Get out of your Head: Health & Wellness
•Love and Relationships
•Health and Well Being
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Brian is an author, Mental Health Advocate, blogger, and software developer from Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston College in 2012 with a degree in management and computer science.
Much of Brian’s writing is focused on health, wellness, and personal development.
Brian offers written advice and coaching to clients looking to make strides in their battles with mental illness. Brian's desire to help others with anxiety and depression grew out of his own experiences with both afflictions. That is why he's so passionate about using his skills to influence the lives of others with their health and well being.
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Intro: Welcome to the Heart, Soul Wisdom Podcast, a journey of self discovery and transformation. Moira Sutton and her amazing guests share real life stories, tools, and strategies to inspire and empower you to create and live your best life. Come along on the journey and finally blast through any fears, obstacles and challenges that have held you back in the past so you can live your life with the joy, passion, and happiness that you desire. Now, here's your host. Create the life you love. Empowerment Life Coach Moira Sutton.
Moira: Welcome to season four, Episode 76, Get Out of Your Head Health and Wellness with our very special guest, author, and mental health advocate Brian Sachetta. Brian is an author, blogger and software developer from Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Boston College in 2012 with a degree in management and computer science. After college, Brian put his computer science background to use as both a consultant and a writer. His first book, Get Out of Your Head, draws parallels between computer systems and the human mind and gives readers practical strategies for overcoming anxiety. Much of Brian's writing is focused on health, wellness, and personal development. He is passionate about using his skills to positively influence the lives of others. Brian offers written advice and coaching to clients looking to make strides in their battles with mental illness. His desire is to help others with anxiety and depression grow out and grow out of their own experiences with both of these afflictions. That is why he is so passionate about using his skills to influence the lives of others with their health and well being so special. So, without further ado, I would like warmly to welcome Brian Sachetta. Welcome, Brian.
Brian: Hi, Moira. Thanks for having me.
Intro: Thank you. As we said just before we got on, Brian's being so flexible with my schedule with different things happening, and we might just touch upon some of those things during this conversation because it is a heartfelt conversation and truth to help other people with our own journeys. So, Brian, why don't we just start with what was it like growing up in your family and how did your journey affect your own mental health and well being?
Brian: Yeah, definitely. This is a question that is an interesting one for me specifically and one that I talk about briefly in my second book, which is basically my family is awesome and I am very, very fortunate, very lucky. I have a brother who's very similar to me in a lot of ways, also different in some ways. We all are right. Two loving, awesome parents who have supported me throughout my life. And so, if I went into a psychiatrist's office and we did the normal channels of, oh, what was your childhood like and what were the traumas and stuff like that, there really weren't that many. I say in the second book, I was lucky enough to live a life that, except for the sort of predictable stressors of life like the ones that we all go through. I didn't have to endure too many difficulties, which was great. At the same time, my mind is just predisposed to overthinking and anxiety and depression and those sorts of things. And so, I said in the second book, as I went along this journey, I kind of thought to myself almost from like a privileged mindset saying, I didn't know that. And this was kind of me at 18 or 20 or whatever, right? I didn't know that folks that were well off in life could fall prey to these things. And eventually you talk with enough folks, and you live through your own experiences to realize that these conditions don't discriminate. If you give either of them or any of these mental health conditions the right environment to proliferate, then they definitely will.
Moira: You think about it, 18-20, I think about my own age. I started working when I was 18, and then I went back to college and university after. But like you said, I sort of thought I had not the world on the string or whatever those lines are. But you think you have so many years ahead of you, you can do anything, right? So, it's a different period, for sure. So, tell me, Brian, what was the point in your life that more or less you say this in some of your blogs and that because I was reading all your material abandon Yourself. And how did you radically return to what is so important the basis self love, self care, and self acceptance? And I always talk about self love first. You have to start there before you can love anybody else for sure.
Brian: I think it's a process. I'm sure that certain folks could point to a specific, significant emotional event in their lives or something and say this was a turning point. But for me, and I think for a lot of folks, it's just slowly accumulating these different experiences and these different learnings across our lives and eventually integrating them into the system we know as our own personal psychology. And over time, we're constantly looking out at the world and comparing how we perceive things against or sort of like how we interpret things against how we perceive them. And when there's a discrepancy, I think that discrepancy starts to sort of gnaw away at us and eventually it becomes large enough that we say to ourselves, okay, I kind of need to do something here. But that process doesn't usually occur overnight, right? So, for me, it was sort of coming back to the self compassion, coming back to the self love, like a process of probably a decade, to be honest. And I would say, even though I think a lot of us, we have love for ourselves in some regards and then in other areas, maybe not, right? Maybe there's a specific character trait that we lambast ourselves for or something like that. I think I could probably say that my experience was like that as well, where it's like, sure, I'm happy about my career, or I'm happy about the choices that I've made in my education and whatnot. But there are, again, personality traits or ways that I do things that I criticize myself or whatever it may be, or even just the mere presence of anxiety, depression, overthinking in my life. And I would say I wrote this second book, which was get out of Your Head, volume Two. Navigating the Abyss of Depression. I'm happy to dive deep into that. I think that was one of those slow moving, life altering experiences where it's like, on the other side of it, of having dealt with the battle of depression that sparked that book. It certainly changed me as a person and made me view the world differently and have more compassion for myself and all the things that we're talking about. So, it's really my long-winded answer here is that for me, there wasn't one moment in time. It was more just sort of going about living my life and realizing that some of my strategies for coping weren't sufficient. Right. And then eventually coming back and saying, if I want to be here, if I want to thrive, if I want to survive, I need to change my outlook, I need to change my perspective.
