By Nuhu Muye
In the last decade, rates of anxiety-related disorders among teenagers in the world have steadily risen, particularly in girls. Researchers and psychologists posit several hypotheses about why these rates are on the rise from digital hyper-connectivity to heightened external pressures to simply a greater awareness, and therefore diagnosis, of mental health concerns. Whatever the causes, there is hopeful news for parents and teens: first, some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth. And if those levels become untenable, there are tested strategies for reining anxiety back in.
As a guidance counsellor, I have spent decades working with adolescent girls and their families in Nigeria. In recent years, I have noticed a change in how society views stress. “Somehow, a misunderstanding has grown up about stress and anxiety where our culture now sees both as pathological.” The upshot of that is that we have adults and young people who are stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious.
Anxiety is a normal and healthy function, and much of the anxiety that Nigeria teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary. Adults can make a difference simply by “reassuring them that, a great deal of time, stress is just operating as a friend and ally to them.”
Change and stress go hand in hand even if a change is positive. Teenagers’ lives are filled with change: Their bodies and brains are transforming, they usually switch schools at least once between ages five and 12; their academic workload is increasing, and social relationships are constantly evolving. The anxiety that comes with stretching to face these and other challenges is part of how humans develop strength. When I talk with teenage girls, I use the metaphor of exercise: To develop physical strength, you have to slowly push your levels of physical endurance, building up strength through resistance training. Similarly, you should see (a challenge) as an extraordinary weight-training programme for your mind. You are going to walk out of it tougher and stronger than you have ever been.
Stress, emotion and the teenage girls’ brain sometimes reach levels that impede a teenage girl’s ability to navigate life effectively. Thus, one cautions that an emotional outburst in and of itself is not a reliable indicator of mental health. “If you are raising a normally developing teenage daughter, she will have meltdowns. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent that.”
Of course, when it’s your daughter who is sobbing on the bathroom floor, it’s hard to keep this in perspective. When it’s your kid, it’s terrifying and alot of parents are frightened and paralysed in that moment. They wonder: Is this a sign that something is really wrong or that my kid is really out of control?
This is where a little neuroscience might be helpful, the adolescent brain is very gawky and vulnerable to emotion. That gawkiness stems from the extraordinary brain development that happens in adolescence. The brain is upgrading, but in the same order as it initially developed from the more primitive regions that house emotions to the more sophisticated regions that regulate perspective and problem-solving. The result? “When she’s calm, a teenage girl can out-reason any adult. When she’s upset, her primitive regions can hijack the whole system and take it down.”
When your daughter is emotionally overwhelmed, give her a little time. It’s easy to see a meltdown as a fire that’s about to turn into a conflagration. But a storm is a more accurate metaphor. You can’t stop a storm, but you have to wait it out. But these storms do pass. The brain will reset itself. Don’t try to stop the storm or fix it in the moment.
Instead, sit with her, go on a walk together, watch a funny show, or offer her a cup of tea, advise her. After weathering a few storms successfully, “parents and teenagers get to discover that all by itself, the storm will pass. At that point, either the problem completely evaporates and she moves on, or the girl can now look at the problem with clear eyes, assesses it with her prefrontal lobe back online, and figures out what she wants to do.” Responding instead of reacting to teenage girls is particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot. When adults become anxious in response to a teen’s anxiety, it exacerbates the situation.
Helping girls weather stress storms can be excruciating for parents, and she understands the almost primal desire to alleviate the pain, solve the problem for them or remove the stressor such as letting them stay home from school if they are anxious about a test. But avoidance feeds anxiety. Girls often feel stressed because they overestimate the difficulty of a situation and underestimate their ability to deal with it. When they avoid a situation, they miss the opportunity to correct that perception and recognise their own strength. Thus, these two words will be helpful in helping to keep teens in the driver’s seat: “stinks” and “handle.” The concept of “stinks” is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great. However, empathy goes very, very far in helping them contain what is upsetting them.
Often, there is no simple solution to a stressor, so the next step may simply be acceptance -acceptance of the situation and of their strength to persist through it. It’s the ability to say to yourself, ‘This stinks, but this is something I can handle.’ While on the other hand, the word “handle” is empowering. Girls learn that “by enduring this, she will be able to endure more down the line. She can build up her capacity to handle unpleasant situations.”
Build in recovery time for teenage girls strength training, “you can’t just lift weights day after day after day.” In order to get the full benefits from the workout, your muscles need a chance to recover and repair. The same holds true for the brain. If teens accept that some level of stress is inevitable, they can spend less time worrying about stress and more time focusing on how they can build in recovery time.
