We all know how the unkind words of others can impact our sense of self, but what happens when the biggest bully in our lives is inside our own heads?
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is the leading cause of disability world-wide. For those affected it can be hard to know where to start to get your life back.
Jan Marsh has 40 years' experience as a clinical psychologist, helping people banish the black dog.
She says many people have an inner critic that can be cruel and unrelenting. Learning to replace this inner bully with kinder, more compassionate self-talk is an important step to getting your life back.
"People say things to themselves that they would not dream of saying to someone else in distress," Jan said.
Learning to regulate emotions and show compassion to ourselves and others not only reduces the impact of depression but also improves life and relationships, building resilience and decreasing the likelihood of recurring depressive episodes.
It is one of the important tips in Jan's new book, Dealing with Depression, which offers a simple, easy to follow, non-judgmental and, above all, effective exploration of depression and how to manage it.
Jan outlines a range of strategies, including the physiological fundamentals of sleep, healthy diet and exercise as well as ideas from positive psychology that help us to take care of ourselves. Her advice on improving wellbeing in body, mind and spirit is clear and practical, and easy to implement. Whether it is trying a breathing exercise or rescripting your self-talk, Jan's advice is to choose one or two things intially and focus on those.
"Depression eats away at motivation or immobilizes you with indecision, so make it as easy for yourself as you can. Start with something that seems approachable. The important thing is to do something," Jan said.
Jan Marsh M.A. (Hons), Dip.Clin.Psych. practised as a clinical psychologist for 40 years. During that time, she worked in a variety of settings, including rehabilitation, mental health services, child protection and court work. For the latter part of her career, she worked in private practice, consulting with adults who presented with anxiety, depression and challenging life issues.
Dealing with Depression
Author: Jan Marsh
Question: What inspired you to write Dealing with Depression?
Jan Marsh: I worked as a psychologist for 40 years. Helping people to manage their anxiety and depression has been a big part of my role. As I learned more about what could make a difference, from study and from my clients' feedback, I wanted to write it down and put it in a format that would be approachable and helpful for a wide range of people. I started doing this and over the years it took book form. When Exisle Publishing came on board we could see the potential to make it really solid and share it widely. The book draws on my experience and on a wide range of research.
Question: Can you share with us, one of the simple ways we can regain life from Depression?
Jan Marsh: I divided my suggestions into 'Body, Mind and Spirit' because that's a good way to think about the aspects of yourself that might be involved. May I share one from each section?
A very straightforward tip in the 'Body' section is to get some exercise, in whatever form you would enjoy, because we know exercise really improves mood.
For the mind, learn to understand your emotions, find names for them and become more comfortable managing them. Often we feel overwhelmed by our emotions but they can become our friends and are useful guides to how to be in the world.
For spirit, think about ways to feel connected: to Nature, to friends or family, to a pet maybe. Connection helps us to see the bigger picture. In the case of feeling down or depressed, if we share a little with others we can learn that its part of being human to feel bad sometimes, and that it passes.
Question: How can we begin replacing our own inner bully with a kind self-talk?
Jan Marsh: We need to be kind to ourselves. Monitor that inner voice and ask, 'Would I talk like that to a good friend who was feeling bad?' It's also good to ask, 'Why am I so hard on myself?' Some of us learned from an early age that being nagged is how we get things done. Perhaps that inner bully is trying to be a motivater. Try thanking it, but gently letting it know that carrots work better than sticks and some positive feedback wouldn't go amiss. It's really important to celebrate any successes, however small. We can be too quick to go, 'Yeah, good, but now I need to...' and we've set up the next challenge without even noticing the success. Appreciate anything good that you do or experience, really take it in.
Question: Why is this such an important skill to aid in banishing Depression?
Jan Marsh: Depression brings a huge sense of being unworthy and unsuccessful, along with feelings of hopelessness and fear that it will never change. Bullying ourselves doubles down on all those feelings, drumming them in deeper. It just isn't helpful. We need to challenge the negative view and look for the true, capable self underneath the clouds: the one that can be a kind friend, or has skills that could be developed, the unique 'you' who will thrive in a positive environment. Like a pot plant that needs water and light and a little attention, we all have our needs and will do well if they are met.
Question: What message do you hope readers take from Dealing with Depression?
Jan Marsh: I hope to demystify depression and show that it is a natural part of us which can make sense once it's understood. I hope readers will be empowered to try a few of the suggestions and keep going till they have a rounded, balanced life that sustains them. I'm not suggesting eradicating depression but it can be managed, then life can be the gift that it is for each one of us.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Dealing with Depression
Author: Jan Marsh