The Healthy Mind

With Dr. Olga Filippa Nel, Clinical Psychologist

October is breast cancer awareness month and it should serve as a reminder to us all that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. Not just for women but for everyone. In fact, I was delighted to see that health care providers are offering heavily subsidised, and even free, screening services during this month for both men and women. Please do take advantage of this!

I recently listened to a talk by Italian psychologist, Luca Mazzuchelli, who used the metaphor of the airline announcement regarding oxygen masks, to stress the importance of looking after ourselves. The flight attendants tell people that in case of loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks are released and instruct passengers to securely fasten their mask over their nose and mouth BEFORE assisting anyone else. Selfish? Absolutely not. What would happen if we did not take care of ourselves first? It would be mere moments before we would be absolutely useless to ourselves and others.

The same applies to our lives. If we are constantly living in a state of panic, feeling overwhelmed, or stressed how can we be there for others? In spite of our best intentions, we are likely to do more damage than good. Hence, it is crucial that we are aware of our needs and that we make the time to take care of them. Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health and protect one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

Everyone’s needs are different. They may be physical, psychological or spiritual, it is up to us to decide what self-care means to us. Having said that, once we have addressed those needs, it is our duty to help others in any way we can. Service, especially to those less fortunate, is an important contributor to overall wellness and to making our world a better place. The Dalai Lama said, “In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective”. Cultivate your long-term perspective by remembering the importance of self-care.

Live mindfully and blossom!

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