Who Is Nyambura Chege?

Nyambura Chege is a member of the Kenya Counseling and Psychological Association. She has a background in counseling psychology. She has received additional training on the detection and interventions of alcohol and drug abuse. She is currently the administrator and residential counselor at Ngewa House, a Rehabilitation Center for women recovering from alcohol and drug use. She is also a Mental Health Professional – an umbrella term for anyone who works with or treats mental health conditions.

What Is Counseling Psychology? 

Most of us get our perception of counseling psychology from movies where you enter someone’s office, lie down on a couch, and discuss your feelings. You’re not far off. The mental health specialist you need to see will depend on the service you require. Some include:

  • Psychiatrists: They are licensed physicians. They are the only ones authorized to prescribe and dispense medication for mental illnesses that will aid in restoring the mind’s chemical balance. They, however, still need to collaborate with the others. 
  • Counselors: They go through extensive training and they specialize in one area of therapy. For example, an addiction counselor. 
  • Psychologists: They have a wider range of clients and are less limited. A tip – they display their credentials on the wall. Look out for that.
  • Counseling Psychologists: They treat through talk therapy or psychotherapy.

Some Lessons From Nyambura

How can we identify, deal with, and alter the emotions brought about by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns?

  • Be aware: Some people may just be experiencing a wide range of unfamiliar symptoms without being aware that they require help. Awareness comes when you realize that how you are feeling is beginning to affect your entire life. You have trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. You eat too much or not enough. You’re having trouble performing simple tasks like getting out of bed and cleaning the dishes.
  • Reach out and maintain connection: As a result of the pandemic, many people are suffering from pandemic melancholy, a common emotional reaction to losses and other pandemic-related impacts. However, one common distinction between pandemic melancholy (sadness) and depression (“I need help”) is isolation. Isolation in itself is an unintentional symptom of depression as it is a coping mechanism. If you observe your friend is more than just social distancing and even a phone call is a challenge, they may be attempting to isolate. The first people to realize something is wrong with you will be your friends, family, coworkers, etc., and vice versa. Keep attempting to connect.
  • Be sensitive: “We are going through the same storm, but are not in the same boat”. The pandemic has affected everyone in some manner, but the experiences are different. This implores us to be sensitive to other people, particularly in what we say. Even if you mean well, how someone hears what you say could have a negative impact. Giving a friend who is sad a pep talk will be incredibly useful, but it might not have the same impact on a depressed person. “Snap out of it” is not the best response.
  • Time tells a lot: As previously indicated, your loved one will be able to detect any changes in you. Thankfully, with the appropriate inspiration—a cup of coffee with a friend, a phone call, or even after enjoying a delicious meal—sadness can transform into happiness. Nyambura notes that for a person to be clinically diagnosed with depression, they must maintain the same depressed state for at least two weeks without changing. Clinical depression is a more serious condition than just being affected by the environment; it is caused by a chemical shift in the brain that makes it difficult for a person to swiftly recover. However, try to avoid waiting the full two weeks; look for some kind of intervention, even at the family level.
  • Vulnerability is strength: It is extremely uncommon to hear someone freely discuss seeking counseling or help in Kenya. People bottle up their struggles and feelings until they finally crack since sharing is frequently perceived as a weakness. However, being vulnerable shows strength because it takes guts to seek assistance. You’re learning that you can’t do this on your own.  
  • Do not invalidate: Someone’s emotions are valid, no matter how minor they may appear to you. Remember, you may not fully grasp someone’s circumstances, but this is their reality and you should not belittle it. Instead, acknowledge their overwhelming feelings, lend a sympathetic ear, and advise or suggest that they seek out a professional who can provide them with greater help so they can come to terms with their feelings. 
  • Sleep: Adults should sleep for an average of seven to eight hours per night, according to studies, although some require less, such as six hours. However, if the pattern you had—for instance, six uninterrupted hours—is disturbed, there can be a problem. A hard time getting asleep, a hard time staying asleep, or frequent awakenings are examples of disturbances. 
  • Anxiety: It is common to experience anxiety when plans do not go as expected or when you are unsure of what to expect from a circumstance. High levels of anxiety can, however, be brought on by the media and public perception. Avoid spending more time in a situation that makes you feel anxious.

Coping Strategies

  • The best coping techniques are not quick fixes like self-harm, drugs, or alcohol. They make you feel wonderful right now, but they will cause addiction or health problems.
  • Health is holistic. If you are not taking care of your physical health, it will affect your mental health, and vice versa. Try to get some rest, drink some water, and engage in some physical activity.
  • Do what you can today. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.
  • Find a new hobby – Have you always wanted to acquire a new skill? Give it a go.

Where Can Someone Go To

Referral hospitals have a unit or youth-friendly center where counseling is free. Some local public hospitals also offer free counseling – check with your county. You can also get referrals of professionals with their practices. Additionally, Ngewa House offers outpatient counseling, and Nyambura will be happy to chat with you. Let’s learn to think differently – our perspective shapes our emotions, which in turn shapes the way we live.