Mind Over Matter

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Mind Over Matter

Dr Krista Rajkarnikar has dedicated herself to studying the human mind and fostering mental well-being, while simultaneously operating her family business.

Dr Krista Rajkarnikar, owner and counselling psychologist at Psychology Care & Consultancy has over a decade of experience in the field. Rajkarnikar, who pursued a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the United Kingdom at the age of 24, is a consultant counselling psychologist at CIWEC Clinic Travel Medicine Center as well.

Born in Kathmandu, she grew up in a very nurturing and supportive environment. She considers her early childhood memories and stories to be some of her favourites. At the young age of six, she went to a boarding school in India - Woodstock School, which she says helped her to learn discipline, freedom from where she started her professional growth.

Initially, she started with volunteering and CARE organisations as she always wanted to work with people. After working for around a decade in various organisations and the United Kingdom National Health Service, she returned to Nepal in 2014. She worked in public and private hospitals. Moreover, she also developed her private practice and international mental health associate work. Besides, she has also been teaching and providing clinical supervision. Dr Rajkarnikar is also an Executive Director of Lotier Enterprises and a member of The KonTerra Group as well.

Apart from counselling, Dr Rajkarnikar is also handling her family business. She and her husband have recently taken over their family business of being a part of the Baskin Robbins franchise from India and Kwality Ice Cream brand from Dubai. After her father had to retire due to some health issues, the couple started handling the business. “Although this felt like a different field initially, studying and working with people inspired me and helped me to pick up the business”, says Dr Rajkarnikar, adding, “It is an honour to be a daughter and take over my father’s business completely whilst having my career.” She feels this was more rewarding when her capability to multi-task different careers was questioned. She gives credit to her father for his continuous guidance.

Challenges
Initially, she was frequently questioned about her age after she completed her doctorate. She recalls working within the geriatric service where an 86 year old patient asked her what she could tell him about his life experiences. “Although a valid question, I was always motivated with these challenges,” she says. “I remember telling him that I would never live up to all of his experiences but that I was there to help formulate his psychological symptoms, and therefore did not necessarily need years of clinical experience as long as he trusted me to work with him,” she says. She says that they had a lovely working relationship then onwards.

Upon returning to Nepal, she says that she had difficulty with the Nepali language as her first and second languages are Newari and English. However, she has improved her command over the Nepali language in the last few years.

Having personally experienced sexism in the workplace numerous times, she is eager to continue challenging the beliefs of people who questioned her gender. She shares an example where she was asked if her brother should be in the leadership positions at various institutions. In reply, she said had told them that she did not have a brother and questioned whether they were going to be okay working with her and if not, then where could she ask for help. “This response in itself was however further judged,” she says.

Dr Rajkarnikar observes that with existing regulations, policies, political inclusion and active advocacies in women entrepreneurship, Nepal’s progress has been impressive. She believes in moving ahead with these practices proactively whilst simultaneously and somewhat more importantly, changing our core beliefs about women in our nation.

She thinks people have to aim to be open to exploring our own prejudices, patriarchic mindsets, difficulties and internal struggles in order to develop and strengthen genuine respect for everyone and not maintain inequality. “This way, women can continually challenge these long standing hurdles,” she further adds.

Pandemic Affecting People’s Psychology
Like the whole world, Dr Rajkarnikar is also currently working from her home. At present, she is working online with all of her patients. She says that the tech-savvy modalities have allowed people to continue seeking mental health help, especially during such a pandemic.

She says the pandemic has allowed people to re-evaluate things going on with themselves professionally, personally, spiritually and maybe even existentially. “With the lockdown and having more time, we have all been able to gather our thoughts and emotions about what is going on or what is going to happen,” remarks Dr Rajkarnikar.  

Some of the common difficulties that people are suffering from during this pandemic are panic, anxiety, low mood, financial stress, irritability, unhelpful compulsions, interpersonal relationship dissonance, loss, worry about the future, negative cognitive thinking patterns, unhealthy lifestyles, and sometimes even risk-related thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

“As a psychologist, it is my job to work on providing useful interventions that help identify dysfunctional thoughts, behaviours,
emotions and reduce symptoms whilst working on negating core beliefs that cause the above”, she says. Furthermore, she says both Cognitive-behavioural therapy and humanistic approaches such as person-centered therapy have been very helpful during the pandemic.

As the lockdown is increasing and we are confined within our homes, she says that it is very important to reflect on ones’ thoughts and emotions and evaluate if they are helpful or harmful. “If harmful, I suggest you speak to someone, or please do not feel afraid to seek professional help. Currently, there are many private and government health care helplines for mental health advice and treatment,” she adds.

Tips to Stay Mentally Healthy
Gaining basic psychological information during these pressing times is very important. Along with this, challenging stigma related to the pandemic, helping where one can in a safe manner, having empathy for those who are struggling, accepting some of the uncertainty we all face on different levels, trying to remain calm, and being aware of where to direct people for help are also equally essential.

There are infinite tools and techniques that are widely available to help maintain psychological health such as meditating, keeping fit and active, food and sleep hygiene, positive and rational thinking, limiting dysfunctional and unhealthy recreational behaviours, and staying connected and so on. “I always stress the importance of making all of the above meaningful, creative and personal,” she explains. Also, she clarifies that the things that are suitable for one person may not be for another. For instance, she says, regarding physical activity if somebody is suggested to do swimming as an exercise, it is not necessary that you too should follow that. If you like walking rather than swimming, choose your choice of exercise that will be helpful to you.

Work-Life Balance
As soon as the lockdown was imposed, Dr Rajkarnikar moved her office to her home. She considers working from home to have been very fruitful. She shares that her family has been very supportive and helped with her work-life balance. “My mom even lowers the volume of her favourite television shows whilst I am on zoom meetings,” she shares. She tries her best to maintain a flexible work schedule. When she is not in her home office, she can spend time with her family and relax.

Future Plan
Dr Rajkarnikar has a number of meticulously thought out lists of personal and professional development plans. However, for now, she wants to advocate for mental health at large and continue making meaningful memories with her close family members and friends.

For business, Dr Rajkarnikar and her team are working at reconfiguring plans for this year as they are currently closed. “We are predominantly looking at recovery and growth post-pandemic as it is imperative to continue supporting my staff as well as continuing the business. We also prioritise safety measures due to the pandemic,” she mentions.

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