Ways to lighten your mental load

Monique Marais says balance is the key when managing your mental load and offers practical tips to achieve this.

There are many techniques and opinions on how to manage mental load, but only you are the true expert on yourself. You need to start by knowing yourself: what works for you, what motivates you, and why it’s important to you to manage your mental health. This is often complicated, if you’ve multiple aspects to juggle, including work life, children, relationships, socialising and health. The key is balance. 

Here are some ideas on how to manage your mental load and the balance in your life:

  1. Be true to yourself – Know yourself well enough to know if someone’s suggestion isn’t going to work for you, but also be open to trying new things.
  2. Be willing – The first step is to admit that you want to change certain aspects, or even just the focus of your attention and then commit to the process.
  3. Educate yourself – Knowledge is power. Once you have identified an area which you would want to work on, read up on the topic, find out what the experts say, as well as connecting with people in similar situations and learning from their experiences.
  4. Know that you are unique – What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for you. Do regular introspection to investigate if your plan of action to maintain your mental health is effective and achieving the goals you would set out to achieve.
  5. Know when to move on – Sometimes you can try something, and because you’re committed, you want to see it through, but it isn’t always helpful, and you need to know when to quit when you’re ahead.
  6. Exercise – This doesn’t always mean going to the gym seven days a week, doing rigorous exercise, it might just mean becoming more active. This can include walking, spending time outdoors, or taking up a new sport you can invest in, and you can gradually increase the intensity as you progress.
  7. Setting realistic goals – You know what is practical, achievable and at the same time, what will still challenge you. Set small, achievable goals, and adapt your goals as you continue your journey.

Practical tips

  1. Mindfulness – Spend time daily/weekly to review how your week went, identify what you did well, where you can improve and where you have grown.
  2. Connect with resources – Know who the right person is to ask about a specific question you have (and know who you should avoid).
  3. Identify one thing you enjoy doing – This can be reading, walking with your dog, spending time with family. Commit to doing it at regular intervals.
  4. Positive affirmation – If you have a negative thought about yourself (for example: to stick to your diet or healthy eating choices), counter it by giving yourself positive feedback and name two things you do well.
  5. Peer support – Identify a person in your community (either a family member, friend or colleague) that has the same aspirations or goals you have and support each other.
Monique Marais is a registered social worker at Care@Midstream sub-acute, specialising in physical rehabilitation for the past 11 years. She has a passion for the medical field and assisting people to understand and manage their diagnoses and the impact on their bio-psychosocial well-being.


Monique Marais is a registered social worker at Care@Midstream Sub Acute, specialising in physical rehabilitation for the past 11 years. She has a passion for the medical field and assisting people to understand and manage their diagnoses and the impact on their bio-psychosocial well-being.

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Making 2023 a healthy lifestyle year

Lisa Luckman gives a biokineticist’s perspective of making this year all about living a healthy lifestyle.

With it being a new year, surely most of you have made a goal list? How many of these goals are part of making 2023 a healthy lifestyle year?

Do you know the attributes of good goal setting? The simple word SMART is a popular acronym in assisting when wanting to create a sustainable goal.

S – Specific: Is your goal detailed and distinct enough, with no ambiguity?

M – Measurable: Does your goal have quantifying characteristics?

A – Achievable: Is your goal possible to achieve?

R – Realistic: Is your goal within reach?

T – Timely: Does your goal specify a time by which you want to achieve it?

These are all attributes that can assist in setting you up for successful outcomes to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Set yourself up for success

When it comes to your health and well-being, you want to create sustainable lifestyle changes that will benefit you for years to come. So, how do you set yourself up for success?

Some tips that may work include:

  • Focus on implementing one change or new habit at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Make the new change simple and easy to allow it to be achievable.
  • Use an obvious clue as a reminder throughout your day to reinforce the new habit, such as, placing the water bottle in a place where you walk by often so that every time you do so, you’re reminded to drink some water.
  • Remind yourself that it’s okay to restart anytime you may have fallen off the routine.
  • Build discipline within yourself, as intrinsic motivation may be swayed from time to time.
  • Join a community with similar goals where others may assist in maintaining your accountability, but also provide motivation.

Sit less and move more

If you’re short of health and wellness goals, sit less and move more is a great starting point.

 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Insufficient physical activity is the fourth leading risk factor of death.” This is astounding because your degree of daily movement is something that you have direct control over.

