HERstory (Women & MHA): Rakhi Beekrum
We spoke with the inspiring Rakhi Beekrum on her experience as a counselling psychologist, mental health advocate and about her podcast 'Coming Home'.
Pictured: Rakhi Beekrum.
The forty-year-old Durban based psychologist first completed her Masters degree in psychology at UKZN in 2007, and has had her private practice for 11 years.
Having struggled with generalised anxiety and panic disorder through high school, Rakhi was drawn to psychology in order to attain a better understanding of herself and provide assistance to others who had similar experiences as her.
She chose counselling psychology as she always dreamed of working in private practice and offering others an escape by creating a relaxed, peaceful and supported environment.
Rakhi told To EmpowHER,
"I don’t think that one needs to have a diagnosable mental illness to see a psychologist. Many benefit from therapy during major life transitions and experiences such as break-ups, loss, parenting, infertility, relationship challenges, stress, burnout, adjusting to chronic illness and achieving personal goals. So over and above seeing patients with psychiatric conditions, I offer psychotherapy for common life challenges."
Mental health advocacy is an important mission for Rakhi, who intends to educate and create awareness so that mental health becomes as normal to speak about as physical health.
"Stigma prevents people from speaking out and from seeking help. My hope is that by normalising talking about mental illness, we start to change this narrative," she says.
Photos: (Instagram: @rakhibeekrum)
Rakhi is open about her struggle with anxiety and panic disorder and believes it helps her relate to both her patients. It has also affirmed her belief in her profession and role to spread hope and facilitate positive transformation.
When Rakhi first had a panic attack in high school, she felt embarrassed as not many knew what it was and, therefore, nobody knew how to support her through it. Today she feels empowered that she is able to discuss and spread awareness about these challenges in hopes that those with mental health challenges feel understood and supported.
When asked about the role anxiety plays among today's youth, she relates that anxiety is increasingly common among the younger generation. Rakhi told To EmpowHER,
"Some of the reasons include the pressure to achieve (sometimes from parents and sometimes self-inflicted), the ease of social comparison made possible by social media and mixed messages from the media that tells us to be ourselves, while also exposing us to ‘ideals’ of physical appearance, fitness goals, relationships, fashion and other trends."
While social media on the one hand can be challenging by the desirable lifestyles seen of others, on the other hand Rakhi believes it is beneficial in terms of access.
"There is certainly a generational shift. We are living in a time where information is more available to us than any previous generation.
"Social media thankfully plays a role in the access we have to mental health information," she says.
Rakhi believes mindful living is a way of life and means of grounding herself in the present. She says when we live in the past we are prone to depression and when we live in the future we are prone to anxiety. For Rakhi, living in the present means choosing peace. She told To EmpowHER,
"I integrate mindfulness into my daily choices, which impacts positively on my physical and mental health. I do this by being intentional about how I spend my time, what I eat, listening to my body, resting when I need to, listening more attentively and being mindful of how I speak and act. All it requires is a commitment to being focused on the present."
Photos: (Instagram: @rakhibeekrum)
In August 2020, Rakhi introduced her podcast Coming Home. 2020 has largely been defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, and so Rakhi wanted to create something that she could remember 2020 by. As a fan and avid listener of podcasts, it was a natural direction for her to venture in. Emerging from 'survival mode' post-lockdown, she was ready for a challenge. She challenged herself to learn the technical aspects of creating and hosting a podcast. Rakhi says,
"In life, we sometimes do things and make choices that take us away from ourselves. Coming Home is a reminder to come back to who we are. It focuses on living authentically, mindfully and intentionally."
Two podcast episodes ‘From Worrier to Warrior’ and ‘Are you a People Pleaser’ are the most downloaded episodes from her Coming Home podcast. Rakhi relates that both challenges of overthinking and people pleasing are universal problems. She chose to speak about these topics because of how often she sees these problems present in her patients.
"Most of our unhappiness stems from our thoughts, so if we can change our thoughts we can change our feelings and behavior.
"This is based on cognitive behaviour therapy which I use often in practice. It is an evidence-based treatment for depression and anxiety. People-pleasing is also something I see often.
"Many come to see me at a point when they feel resentful due to their non-assertiveness or mostly passive-aggressive personalities and unhealthy boundaries," she says.
Advice from Rakhi
Streamline your thoughts in a more structured way by first slowing down your thoughts and considering one at a time (instead of ruminating). As you consider each thought, ask yourself if it is a fact (whether you have evidence to believe it). Then, what can you do to prevent whatever it is you are worrying about: focus on prevention. Challenge yourself to rationally think about the worst thing that could happen, and then what you would do should the worst case happen. What you will realize is that the worst case scenario rarely ever happens, but if it does, you are much better equipped to deal with it than you realize.
Recognize that you are a people-pleaser and consider the reasons for this. Is it to gain approval from others? Make a decision that you will live more authentically and, therefore, only say yes to things that make you happy. Practice saying "no" in situations or with people with whom you feel safer. When dealing with more difficult people, don’t feel pressured to respond immediately. Rather say that you will get back to them. This gives you time to remind yourself that you are choosing authenticity. You can also give yourself a pep talk so you feel more confident before saying "no". Remember, you will disappoint others. Some may make you feel guilty. This is hard work. But when you remain true to yourself, you will feel more at peace
BE sure to follow & support rakhi
Podcast: Coming Home (available on Spotify and Apple podcast)