Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? cover

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? - Book Summary

Everyday Tools for Life’s Ups & Downs

Duration: 19:05
Release Date: October 6, 2023
Book Author: Julie Smith
Categories: Psychology, Personal Development
Duration: 19:05
Release Date: October 6, 2023
Book Author: Julie Smith
Categories: Psychology, Personal Development

In this episode of "20 Minute Books" we're exploring "Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?" by Dr. Julie Smith. This empathetic and practical guide aims to increase your understanding of mental well-being and provide you with the tools necessary to maintain it.

Dr. Julie Smith is a highly experienced clinical psychologist and online educator, who has reached an audience of over 3 million followers. This episode sees us delve into her debut book, a number one Sunday Times bestseller that delivers bite-sized, actionable advice for dealing with life's most daunting obstacles such as anxiety, depression, unexpected setbacks, and self-doubt.

This episode is a must for those of you seeking relief from anxiety and depression, looking to support a loved one navigating through a hard time or self-help enthusiasts who are keen to gain science-backed insights and strategies for mental health. If you've ever found yourself questioning why you weren't taught these fundamental lessons earlier in life, Dr. Julie Smith's "Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?" is the book you've been waiting for.

Unlock the mysteries of your mental and emotional journey

Everyone experiences emotional highs and lows — it's an integral part of our human journey. However, when the lows begin to overstay their welcome, we may start to believe it's just the way we're wired, and there's little we can do about it.

Dr. Julie Smith, a renowned clinical psychologist and digital phenomenon, is here to debunk that myth. In her enlightening book "Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?", she presents actionable strategies for navigating the labyrinth of our mental health on a daily basis. Through her insights, we come to realize that the reins of our mental well-being are in our hands — a perspective not conventionally propagated.

Today, we embark on a journey, unraveling some of Dr. Smith's key techniques — ones that can be adopted immediately, aimed at enhancing resilience and improving emotional management over time. As you uncover the surprising controllability of your emotional and mental health, don't be taken aback if you wonder out loud, "Why has nobody told me this before?"

As we journey together, you will uncover:

How to prevent anxiety from escalating into panic,

The secret ingredient to confidence-building, and

Understanding why it's perfectly okay to lean on others when you're feeling low.

Understanding the building blocks of your emotions: Step towards fortified mental health

In her practice, Dr. Julie Smith often encounters patients stuck in a low mood cycle, attributing their gloom to a seemingly unfixable brain malfunction. They view happiness as a congenital trait enjoyed by others but eluding them. This mindset, however, blocks them from harnessing control of their mental health. So, how does one find themselves stuck in a bad mood?

Imagine this — you're working late, stressing over an upcoming deadline. You collapse into bed too exhausted to hydrate yourself as you usually would. Your sleep is restless, anxiety-tinged dreams tinged by anxiety interrupting your rest. Then, the harsh tones of your alarm jar you into wakefulness. You arise, grumpy and weary, stress hormones racing through your veins, a low mood casting a shadow over your day.

Does it seem random now? Not really. The irritability stems from exhaustion, stress, and dehydration. Not every instance of low mood shares this recipe, but the lesson here is that emotions are usually a cocktail of various factors, many of which are within our control. A bad mood is more likely signaling an unmet need than indicating a brain misfire.

The journey towards combating a prolonged low mood starts with identifying these unmet needs. Dr. Julie guides her patients through this process, helping them to unravel their mental and physical states' complexities. Once a patient begins to dissect the thoughts, behaviors, and environmental stressors sparking their low mood, they can start catering to those unmet needs.

To bring this awareness to light, ask yourself: What thoughts surface with your low mood? When do they emerge? Are there accompanying physical sensations? What were your actions in the week leading up to the low mood?

An essential step in building emotional retrospection lies outside the therapeutic setting. Dr. Julie recommends maintaining a journal focused on your emotional journeys, both positive and negative. Note down the thoughts, sensations, and circumstances shaping these experiences. Over time, you'll start identifying patterns and direct links to particular moods.

For instance, through this practice, you might discover that your low mood tends to surface after scrolling through social media, triggered by the thought, "I'm such a loser!" This realization presents a simple, actionable solution — delete those apps or unfollow accounts that seed feelings of comparison.

Bear in mind, deciphering the origins of your feelings won't always bring clarity or solutions to every emotional pain. Some issues are deep-seated, requiring professional aid. But the heightened self-awareness will provide a sturdy foundation for you and your therapist to navigate through the low moods.