“The good news is your mind recovers a lot faster than your muscles do. But you need to restore yourself so you can go right back in for another workout. Your job is to figure out how you like to recover. What’s the system that really works for you?” For some teens, playing sports gives them the reboot they need to focus on academics. Another student might benefit from a watching a 22-minute episode of a sitcom, playing with peers, going on a walk or listening to a favourite music playlist.
Having conversations with stressed-out teens about this type of downtime redirects the attention away from the stress and towards the recovery. Students can’t always control the stressors in their life, but they can have a say over how they choose to restore themselves. Researchers and psychologists have shown that the restorative power of sleep is a deprivation that reveals the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns. “Sleep is the glue that holds human beings together.”
The research is unambiguous: When we are sleep-deprived, we are less emotionally resilient. The first question many clinicians ask teens who come in for anxiety is, “How much sleep are you getting?” If they are consistently getting less than seven or eight hours, that’s the first line of intervention. “Teenagers need nine hours a night, middle-schoolers need 10, and elementary students need 11.”
When it comes to sleep, small changes can make a big difference, including completing as much homework as they can during the school day, making judicious choices about how much time they spend on any given assignment, and monitoring social media use in the evening. “Technology is very hard on sleep.” “I’m not anti-social media, but it makes a tremendous difference for teens to not have a phone and computer in the bedroom at night. Teenagers have texts waking them up.”
Because of the melatonin-suppressing effects of blue light emitted from Smartphone screens and other devices, I encourage teens to turn off social media notifications well before going to sleep. But it’s not just the blue light. “Girls will often see something on social media that will keep them up at night and if you ask them, they’ll usually admit this.”
Within that context, adults can offer teenagers empathy, grounded perspectives and a vote of confidence as they work through challenges, helping them aim for courage and not avoidance.
Brave is a positive word, it’s something we aspire to be and built into the word is the understanding that the person is scared and yet they are doing something anyway. Scared is here to stay. Anxiety is part of life. It’s not our job to vanquish these feelings. It’s our job to develop the resources we need to march forward anyway.
*Muye sent this piece from Dutsen-Kura, Minna
Ogun Customs Impounds 73 Trucks of Smuggled Rice
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Ogun 1 Area Command said it impounded no fewer than 44,933 bags of smuggled foreign parboiled rice which is equivalent to 73 trailer loads.
The Area Controller, Bamidele Makinde, stated this while addressing newsmen at his office in Idiroko border, Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Bamidele said the seizures were made between the month of February and December 6, 2022.
According to him, 41 sacks and 940 wraps of weeds suspected to be Cannabis Sativa were also seized within the period under review.
The NCS boss listed other seizures to include 99 vehicles used as means of conveyance, eight units of foreign used vehicles, including one 2020 grey Wrangler Jeep, six units of used trucks, 31 compressors, 16,224 kegs of petrol and 19 motorbikes.
Others are 8,517 bales and 219 sacks of second-hand clothing, 3,629 pieces of used tyres, 4, 700 bags of cement, three bales and 384 pieces of used bags, 170 cartons of poultry products, 191 units of vehicle compressors, 2,250 packets of Tramadol, 222 units of refrigerator compressors, 220 pieces and 867 cartons of foreign wine, 277 pairs, 320 sacks and 120 cartons of foreign shoes, 89 bales and 485 pieces of foreign textile materials and 302 sacks of foreign corn.
Makinde put the total Duty Paid Value (DPV) of the seized items at N4,886,647,634:92.
He said the items were intercepted with “intensive round-the-clock surveillance and patrol activities, aided by effective deployment of intelligence.”
Within the 11 months period, the Ogun 1 Area Command was said to have generated N58,676,751.00 from the importation and exportation of goods under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalızation Scheme (ETLS) and assessment of merchandise in baggage.
The revenue also came from auction sales of perishable or highly combustible goods such as gasoline.
FG Begins Oil Theft Investigation, Inaugurates 11-member Panel
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
The National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), yesterday inaugurated 11-man Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria.
The panel, which is chaired by the Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, retired Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu, has seasoned administrators and retired top military and police officers as members with Mr. David Attah as Secretary.
While inaugurating the panel, Monguno said that Nigeria was currently facing monumental loss of revenue that ought to have accrued from the sale of crude oil, being the main source of its foreign exchange earnings.
He said the escalation of acts of vandalism and theft of crude oil had led to significant decline in production, with associated impact on revenue.
According to him, the enormous losses are caused mainly by oil theft, orchestrated by unscrupulous elements.
NSA said that Nigeria had consistently failed to meet its daily production quota of about two million barrels per day, as provided by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
He added that the country’s current crude production struggles to meet even one million barrels per day, adding that recent interventions by the security agencies had revealed massive illicit platforms of stealing ranging from marine evacuations via Vessels, and load-outs from illegal operations platforms.
