“A Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Waste!”–Young & Rubicam
Which means that we treat it with care. Like any sculpture, it must be crafted and treated with the upmost gentility. It is a sensitive and fluid domain. And, it takes the right kind of craftswomen, and men, to tend to it with nurture.
In Cairo, Egypt, the mental health movement is growing with each new season. Like a flower garden consistently growing through its period of bloom, the care of the mind requires ongoing gardening. Mental health doesn’t become less significant, simply because one is not thinking about it. Flowers must re-grow. And a respected gardener, who is part of the paradise in expanding the well-being of mental health, is Dr. Anne Justus.
Beginning her study of the mind with a B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, that desire to explore mental aesthetics continued, as she returned home; receiving an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. Let’s explore more into the mentality of an adventurous, American Dame, who has been playing her part-a major one, at that-to nourish mental health and mental well-being in Cairo, Egypt.
“I never get bored or tired of the complexities and challenges of the human mind.”
What inspired you to come to Cairo, Egypt to perform your profession in psychology?
I came to Cairo to work as a professor in Psychology at the American University in Cairo in 2007. I thought I’d stay for a couple of years and then return to New York. It’s been 12 years; I love Cairo. Everyday is an adventure.
If you could go back in time, when did you realize that you had a passion for the field of psychology?
My mother worked as a psychologist when I was growing up. She specialized in adoption placement. The field of psychology was all around me. I don’t remember not having a curiosity and passion for it. When I went to university, and started taking psychology courses, I remember academically feeling like, “Ah! Ok. This is it. This is my home.” It was a good fit for me. I never get bored or tired of the complexities and challenges of the human mind.
Egypt is a place of ancient wonder and her/history. Architecture, ancient musical styles, and numerous other treasures. In practicing psychology here, have you found yourself learning new things in psychology and practicing psychology in a different way?
Of course. Compared to the US there are some significant cultural adjustments and differences. The importance of the family, community, and widespread impact of religion is very different working in Egypt, than in the US.
“I travel to lose myself, and find myself, again. I like to go off the grid, into nature, and disconnect as much as possible.”
Coming to a spiritual place, have you found yourself going on your own enlightenment in your personal psyche? What does that journey look like?
I don’t consider myself very spiritual in a traditional sense. Like most people, I am constantly working towards the ever elusive idea of enlightenment. I have certainly grown and changed as an individual and a psychologist over the years. Psychology is a profession in which age and experience is invaluable. I once had a mentor who taught me that being a psychologist is the best profession in which to grow old; as we age and self-reflect, we get better and better in the profession. I push myself personally and professionally to learn and try new things, have new experiences, and engage in new adventures, constantly.
You currently serve as the Director of the Maadi Psychology Center, in New Cairo. What is some of the important work, that the center does to empower mental health and well-being in Cairo?
We offer a wide variety of psychological and psychiatric services to the community, as well as a myriad of workshops. For therapy, we see individuals, couples, families, and groups. We go on-site to talk about mental health related concerns in the field; including schools, corporations, and non-profit organizations. We also consult with local and international organizations, about improving mental health in the region.
From your perspective, do you feel that slowly and surely depression and mental illness are becoming less of a taboo in Cairo, Egypt?
In a word, YES. Certainly seeking therapy is less taboo now, than it was 12 years ago. Talking about common mental health concerns, like depression and anxiety, is becoming more and more common. As education about mental health becomes more accessible, especially via the internet and social media, the taboo decreases. This is a big win for everyone. Knowledge is power. There is no reason to suffer in silence.
In the career and professional world, we all need a break. As you work with others, what are you doing to protect your mental health and avoid the burn-out epidemic?
This is a great question! Self-care is one of my platforms! I can’t help others if I don’t take care of myself; I have learned this lesson over and over. It sounds simple, but can be very challenging while juggling the demands of family, friends, and career. Modern life is not designed for us to prioritize taking care of ourselves. When we take time out to care for ourselves, productivity, is temporarily on hold. This is hard for a lot of people, including myself. The most effective way for me to re-charge my batteries is through travel. I travel to lose myself, and find myself again. I like to go off the grid, into nature, and disconnect as much as possible.
“Additionally, building a community of strong and brave women, has been a true respite for me.”
Last October, I explored the remote Galapagos Islands with my best girlfriend. We had no internet or telephone reception for a week. It was terrifying and liberating. I could not get in touch with anyone, and no one could get in touch with me. And you know what? Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. The world kept on going as usual. I came back re-freshed, and with a lot of new knowledge and adventures. I returned a better person, wife, mother, therapist, and friend. It was a once in a lifetime experience, for which I am grateful. Big adventures like this are unusual. As such, I try to work in mini-escapes on a more regular basis. My guilty pleasure is watching really trashy reality TV, early in the morning, with a lovely cup of coffee, while my household is still asleep. I can totally zone out, and be entertained, without taking care of anyone’s needs. It’s a mini-escape from the daily routine. Additionally, building a community of strong and brave women has been a true respite for me. I can’t say enough about how important it is to feed your relationships, and to continue to build friendships into adulthood.
You wake up for a typical work day. Preparing yourself, you leave to head to work. You arrive to the center, and walk into your office. How do you mentally prepare for the day?
My day starts very early. I’m up and doing things for a few hours, before I head out of the door. I always have a real breakfast. I prioritize this. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. If I don’t have breakfast, my concentration level suffers, and I am lethargic; this is the opposite of how I want to feel. As I head out the door, I take a few minutes to visually take in the plants in my garden and really enjoy the greenery. Once I get in the car, I’m in the zone. I’ve done e-mails, checked in on social media, and updated my Instagram (@the.dr.anne) before I set foot in the office.
For the Maadi Psychology Center, when clients come to seek your services, what is your hope for clientele, when they finish sessions at the Center?
Although, it sounds cliche, I really want to help people live in their best possible lives-whatever that means to them. Gaining personal insight and understanding, how our past experiences are impacting current behaviors and relationships is key. I hope everyone that visits the centers leaves with more insight and understanding.
What mark do you hope to leave in Egypt many years from now, when your work and mission is complete?
Oh my gosh, this is making me laugh. When is our work ever complete??? 🙂
So many miles away from home. Yet, in the world of the mind, you get the opportunity to make many more homes. The world of psychology, mental health, mental well-being, and wellness is becoming a Universal trend. People want to be better. People want to live better. Humanity wants to feel better. And, it is all starting with the power of the mind! We are seeing the fruits of such labor by the Maadi Psychology Center, and the push to get people back into. . .“a sound mind.”
And one Leading Lady from the Big Apple, has the RIGHT MIND for the job!
For more information on the Maadi Psychology Center in Cairo, Egypt, kindly go to the following link:
You can follow Dr. Anne Justus on Instagram: the.dr.anne