 WHO goes on to say, “People who are insufficiently physically active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who engage in the minimum recommended amount of movement per week.”

What is the minimum recommended amount of exercise per week? Thirty minutes of aerobic and resistance activity performed five days per week at moderate intensity.

Moderate intensity is easily defined by the ability to maintain a conversation while being active. This shows that there’s no need to be huffing and puffing, but rather movement at a level that is possibly more enjoyable, thus creating a sustainable routine.

There’s always a way to move and there’s always a way to modify

Two of my favourite sayings are: there’s always a way to move and there’s always a way to modify. Being a biokineticist, I have become a problem solver, finding a solution to a perceived excuse or obstacle as to why one can’t move.

No gym membership? You’ve got your home, backyard, suburb streets or park.

No weights? You’ve possibly got water bottles or canned food, never mind your own body weight as a constant weight; use that.

Using your environment and what you have with some creativity, I guarantee there are many ways to move.

Is your perceived excuse that you’re bedridden, wheelchair or homebound? There are entire exercise routines to these specific restrictions which can be prescribed by biokineticists. There are ways to move no matter what your limitations are; meaningful movement is possible for everyone.

If you’re able to join a community or find a physical activity that you enjoy, your chances of creating a sustainable lifestyle change drastically improves.

Easy ways to move

Here are simple ways you can incorporate the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of activity per day.

  • Playing with kids is a great way to keep moving.
  • Enjoy a dance party alone or with some company.
  • Take the stairs, and park further away from the shop entrance
  • Catch up with a friend while walking instead of sitting down for coffee.
  • Doggy meet-ups at a park.
  • Skip or hula hoop.
  • Deep clean your home or garden.

One bite/step at a time to a healthy lifestyle

With a list of goals, you may be inclined to feel overwhelmed before starting. However, small steps lead to great results, just start. The catchphrase How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time has so much truth to it.

As a biokineticist in the medical profession, I often use the strategies above to motivate the clients in my care to move more, no matter what that looks like to them. With disability comes ability. The main focus of biokinetics is to assist you in improving your quality of life and well-being through movement.

Remember to show yourself kindness as you start and potentially restart your sustainable healthy lifestyle changes.

Lisa Luckman has been in private practice since 2018. This is where she found her love for helping others who are homebound, bedbound or wheelchair-bound, and giving them equal movement opportunities to those who can freely attend gyms or therapists for health and wellness assistance.


Lisa Luckman has been in private practice since 2018. This is where she found her love for helping others who are homebound, bedbound or wheelchair-bound, and giving them equal movement opportunities to those who can freely attend gyms or therapists for health and wellness assistance. Follow her on Facebook

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Little steps to achieve real me time

Veronica Tift clarifies how little steps to me time can make a big difference in your well-being.

Ah, some me time! I run the bubble bath, light the candles, grab a glass of wine and climb in, wanting all my problems to melt in the magical bath water and to not think about the terrible day I had. That works for about a minute; turns out it’s all I think about, replaying what I could have said to that ‘Karen’ today. Is this really me time?

Sometimes me time (self-care) isn’t sexy and as glamourous as the bubble bath advert. Personally, self-care is an ever-changing journey depending on what is happening in my life at the time. What do I need right now? I need to hydrate (coffee doesn’t count, apparently), deep breaths, a good stretch and a few seconds to notice my body, the morning sunlight, and giving it little moments of care.

What feels right for you? What do you want and need for yourself? These are questions that will get you closer to understand what little steps you can take to help you care for yourself.

Step one

Limit the amount of time you spend with toxic people or information. Delete that Facebook page that makes you angry. Check the time you spend online looking at things that don’t make you feel great. Let go of the fear of missing out (FOMO) and learn to say no.

Little daily steps may not be fun, but they are important for everything else to be possible. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Pay your bills on time. Stay home on a Wednesday. Floss. I know that these don’t sound like loving yourself, but by doing all these little things, allows you time and space to really enjoy your me time.

Challenge yourself

What can feel like a big step may be to challenge yourself and I don’t mean beating your Solitaire score. I mean with something enriching and interesting; challenges that force you to grow and something for yourself.

Assess your relationships

This one can feel like a tricky step but have those difficult conversations. We all need social interactions, and the quality of those relationships has a direct relation to the quality of your life. If a relationship is not working for you but you don’t want to lose it, tell the person how you are feeling.