Moira: So how did you get there with that? Did you start to consciously pay attention, let's say to self dialogue what you were saying to yourself and what you say to others because we talk to ourselves and also mindset. Did you just start reading books on it? Did you wake up one day and thought, like you said, I need to really look at this because I want to change things? What were some of your processes there? I think our listeners would enjoy hearing that.
Brian: Yeah, another long winded answer that's okay, yeah, I don't have a core strategy of, like, I did this. It was more taking different learnings from various points of my life. So, if I'm speaking specifically to the depressive episode that sort of launched my second book, I'm looking back and I'm saying, I got to that point already, having certain tools in my toolkit, my mental health toolkit, perspectives and ways of looking at the world and whatnot. And so, I would say that I am fortunate in the sense that I had already begun to want to look at the world from a lens of somebody who experiences anxiety. Right. So, the anxiety was sort of the subject of my first book. So, I was lucky enough to come to that battle with depression, having some tools already and not being like I was just completely living my life unaware of any mental health challenges, and boom, here I am. So, I think the inquisitiveness and the introspection that was sort of baked into my philosophical and psychological approach already because I knew right in having dealt with anxiety for a while and written a lot of content on it, it was like, I know that my thoughts are powerful. I know that I have a tendency to ruminate, to overthink about certain scary ideas. I'm aware of the role that evolutionary psychology plays in our mental worlds and the fact that our brains are sort of designed for survival, not necessarily to evade more modern threats that sort of loom on our calendars that don't actually threaten our existence, they just scare us, that sort of thing, right? So, getting to that depressive episode, I was lucky enough to have already had some training and to have a little bit of a background on the mental health front when I got there. That said, I think that even though anxiety and depression are two related and often comorbid diseases, they are also pretty different in a lot of different ways, right? So, when I got there, I think the thing that was challenging for me personally was like I had sort of reached this naivete, or whatever you want to call it, in my life where I said to myself, I wrote this book on anxiety. And I look back now, I kind of say to myself, like, this is a classic mid 20s or like 20-year-old reaction, right? I wrote this book on anxiety. I quote unquote, figured it out, I've got all the answers. It's something if folks are familiar with the I think it's called the Dunning Kruger effect. It's sort of like once you go from no progress to a tiny amount or a moderate level of progress, you feel as though you're like an expert, right? And so, this was my Dunning Kruger moment of being like, I wrote the first book, I got a brand on mental health, boom, I'm good, I'm done. And then all of a sudden, I find myself in this depressive battle and I'm like, oh my goodness, there's actually so much that I don't know. There's so much that I don't know how to interpret, how to make sense of how to approach and that sort of thing. And so, I had been through one depressive episode in my life previously in college, and it was very challenging, but I sort of thought that, again, naively, that maybe I was good, maybe I was done with it, maybe depression would sort of never pop back up in my life. So, pertaining to that specific battle, I guess why I'm giving this preamble, right, is, like, I was lucky enough to have done some inner work previously to know that when this thing popped up, it's like I can't have the same approach as, like I don't know what the right word is. A cocky 22-year-old, right? And say, like, no, I'm a guy. I'm going to push this down. I'm not going to pay attention to this. I'm going to get through it. Right? I'm not saying that I opened up to every single person that I could have. I wish I was probably more a bit more open in general, but it was like once I realized I was dealing with something, it was like I talked to my folks, I was like, look, this is something that I'm really struggling with. I don't know what to do. I read oh, goodness. I don't want to put a number on it because you always tend to overestimate, but I read at least ten books on depression, maybe 20, lots of podcasts, was just like, very eager to be like, how do I get through this? What are the missing pieces in my toolkit? And then I think also just like, sort of I didn't really have a perfect strategy for this. I think I just got lucky enough to come across it was basically understanding that I needed to cultivate a little bit of patience with the situation and patience with myself. Right. I think that sometimes the more that we push against something, the more it pushes back against us. Right. It's sort of like what you resist, persists. And so I kept wanting to be out of this depressive episode so bad that it created more tension in my body and it was harder to let go of it. So, I guess, again, long winded answer, but it was really just trying to look at the situation from almost like a bit of a clean slate just because I had to admit what I didn't know. But at the same time coming with the same sort of strategies and maybe different mental perspectives that I had gleaned from the first book in the first Battles with Anxiety.