He added that the extent of the oil and revenue losses threatened the economy constraining the administration to revert to less popular monetary and fiscal policies to address revenue side constraints with dire implications.
“Government has been briefed on the dwindling economic fortunes including, inability to replenish foreign reserves and reduction in revenue thereby, affecting accruals into the Federation Account.
“With the scale of the theft and losses and the alleged complicity of regulatory agencies/officials and security personnel as well as the involvement of international collaborators, the enterprise is deeply entrenched and would be extremely, difficult to exterminate without very stern and decisive action by Government.
“The menace of oil theft/losses is completely unacceptable, considering its attendant impact on the economy, national development and security.
“It is an affront on Government and its institutions, which must be tackled without further delay.
“It is in this connection that Government worried by the ugly trend, among other things, directed the setting up of a Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria to investigate all aspects of crude oil theft, identify the culprits and submit its Report for necessary action,” he said.
Monguno said the panel was expected to investigate oil theft/losses in all its ramifications and propose wide ranging array of implementable recommendations to enable this Administration take decisive action to end the criminal enterprise within the shortest possible time.
He said members were appointed based on their proven integrity, track record of service, competence and dedication to the national course.
He urged them to work with a view to unraveling individuals and groups perpetrating the national economic crime, no matter how highly placed they might be.
The Terms of Reference (ToRs), according to NSA, are to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the illegal insertion into the Trans-Escravos Pipeline (TEP) around Yokri area in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
“They are to establish the ramifications of crude oil theft/losses in Nigeria; ascertain the causative factors immediate and remote, of crude oil/theft/losses in the country and ascertain the extent of crude oil theft/losses in the country.
“With the widest possible amplitude, identify persons/entities whether public, private or foreign, involved in the criminal enterprise and establish the level of culpability of identified persons/entities in the enterprise.
“The panel is to also examine the specific roles of regulatory agencies; security agencies, tiers/arms of government and International Oil Companies (IOCs) in aiding and abetting the criminal enterprise”.
“They are to also assess the efficacy of security architecture/arrangement in tackling crude oil theft/losses and associated petroleum products and recommend appropriate commensurate and sufficiently, deterrent sanctions on all those culpable,” he said.
Monguno also tasked the panel to recommend steps/procedures/processes to be taken by Government to eliminate the enterprise in the industry to prevent future occurrence; and make any other recommendations on any other issue incidental to the terms of reference.
He said the panel was expected to commence its assignment with immediate effect and to conclude as well as submit its report on or before Feb. 21, 2023.
The Permanent Secretary, Special Services, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Aliyu Yerro, said the menace of crude oil theft had greatly impacted the nation’s revenue growth.
Yerro said the challenge had necessitated the setting up of the panel, adding that in spite of the huge amount of money spent by government to secure its maritime domain.
He said expressed confidence that the panel had the capacity to proffer solution to the issue of crude oil theft in the country.
The Chairman of the Panel, retired Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu, said the expertise of each individual on the panel was sufficient to help them fulfil the objectives of setting up the panel.
He said the panel would leave no stone unturned by digging deep to unravel not only the incidences of oil theft/losses but, pre-disposition and causative factors as well as groups and individuals responsible for the criminal enterprise.
“We shall work hard to make you proud not least, for the confidence reposed on us,” he said.
Fails North, Muslim-Muslim Ticket Won’t Work – Shagari
A former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Mukhtar Shagari, has said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has failed Nigerians and its Muslim-Muslim ticket strategy for the 2023 general election won’t get its desired voter turnout in the region.
“The Christians in this country, especially in the North felt slighted, they felt insulted when APC decided to go with Muslim-Muslim ticket,” he said during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme yesterday.
Shagari, a former Minister of Water Resources and member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said if APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu has a Christian wife, Oluremi, it is only okay for to choose a Christian running mate and not a fellow Muslim in the person of former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima.
He described as an insult, the same-faith ticket of the APC, adding that Nigerians and Christians will reject the ruling party in the forthcoming presidential election.
“The APC has failed Nigerians in every aspect you can think of. In every aspect you can think of, APC has failed Nigerians, particularly in the North where people are now kidnapped and ransoms have to be paid and people are now being killed. Lack of employment all over the country and so on.
“They simply think that both the Christians and the Muslims in this country are stupid. So, they decided to come out with the Muslim-Muslim ticket, thinking if they do that, everybody in the North-West, in the North-East and the rest of Nigeria will jump at it but Nigerian people are wiser, they know what they want: they want a government that will change their lives for the better,” Shagari said.
The PDP BoT member further described as disappointing, Tinubu’s outing on Monday at the Chatham House in London, the United Kingdom, saying that Nigerians want a leader who can relate with them, answer their questions and clear their doubts and not one who delegates his allies to respond to questions directed at him.
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