This can mean that wonderful bubble bath, or it could be lying on the couch or in the arms of someone you care about and who cares about you.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to rest, while a hammock in the Maldives sounds like the ultimate way to rest, it’s not the only way.


This is another little step you could do every day. Reflecting on the day can assist you in understanding areas of your life that need to be worked on and that you are grateful for. Celebrate the good things in your diary, clear things that are bugging you and write down desires that you have for yourself.

Take note of your mirror neurons

Emotional contagion happens every time we interact with others, mostly without noticing. Ever felt calmer being around a person or feel angry the angrier someone else becomes. Basically, your mirror neurons in your brain give you this ability to feel stressed around a stressed person and calmer around a person who is calm.

Explore alternative therapies

Reflexology is a great way to explore alternative therapies and learn new things and explore ways of healthy living that you can include in your me time.

Most reflexologist and healthcare workers enter the profession because we genuinely want to help people. When you spend time in an environment with calm and caring people, your mirror neurons will respond, and your body will benefit.

The body is a mirror of your mental and emotional state. Emotions leave imprints in your muscles and nervous system; think about how you tense your body in response to mental and emotional stress.

By exploring body work, like therapeutic massage and reflexology, the physical effects of stress on your body could be eased. Regular treatments have better results and like regular exercise is good for the body, body work should be part of self-care.

Reflexology can be done every week or once a month depending on your budget and time.


Meditation just 10 minutes a day is another little step you could take. Harvard, the University of Montreal, Johns Hopkins and a meta-analysis have all proven that meditation aids in the reduction of depression, anxiety, stress and reducing pain.

I geek out on the science of meditation or mindfulness and that is why I include a five-minute meditation at the end of a reflexology session. Some of my clients will come in and meditate during the entire reflexology session, but even five minutes a day can have a benefit.

Put yourself first

Give yourself permission to put yourself first, even if just for an hour. Act from true care and from a sense of compassion for yourself, your well-being and putting yourself above the should and to-do-list.

Just doing one thing can make a change in your life. Take little steps each week and soon me time could be truly supporting and help you cope better with all the other stress you have to deal with daily.

Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.


Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.

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Smart shopping tips for picking heart healthy pork

Did you know that lean pork cuts are approved as part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s eating plan? We learn three smart shopping tips to pick heart healthy pork.

Latest Statistics South Africa figures show that nearly one in every five South Africans suffer from diseases of the circulatory system such as heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension and strokes.

The good news is that following a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce your risk of circulatory disease. And, the extra good news is for meat-lovers: lean pork cuts are approved as part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s eating plan, which means that fresh pork can play a starring role in your weekly meal planning.

Professional food scientist, Melindi Wyma, Group Technical Manager of Eskort notes that this includes lean pork cuts, such as fillets, tenderloins, roasts and steaks.

“Not only is pork one of the most affordable meats by a wide margin, but unlike red meats, such as beef or lamb, most fat on lean pork cuts sits on the outside of the meat rather than within the meat itself. This makes it very easy to trim or remove as part of low-fat and heart-healthy diets,” she explains.

“In comparison to beef and lamb, lean pork also contains low amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats which can raise your risk of heart disease, and high amounts of the polyunsaturated fats which can actually help to improve your cholesterol levels and support healthy cell development.”

Powerful pork

According to a study by the Agricultural Research Council, pork also packs a powerful punch of essential nutrients for supporting healthy hearts such as vitamins B1 and B3, and magnesium.

For example, vitamin B1 or thiamine plays a crucial role in the breakdown of nutrients and carbohydrates for energy, efficient cell functioning, and well-performing nervous systems, brains, muscles, stomachs and intestines. Critically, it also plays a key role in passing messages between nerves and muscles and maintaining normal cardiac function.

Likewise, vitamin B3 or niacin can help to lower cholesterol and boost energy, while magnesium is vital for combatting heart disease, supporting blood vessels, and helping to maintain a normal heart rhythm.

Shopping tips for healthy pork choices

  • Look for lean cuts with less than 3 millimetres of visible fat.

This can include a wide variety of cuts, such as fillets, loin, roast or chops, lean pork mince, and even pork goulash.

  • Moderate your portions.

The South African Pork Producers Association notes that households can safely eat up to 560 grams of lean pork divided over five or six meals each week for a balanced, heart-healthy diet.

