JEDDAH: As awareness of mental health issues has become more common, especially during the pandemic, people in Saudi Arabia increasingly are exploring ways to maintain their mental well-being with the help of Saudi wellness coaches.
These trained guides help their clients set health goals, mental and/or physical, and educate them about ways in which they can change their behaviors and lifestyles by adopting a more holistic, or whole-person, approach to health in the long term.
Rayyan Abdulwahed, a 33-year-old Saudi dentist, told Arab News he has long been interested in the broader concept of wellness, beyond the requirements of his profession. This interest ultimately led him to become a meditation and breathing techniques coach.
“I was always interested in topics such as mental, physical, or nutritional well-being,” he said. “They’ve always made me curious. However, once I started working with patients I was introduced, face-to-face, with wellness. “We had to be very careful and knowledgeable when dealing with patients’ issues, taking in their medical history and knowing things about them that they would otherwise not tell anyone. This aspect, in turn, helped my general understanding of wellness.”
Abdulwahed began meditating and using breathing techniques, which he said led to a journey of self-discovery over the past eight years.
“Maneuvering through life, where most things are out of our control, my journey taught me what was under my control and how to improve those things,” he added.
Amal Uthman, 28, has been an energy healer for five years. She discovered this form of therapy while dealing with issues in her own life. With the knowledge she gained through personal reflection and learning, she began sharing the benefits with friends and family.
“I teach people how to deal with their bodies and how to use their energy,” she told Arab News. “I basically guide them to find concrete solutions if they reconnect with their bodies.”
Abdulwahed explained that he teaches people something even more fundamental: His coaching begins with techniques for correct breathing and how to optimize this.
“We breathe just to survive … but we don’t use all the capabilities of the respiratory system. Then we move on to sleep,” he said.
Changing how we breathe can relax the body, help our mind focus, change our emotional state and reduce the impact of stress, it can also foster the self-healing powers of our body.
He began testing the waters by offering coaching to the Saudi community in the early stages of the pandemic.
“Online coaching proved to be highly beneficial as it helped people to try something new from the comfort of their homes,” he said. “People are hungry for this kind of material. They want to understand themselves and, more specifically, move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. The scene is there but everyone is a bit shy.”
Uthman said she has been similarly fortunate because not only were clients open to her ideas, when they began to see the beneficial effects many became students and learned more about the healing process to further their knowledge.
Joud Burchalli, a student in Jeddah, told Arab News that she realized the true meaning of wellness and the benefits of meditation during the pandemic when she was anxious and having a tough time focusing her thoughts.
“Ever since I was a kid I heard the phrase ‘just meditate’ being thrown around, without an explanation to why and how,” she said.
“During the pandemic, when my anxiety got out of control, I felt like I needed an escape from everything and this is when I came across, and really understood, ‘wellness.’”
Marveling about the fact that a simple word such as “wellness” can hold so much meaning, she explained that meditation has become a vital part of her daily life.
“Meditation and taking care of your cognitive health isn’t something you can ignore,” said Burchalli. “For me, meditation is as important as tending to a wound, going to the dentist, praying, or taking care of my skin. It is a part of my routine.
“What I came to understand is that meditation is the opposite of anxiety, since anxiety is too much of everything, and your brain feels like it will fuse because of overthinking.”
Meditation is the opposite of that: It is when you are able to empty out your thoughts and your head is empty.”