WHY EUSTRESSIN'?: CHINOMSO D. NWACHUKU
Mental health challenges are not limited to one particular race, gender, or nationality. Chinomso and his crew is making major moves with addressing mental health challenges within the Nigerian community. I was able to chop it up with him to learn how he incorporates eustress in his life as a Federal employee and the Founder of an organization.
HEY CHINOMSO, WHY EUSTRESSIN’?
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING/ HOW LONG?
I work on policies designed at the federal level to produce effective treatment options for those struggling with substance use disorders. I have been with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for three years. I am also the founder of TalkNaija.org, a platform created to increase mental health awareness, particularly in the Nigerian community.
DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IN YOUR PROFESSION?
Absolutely, I do! I have to think about my mental health quite often because I work in social services. I have worked with individuals who have experienced traumatic life events. In my field, helping people develop healthy coping skills is integral to the work that I do. As a result, my job is likely to follow me home. To reduce the likelihood of my job following me home, I have to always be mindful of my mental health and create boundaries that reinforce leading a mentally healthy life.
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DO YOU ENCOUNTER SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR JOB THAT HAS AN IMPACT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH THAT OTHERS MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT?
The challenges that have the tendency to affect my mental health are the various deadlines and benchmarks that I have to meet at work while dealing with competing priorities. In addition to the deadlines, the workload –-with very little time to complete— also have the potential to affect my mental health.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WHEN TAKING ON DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES?
I realized that I should always consider my mental health when I was diagnosed with major depression. I was at a low point in life and I needed to pay more attention to my mental health in order to embark on the journey of recovery. I talked about this experience in depth on TalkNaija.org.
Talk Naija is building a community to humanize and destigmatize mental illness within the Nigerian community. We aim to do this by sharing people’s stories of their own journeys with mental health issues and awareness, dispelling myths through guest experts, providing resources for those struggling as well as their families/support systems, providing a space for people to have seemingly tough conversations and ask questions in an area with no judgment, and ultimately encouraging those affected, in any way, to seek treatment.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE THOSE STRESSORS ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
I manage those stressors by engaging in activities that allow me to expend energy and feel lively. My ‘go to’ stress relievers are engaging in physical activity and comedy. I have discovered that being in the gym allows me to relieve stress. Additionally, engaging in activities that allow me to laugh a lot is also therapeutic. Recently, I started practicing mindfulness meditation to help me be more in tune with my emotions.
HOW DOES BEING MENTALLY HEALTHY HELP IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK OR ON THE JOB?
My job requires me to draft reports that can inform key policy decisions on topics related to substance abuse treatment and prevention. In the wake of the recent opioid epidemic, there is a great spotlight on the work that we do. Therefore, agency-wide expectations have increased. To be an effective writer and to perform my job well, I need to be mentally healthy. When I am in an unhealthy mental state, I am unable to be productive at work.
WHAT DOES EUSTRESS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU AT WORK? AT HOME/AWAY FROM WORK?
My vision of Eustress is being around positive energy and being authentic to who I am, both at work and home. This allows me to always be the author of my story. The desired result is a positive stress produced that encourages me to keep going.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD TELL SOMEONE JUST STARTING IN YOUR PROFESSION OR A YOUNG PERSON WHO ASPIRES TO BE THE PROFESSIONAL THAT YOU ARE?
My advice to them would be to recognize that their mental health matters and mental health is essential to overall health! I frequently tell my friends and family members to “take care of yourself.” I will also encourage them to take time to tend to their mental and emotional health. I encourage them to maintain and cultivate meaningful relationships in and outside of work. Lastly, I would encourage them to focus on being the best version of themselves.
ANY OTHER INFORMATION YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOU AND WHAT YOU'RE UP TO?
I am extremely passionate about mental health in the black and African communities. I believe that we have neglected our mental health for too long. The time is now for us to make our mental health matter - this was the catalyst for founding TalkNaija Inc, alongside my co-founders, Tutu Shotonwa, Uche Ukuku and Joy Ukaigwe. My co-founders (Tutu, Uche, Joy) and I created a non-profit organization called TalkNaija Inc.
The TalkNaija Inc. team and I are working on reaching more Nigerians struggling with mental health conditions. We are looking for Nigerians who have mental health stories to share. If you have a story to share or know someone who is willing to share his/her story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU FOR MORE INFORMATION?