  • Select high quality brands and fresh products.

Choose fresh cuts from quality, trusted brands with lower fat, sodium, and cholesterol content for most nutritional benefit.

This article is attributed to Eskort.

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Beginners guide to healthy eating

Healthy eating means putting your health first by feeding your body nutritious foods. We learn easy ways to transition into a habit of healthy eating.

The term healthy eating can mean different things to different people. Everyone appears to have an opinion on the healthiest way to eat.

Adding to the confusion, online nutrition articles can be downright perplexing with contradictory and frequently unfounded suggestions and rules. This makes it challenging to eat in a healthy way that works for you.

The truth is that eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s possible to nourish your body while also enjoying your favourite foods.  After all, food should be enjoyed rather than feared, counted, weighed, and tracked.

Why is eating healthy important?

Before we understand what healthy eating entails, it’s critical to know why it matters. First and foremost, food is fuel and provides your body with the calories and nutrients required to function. Your health may suffer if your diet lacks calories or one or more nutrients.

Similarly, if you consume too many calories, you may gain weight. Obese people are at a much higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea, and heart, liver, and kidney disease. Furthermore, the quality of your diet influences disease risk, longevity, and mental health.

While ultra-processed foods are associated with increased mortality and a higher risk of conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, diets rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods are associated with increased longevity and disease protection.

Are specific diets necessary?

Certainly not. Although some people need, or choose, to avoid certain foods or follow diets for health reasons, most people don’t need to follow any specific diet to feel their best. That’s not to say that certain eating habits can’t be beneficial. Some people feel the healthiest when they follow a low-carb diet, while others thrive on high-carb diets.

Eating healthy generally has nothing to do with following diets or specific dietary rules. Healthy eating means putting your health first by feeding your body nutritious foods.

The specifics will differ depending on your location, financial situation, culture and society, and personal taste preferences.

How to make eating healthy work for you

Food may be one of the many puzzle pieces that comprise your daily life but making nutrition a priority is the first step toward eating a healthier diet.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours grocery shopping or meal prepping, but it does require a little thought and effort, especially if you live a busy lifestyle.

Stock up on these items when you go grocery shopping

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Protein sources, such as chicken, eggs, fish, and tofu, as well as bulk carb sources (canned beans and whole grains).
  • Healthy fat sources, such as avocados and olive oil.
  • Starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash
  • Nuts, seeds, nut butter, hummus, and olives

Practical tips 

The suggestions below can assist you in making the transition to a healthier diet.

Make plant-based foods a priority

Plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, should comprise most of your diet. Try including these foods, particularly vegetables and fruits, at every meal and snack.

Ditch take-outs

Cooking at home allows you to diversify your diet. If you’re used to ordering takeout or eating out, start by cooking just one or two meals per week.

Regular grocery shopping

If you keep healthy foods in your kitchen, you’re more likely to prepare healthy meals and snacks. Make one or two grocery runs per week to keep nutritious ingredients on hand.

Recognise your diet will only sometimes be perfect

Progress, not perfection, is essential. Meet yourself exactly where you are. Cooking one homemade, veggie-packed meal once a week is significant progress if you eat out every night.

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages

Limit your intake of sugary beverages, such as soda, energy drinks, and sweetened coffees, as much as possible. Regularly consuming sugary beverages may be harmful to your health.

Choose foods that are filling

When you’re hungry, your goal should be to eat nutritious foods rather than consume the fewest calories possible. Choose protein- and fibre-rich meals and snacks that will keep you full.

Consume whole foods

A healthy diet should include whole foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and protein sources like eggs and fish.

Drink water

Water is the best way to stay hydrated, an essential part of healthy eating. If you’re not used to drinking water, get a reusable water bottle and flavour it with fruit slices or lemon juice.

You can also consult with a registered dietitian if unsure how to improve your diet. A dietitian can assist you in developing a long-term, nutritious eating plan that fits your needs and schedule.

This article is attributed to Affinity Health.

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Sex and diabetes complications

Daniel Sher briefly covers how sexual dysfunction manifests in people with diabetes and gives some pointers for improving your sex life.

Does diabetes affect your love life? Do people with diabetes have an increased risk of sexual dysfunction? Unfortunately, the answer is yes: many people with diabetes also have sexual dysfunctions. As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about.

