Championing self-care on World Health Day | Aga Khan Academies

Championing self-care on World Health Day

08 April 2019

Since joining the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad at the beginning of this academic year, resident Academy Counsellor Dr Isabelle has been working alongside our medical faculty in the Wellness Centre to ensure that all members of our community have access to the health services they need – including those which target their emotional health. With World Health Day being celebrated on April 7th and the #HealthForAll campaign gaining traction, we are reminded by the WHO that at least half the global population are far less fortunate than we. That is, 50% of people do not receive the services they need and approximately 100 million people every year face extreme poverty due to health expenditure. 

Back in August 2018, Dr Isabelle travelled to Bangalore to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama give a talk on Courage & Compassion in the 21st Century. When we asked Isabelle to reflect on World Health Day, she was reminded of this event and His Holiness’ plea that we consider ourselves not only “beings” but “inter-beings”. Isabelle reflected, “if we are inter-connected and the other is an extension of ourselves, surely that strengthens our commitment to universal health coverage for all?” 

Here at the Academy, Isabelle makes it her mission to reach as many community members as possible and to support not only our student body, but also the teaching staff. This mission represents her commitment to Health For All at the local level. To this end, Isabelle ran a series of emotional intelligence workshops for Academy faculty last term, raising resilience and awareness of emotional health issues. These workshops were taken from the evidence-based programme Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB). CEB was devised back in 2000 by leading emotion psychologist Dr Paul Ekman and renowned Buddhist scholar Alan Wallace. Essentially the course combines cutting edge scientific research on emotions with age-old meditation practices. “I’ve been so humbled to witness staff bravely sharing their emotional experiences during the sessions and really encouraged by our collective capacity to embody the AKA learner profile of courageousness!”

While CEB is yet to be delivered to students, Isabelle has been running mindfulness sessions for MYP and DP students throughout the year, alongside one-to-one and group counselling sessions. “It’s amazing to see how quickly some of our students fall asleep during meditation!” she says, “I’m always aware of their levels of physical exhaustion and of the effect this must be having on their health – emotional and physical. Ideally I want students to develop their concentration skills through mindfulness, but getting the rest they need is a close second.” The WHO emphasise that everyone should have the information and services they need to take care of their own health – managing our time such that we get the sleep we need is a huge part of this. For anyone struggling to meet this basic health need, Isabelle urges them to get in touch.

“I’m proud to say that although it’s no longer a professional obligation, I’ve continued to see my therapist every week since moving to India and to share my client-load with a supervisor every fortnight," shared Dr. Isabelle. "This comes at a significant financial and time expense, both which I’m lucky enough to afford and fortunate enough to know the value of. These 6 hours a month represent a small snapshot of my self-care regime. I would ask our AKA community: what are you doing to stay healthy and be a role model for self-care? If true happiness begins when we start to cherish others as much as ourselves, what are you doing to take care of the health needs of those around you, your fellow inter-beings? Please join me in championing #HealthForAll.”