For the second episodic instalment of Levi’s® Haus of Strauss Africa’s Use Your Voice Community Series, a panel discussion hosted by comedian, writer, actress and director, Nina Hastie, explored the prioritisation of mental wellness, reaching out for help, and finding your system for settling into your journey to healing.
The panel featured clinical psychologist Jordan du Toit, musician Majozi as well as doctor, yoga teacher and founder of The Nest Space and A Tribe for Healing – Anesu Mbizvo – who rounded out conversations surrounding mental health and wellness.
Communing with others, sharing insights, and becoming/remaining open to learning is an essential part of moving within ourselves to spaces of safety and healing. The ‘Use Your Voice’ Community Series is an essential angle to addressing our own safeties and expressions in the world.
Conversations, headed by experts, that break down and address the unfortunate ubiquity of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the relationship with the body and the mind and honouring our boundaries and our relationships, offer us a platform to delve deeper into the broad mind-field of mental wellness, allowing us to find sections within the space where we may find healing or at the very least a path towards it.
During the discussion, psychologist Jordan du Toit also shares some resources for help and gives background on the kinds of options open to those seeking the help – explaining how creed, sexuality, race and other communal sects interact with mental health work.
I was fortunate enough to get an interview with panellist Dr. Anesu Mbizvo – the medical doctor with a holistic approach to healthcare – to learn more about her experiences with mental health, her advice for newbies and on her own journey.
Image courtesy of Levi’s® Haus of Strauss Africa
How do you connect your medical expertise with holistic wellness and conscious wellness practice?
Dr. Anesu Mbizvo: To me, health is holistic and multidimensional. To be truly healthy you need a functioning and disease free body, a positive and resilient mind, healthy and respectful relationships and last but certainly not least, spiritual wellbeing from which to derive a sense of purpose.
This is what really drove home the importance of combining my medical knowledge and alternative wellness practises for me. Medical practice is often very one dimensional – focusing purely on the body and the treatment of disease and while this is definitely useful, alone – Western medicine is simply insufficient to help us heal all of the different parts of ourselves.
With this in mind, my work is to re-introduce a mindset of using alternative wellness practises to heal and prevent disease while also informing my clients of the scientific and medical benefits of these practises on the body. Our bodies are all unique and complex, therefore our healing processes, practises and tools should be complex and unique to us too.
What is your experience as a mental wellness practitioner/guide/educator? And could you please briefly describe your journey into that space?
Dr. Anesu Mbizvo: As a little girl, I grew up with many of my family members being doctors, nurses or health educators. I remember hearing stories about miracle recoveries, devastating losses and everything in between. This, along with my own curiosity to understand the human body and human experience lead me to study medicine and follow my dream to become a doctor.
Unfortunately, once fulfilling that dream and working as a doctor for a few years, I realised that clinical medicine wasn’t giving me the fulfilment I so desperately needed. I felt like I was only treating the superficial issues of my patients and because there was no time or resources to delve deeper, most of the time we weren’t able to tap into the root cause of their problems, leading to relapse or resurfacing of disease.
It was because of this that I decided to create the space I was so desperately searching for. Both as a work place but also as an example of what holistic and accessible healing could look like in our context. This dream led me down a long winding path of searching and building upon these ideas eventually led me to open up The Nest Space which is a proudly African wellness centre rooted in alternative healing practises, inclusivity, sustainability and holistic wellbeing
Photograph sourced from Dr. Anesu’s Instagram.
What about the ‘Use Your Voice’ initiative and the panel most interested you?
Dr. Anesu Mbizvo: A huge part of my own personal journey has been accepting and understanding the fact that Mental Health is a hugely important aspect of overall well being. Chasing a dream and being an entrepreneur was extremely challenging and whenever I lost a handle on my stress, I could see the impact on my physical health and overall performance as a businesswoman.
This, as well as the fact that most alternative practises deem the mind as the starting point for all disease and illness made me want to delve into the world of Mental health more deeply while also using my own voice and experiences to advocate for Mental Health Awareness and dissolve the stigma around talking about these issues openly.
Most conversations about Mental Health are impersonal, factual and cold feeling which was why I loved the ‘Use Your Voice’’ initiative by Levi’s. This was an opportunity for all of us to be honest and real about our own struggles as individuals while also discussing the really dark stuff that is often kept in the shadows to let those watching know that they are not alone in their struggles because when it comes to Mental Health, feeling like you are not alone can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
What facets – within the wellness and mental health space – do you think people could benefit from knowing?
Dr. Anesu Mbizvo: I think people would benefit from knowing about everything – hahaha – but when diving into the wellness and mental health space for the first time, I think the first pitstop should be understanding the breath.
A lot of people incorrectly assume that wellness is expensive and many wellness spaces push this message through their advertising, pricing and services. However, on the contrary, my journey has taught me that wellness should be accessible to everyone… and the breath is a perfect tool that absolutely everyone has access to.
Our bodies are like perfectly made machines and each individual part of the machine is linked to the other. The breath is linked to the brain, our stress response, our emotions and our overall well-being and so because of this, when we learn how to deepen the breath and begin to breath more effectively, we can scientifically alter our mental process and improve our wellbeing.
This is simple and effective work that we can all do whenever we remember that can profoundly shift our mental spaces, so the breath is the perfect place to begin.
Photograph sourced from Dr. Anesu’s Instagram.
Why do you think these discussions are important to have?
Dr. Anesu Mbizvo: Mental health, holistic well-being and healing affect us all. We are all human beings trying to navigate this life and a life of unhappiness and distress isn’t really living at all.
Most of us have grown up being told that we need to ignore our emotions, dominate our stress and portray an image of strength and invincibility to be successful and so as a result, we live in societies full of people on the edge of their tether – tired, worn out and hiding within their struggle. Not only is this not sustainable, it’s dangerous. It forces us to ignore the very things that make us human which is harmful for everyone involved.
Conversations like this, show us that we aren’t failing when we are battling. Suffering, healing and evolving through our troubles is an inherent part of life and if we can stop pretending like this isn’t the case, we can all live more intentionally and happily.
How do you think people can benefit from practising presence and holistic health?
Dr. Anesu Mbizvo: Most alternative wellness practises bring us into the present moment– the only point in time that truly matters. Most of us spend our time in the past or in the future, driving ourselves crazy thinking about things that have already happened or have yet to occur.
A lot of our society is built on giving these mental projections centre stage and so most of us move through life asleep and unaware of the beautiful present moments that are what life is truly about. This causes us to worry about things we can’t control which leads to stress, dis-ease and illness because we are chronically in a state of unfulfillment – feeling like we are never quite where we want to be.
Wellness practises shake us back awake and bring us back to now, and every time we come back into the present moment, we are able to tap into feelings like joy, gratitude and love. These practises remind us that happiness is a conscious choice to remain in the present moment.
They help us to heal from past trauma and teach us to detach our happiness from a future destination which all results in us feeling more calm, more grounded, more happy and more healthy in all aspects of our lives and ourselves.
Photograph sourced from Dr. Anesu’s Instagram.
Altogether, the second episode of the ‘Use Your Voice’ Community Series, offers up a platform upon which newbies can launch off to find avenues for help and a space for people more experienced in the topic to unpack some processes and systems to further their healing journey.
The conversation vears into ideas and solutions that set off several trains of thoughts that link to our observations of reality and our own mental wellness and the journey along with it. Watch the discussion here.