before going to bed and winding down about an hour before bed by listening to music, having a warm bath, reading, watching T.V etc.

· Physical fitness by engaging in regular graded vigorous exercise programme during the day


· Late evening exercise or other activities (except sex); don’t watch T.V or bring work to bed so that the bed is only associated with sleep

· Caffeine-containing drinks late in the day

· Excessive alcohol and smoking

· Naps during the day (confine naps to early afternoons and it shouldn’t be longer than approximately 40 minutes)

· Large late meals, and

· Too much time in bed lying awake; if sleep doesn’t occur do not remain in bed for more than 10-20 minutes, get up and go to another room (without turning on all the light) and returning to bed only when sleepy.

There are some few other non medication treatments for insomnia like sleep restriction and relaxation training but that will be a discussion for another day,meanwhile go and put into practice these guidelines and “ease up” on the frequent use of sleeping pills and I guarantee that there will be an improvement in your sleeping pattern.