How common are sexual problems in people with diabetes?

In a recent study, 36% of men with diabetes reported a sexual disorder. The most common culprits were erectile dysfunction (in which a man struggles to get or maintain an erection) and orgasmic dysfunction (in which a man struggles with the timing of ejaculation).

What about women? The study found that 33% of women with diabetes experience a sexual disorder, including low sex drive, reduced vaginal lubrication or difficulties with reaching orgasm.

Why is this such a problem? Sexual health problems have a profound burden upon the psychological well-being of people with diabetes. Research tells us that people who have both diabetes and sexual dysfunction tend to experience:

  • Reduced overall quality of life
  • Greater risk of running into diabetes complications
  • Overall poorer blood-glucose control
  • Poorer psychological adaptation to diabetes demands
  • Bigger risk of running into diabetes distress, or burnout.

Diabetes and relationships

The stress of managing diabetes can most certainly spill over into your relationship. One study found that two thirds of the people with diabetes interviewed said that their condition negatively affected their relationship with existing or potential partners. Why is this the case?

For some, diabetes can translate to low self-esteem and feeling less attractive as a result of their condition. There is already a huge amount of stigma faced by people with Type 2 diabetes.

For those with Type 1: children with diabetes often experience exclusion and othering during their school years, which can set them up to feel inadequate later in life.

What else? Generally speaking, sex and love require a person to be present and connected. It can be tough to connect with your loved one on this level if your mind is focused on your blood glucose. At the same time, though, diabetes is a 24/7 job, we never really get to switch off.

Stress is not sexy

We all know that living with a chronic condition can be stressful; and stress, quite simply, is not sexy. How so? Literally, high levels of stress send your brain into fight-or-flight mode, pushing adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) into your system. While these brain-body changes are great for helping you fight against or flee from a predator, they are not particularly useful when you’re trying to have sex.

Stress also makes a person less likely to be in the mood for romance; and it may mean that you simply don’t have time or energy to connect with your partner. Finally, stress tends to spike blood glucose levels, meaning that you have a greater risk of microvascular complications that can lead to sexual disorders.

Aside from that, people with Type 2 diabetes in particular often experience a far higher risk of major depression. People with Type 1 very often experience anxiety disorders. Both depression and anxiety disorders often involve sexual problems as symptoms.

What can you do?

First things first: if you are experiencing erectile dysfunction as a male with diabetes, it is vital to bring this up with your doctor, no matter how uncomfortable this might feel. Why? Erectile issues can, at times, be early warning signs for life-threatening heart conditions. Getting early treatment here can save lives.

Aside from that, often, sexual disorders in people with diabetes can be treated. At times, the treatment is medical; often, psychological input can help. Reach out to your doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist to find out more about getting the right support.

Generally, looking after your diabetes is the most important step to take in managing or preventing sexual issues. But remember that this is not a condition that you can thrive with if you’re doing it alone: learn to lean on your partner, community and treating team.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless about your diabetes, you might be struggling with diabetes distress (or burnout) which can worsen sexual dysfunction. Burnout and stress-management can be achieved through practices, such as mindfulness meditation, frequent physical exercise and proper time management, so that space for self-care is prioritised in your schedule.

Summing up

If you, as a person with diabetes, are finding that the condition is interfering with your love life, you are not alone. Research shows us that sexual dysfunction is a big risk factor for living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, sexual dysfunction placed on top of the demands of diabetes makes a stressful condition that much more challenging to manage. For this reason, it’s a really good idea to take proactive action as soon as you notice unwanted sexual symptoms creeping in. How? Speak up! Push through the discomfort and raise this issue with your doctor, so that you can get the treatment and support that you deserve.


 Corona, G., Isidori, A. M., Aversa, A., Bonomi, M., Ferlin, A., Foresta, C., … & Lombardo, F. (2020). Male and female sexual dysfunction in diabetic subjects: Focus on new antihyperglycemic drugs. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, 21, 57-65.

 Van Cauwenberghe, J., Enzlin, P., Nefs, G., Ruige, J., Hendrieckx, C., De Block, C., & Pouwer, F. (2022). Prevalence of and risk factors for sexual dysfunctions in adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes: results from Diabetes MILES‐Flanders. Diabetic Medicine, 39(1), e14676


Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 28 years. He practices from Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town where he works with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to help them thrive. Visit danielshertherapy.com

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