Remember, your emotions are not just confined to your head. They encapsulate your body, living conditions, past, present, and the influences you soak in. The more adept you become at deconstructing these multifaceted factors shaping your emotions, the better you'll navigate the changes you have the power to enact.

Navigating through lows: Embrace 'good enough' decisions over perfection

A continuous low mood can throw a wrench into our decision-making process. When we're feeling down, there's a strong pull towards instant gratification — this often leads us down paths that might soothe the present but complicate the future. Like choosing junk food over a nutritious meal, or using a sick day to dodge stress, only to pile more work onto our future selves. When we yield to these easier choices, we invariably end up berating ourselves, staying trapped in the cycle of a low mood.

But why do we gravitate towards these choices when we know what the better decision would be? Well, for one, making the right choices isn't always easy. It's far simpler to snuggle under the blanket than to confront a workday, especially during a low mood.

Another stumbling block is the pursuit of perfection, which hinders the journey of overcoming a low mood. This inclination towards perfectionism pushes us to obsess over the perfect decision, followed by self-flagellation when we fall short.

One strategy to counter this conundrum is to embrace the concept of 'good enough' decisions. Instead of striving for monumental changes or grand gestures, aim for minor, steady progress.

For instance, we're all aware of how regular exercise significantly impacts mental health, but committing to an intense workout routine can seem daunting, especially if it's not part of your routine. So, what does Dr. Julie advise? Instead of leaping from zero exercise to an hour of cardio daily, begin by incorporating light physical activities that you enjoy into your routine. Don't force yourself into a dreaded treadmill slog; start with repeatable exercises like brisk neighborhood walks, listening to your favorite podcast.

If you're grappling with a low mood and the laundry list of 'should dos' is overwhelming, focus on a singular manageable action, something that benefits you and commit to it daily — like that neighborhood walk. The impact may not be instantly noticeable, but it's a step in the right direction. You're paving the way for new neurological pathways, developing healthier habits, and ultimately bolstering your mental health.

And if, after establishing a healthy routine, you find your commitment wavering and fall off the wagon, don't beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself, as you would to a friend enduring a rough patch. Remember, there's always tomorrow to try again, and it'll be easier because you've succeeded before.

Building resilience against anxiety to reclaim your life

Achieving healthier behavior through incremental steps is also the most effective approach for tackling anxiety. If you've experienced anxiety, you're well aware of its discomfort and, at its worst, how it can hijack your life entirely. Given that anxiety is a universal experience, it's unsurprising that one of the most frequently asked questions Dr. Julie encounters is how to eradicate it.

Successfully handling anxiety involves facing your fears. The most instinctive reaction to fear is avoidance — shunning the scenarios that spark it. However, the irony of fear is that the more we dodge it, the stronger it grows over time. If we let fear control our decisions, we unwittingly lead our lives into shrinking circles.

Imagine, for instance, during the pandemic, you've developed anxiety in crowded places, causing you to shun populated areas. Gradually, the anxiety spreads to public transport and supermarkets, making you avoid them as well. Before long, you become uncomfortable around unfamiliar faces and limit your social circle. Eventually, your anxiety confines you to the house. So how can you reclaim your life?

The strategy is to be gentle with yourself, not plunging back into every anxiety-triggering situation simultaneously. That would just overwhelm you and compel you to retreat. Start by tackling the least intimidating scenario. Visit a supermarket, allow yourself to experience the fear, step out, and give yourself recovery time. Repeat the process the following day and witness your confidence slowly burgeon.

Once you manage to navigate the supermarket without an impulsive flight response, introduce the next element, perhaps public transportation. As long as you don't inundate yourself with anxious situations, you can reclaim your life bit by bit.

This method of confronting fears incrementally is effective even for those seeking to boost their confidence or embrace daring behaviors. Patience and repetition, along with sufficient recovery time, can help you brave scenarios that make you uncomfortable, leading to growing confidence over time. Avoid forcing yourself into panic-inducing situations.

Remember, courage paves the way for confidence. Facing your fears is crucial in any novel situation, creative risk, or learning experience. Therefore, if you aspire to lead a life filled with creativity, risk, and growth, confronting fear is a prerequisite.

But what happens when you attempt to stretch your confidence and end up in a situation where your anxiety spikes, threatening to overwhelm you? What if your readiness to step into a supermarket results in hyperventilating amidst the vegetable racks?

Don't despair; you're not alone. Many of Dr. Julie's patients have experienced such panic flare-ups. One of the initial techniques she teaches these patients is a method called 'square breathing.' It's a simple, discreet practice that can be beneficial in any situation where anxiety might escalate into panic.

Here's how it works:

First, find something square-shaped — a window, a picture frame, or anything with four corners.

Starting at the bottom left corner of the square, inhale while counting to four, simultaneously shifting your gaze to the top left corner.

Hold your breath for four seconds, moving your eyes to the top right corner.

Exhale for four seconds, moving your gaze to the bottom right corner.

Finally, hold your breath for another four seconds, bringing your gaze back to the bottom left corner.

This practice of deep, controlled breathing can soothe anxiety, and by following the square, you ensure you breathe deeply enough for the calming effect to kick in. Consider trying it the next time you feel panic stirring.

Don't shy away from seeking assistance and learn to reciprocate.

The act of seeking help can often be challenging. Cultural stigmas, costly therapists, and limited accessibility all hinder the quest for professional mental health services. Yet, seeking help from our close ones can sometimes be even more daunting.

Unfortunately, depression frequently makes us alienate those we need the most. It's not uncommon to feel like your struggles impose a burden on those around you, leading to self-imposed isolation fueled by the belief that your depressive state will dampen others' spirits.

However, during such moments, remember this critical fact: social support benefits both the receiver and the giver. Research demonstrates that providing even minimal social support triggers a positive shift in our brain chemistry, igniting emotions of courage and hope. It can even counteract the detrimental effects of trauma and chronic stress. So, when you allow your loved ones to support you in times of need, you're essentially fostering a beneficial relationship for both parties.

With this in mind, never hesitate to reach out to your loved ones when you're feeling low. Human connection is one of the most robust tools in maintaining our mental health, while social isolation only amplifies depressive symptoms.

At first, it may be difficult. You might feel as if you have little to share or simply lack the energy to engage. And that's perfectly fine. Share whatever thoughts you can, or simply relish the company of others, whether that's observing them or quietly strolling together. Studies show that merely being around those who care, even when we're not in a sociable mood, can be beneficial.

Conversely, at some point, you may find yourself on the other side — supporting a loved one who's struggling. Caring for someone in distress can be stressful and evoke feelings of inadequacy. However, supporting others during tough times is also a method of self-healing. Here are a few tips from Dr. Julie to help you fulfill your supporting role with more confidence.

First, remember the potency of just being there for someone dealing with depression. Regularly checking in and expressing care can make a significant difference. If you're unsure of how to help, simply ask. Often, the individual knows what they need, but they might not realize there are people willing to assist them. If they've been diagnosed with a specific condition, take time to understand it better so you can grasp the challenges they're encountering.

Next, lend a hand with practical tasks. Simple chores like washing dishes or preparing meals could seem daunting to someone in emotional pain. Assisting them with such tasks could provide immense relief.

When interacting with your loved one, exhibit compassion and openness. Refrain from dispensing advice unless they seek it. They're likely to feel more respected and understood if you paraphrase their thoughts back to them. Also, don't hesitate to steer the conversation away from their struggles occasionally. Providing care doesn't necessarily entail focusing solely on their issues. Distractions and fresh perspectives could also be beneficial.

Human connection offers an impenetrable barrier against mood fluctuations. Numerous studies advocate the protective role of quality relationships against physical and emotional upheaval throughout life. When it comes to happiness, relationships trump money, fame, social class, genes, and all other perceived symbols of status.

If you currently lack personal contacts to reach out to, don't despair. The ability to forge meaningful connections can be learned or relearned. Therapists can aid you in this journey. Remember, working on yourself improves your relationships and vice versa. Hence, nurturing your relationships can indirectly foster your mental health.

A summary wrap-up

Through this journey, we've delved into improving our overall mental well-being by identifying and addressing the unmet needs causing emotional distress, focusing on 'adequate' decisions that progressively steer us towards our goals, confronting our fears to cultivate confidence and control anxiety, and fostering our relationships to provide mutual support during tough times.

It's important to remember that while this narrative offers strategies for self-improvement in mental health, professional help may still be necessary at times. If you're concerned about your mental health, seek out a professional therapist. If professional services are inaccessible, try to gather as much information about recovery as you can and remember to lean on the support of trustworthy loved ones.

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