Moira: I didn’t read your first book, but I read your second one. But I did go through your blog and that, so I understood a lot of things that you share. You also state that and thank you for that, though it rarely feels like it when you're in the middle of melancholy. There's my same words today. Whatever. Remember that you're not alone in this. Yeah, I don't worry about it. You're not alone in the battle and that things will eventually get better. How does a person get to that place, like, to begin to trust again in their life and give them hope when they're deep in that Abyss that you talk about, that never ending downward spiral of hopelessness? How do they get out of that? I almost feel like crawling out or throw a life jacket, put a ladder down. What's the first steps there that you help others with?
Brian: For sure, it's hard to unpack this answer because it's sort of the entire second book. Like, how do I sum it up in a paragraph, right? But I think two things that I want to touch on and I hope that I remember them, I tend to put a number out there and then forget what the certain number of aspects that I wanted to touch upon were anyway, two things, right? There's this notion, right, that I talk about in the second book, which is basically we see the world not as it is, but as we are, right? So, if we are depressed and we look outside and we see all these different things happening, they will reaffirm how we feel inside. We'll say, oh, look, that person just ran down the street and stole that woman's purse. The world is an awful and evil and terrible place. And that reflects and confirms my feelings inside and the perspectives that I have. At the same time, when we are happy, right, we can sure, there are things that we can look at and maybe make us depressed or whatever, but we'll tend to ignore them, right? It's like the state we are in almost shifts our perspective of the world. It's like putting on those rose-tinted glasses that people sometimes talk about. So, it's sort of understanding this phenomenon of that the state we're in paints how we see the world, but then also zooming up a level and saying that once you know that that's how it works, it's almost as if you can take a step back and say, okay, I understand that I'm in this depressive episode. I'm in this melancholy state right now. But I also know, because of the way that this works, is that I'm seeing things that look awful, that look terrible, that are reconfirming my experience, my beliefs, how I look at the world. But I know that that is a trick that sort of this state related phenomenon plays on me. And I think one of the challenges, right, is like we need to go through this sort of phenomenon, I would say at least once, if not multiple times, before we can understand that we're actually in the trick, right? It's like, I can tell you your mind is playing tricks on you right now, and you might know that or interpret that on a cognitive level, but in order to really integrate it and process it and make sense of it in your own life, it would be more beneficial to understand that on an emotional level. And that emotion, sometimes painfully and regretfully, needs to come through experience, right? So, I talk about, or I guess you asked about how does somebody look at the paragraph or the couple of sentences that you mentioned and make sense of that and integrate that and try to get themselves out of? Depression. Again, it's a difficult answer because so much of it is basically me just trying to turn the book into one paragraph or something like that. But what I would basically say is if we're dealing with our first battle of depression and we don't have that experience to be like, okay, this is my brain playing a trick on me again. I've been here before. Things are going to get better, and then I'm going to look back out at the world after being better and saying, wow, the world doesn't look so bad anymore because I'm no longer depressed. If we don't have that experience of being able to know that we're in the trick, like emotionally, right? The trick our brain plays on us, I guess the best thing we could do or the next best thing we could do is lean on the experiences that other people have, right? So it's like that is sort of one of the core reasons why I share a lot of the material that I do through my books and blog and podcast appearances and whatnot. It's like somebody who's approaching this, whether it's depression or anxiety for the first time, is unfortunately just not going to have the experience or the awareness to be like, I know where I am right now and I know how this works, but hopefully they can use my story. They can use your story, somebody else's, to be like, okay, I trust Brian. I trust Moira. I need to trust that what they're saying makes sense and then take action or at least integrate that perspective into my own life and allow myself to calm down, to feel a tiny bit better, something like that. And when I say I think when I use the words like calm down, right, that is not meant to be offensive or flippant or anything like that. It's not like, hey, just calm down. I hate when I come off that way. Definitely not my intention. It's more just like allowing yourself to understand these perspectives a little bit and integrate them in a way that hopefully it helps you a little bit.
Moira: Well, I know you talked also about somebody struggling, and this was in one of your blogs, that the last things they want to hear from you is, oh, I know what you're going through, because you don't know exactly what they're going through. It's their personal experience, not yours. But you can its sort of like what you're saying with calm down. A conversation with somebody just to truly be there and be present and to listen to someone. Because I know that as a coach, but also just as a person with anyone, people know when you're really listening or you're just about to say something to them, so you're not really even listening to them. You're just waiting to throw your stuff in, right, and just be present for somebody and just honor them as a person and to know that we all have different challenges in that, most definitely. So, for people, how many people when you talk to in your community and when you did research and all, where depression or anxiety literally just comes out of nowhere. It's like, what is this like you're saying? If it's the first time, they don't know maybe what that is or where to go. But learning from you and listening and hearing other people's honest expression of their own journey and to give them hope that someone else went through it. Does that happen a lot that you've heard through people? It just comes like, whatever age, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, just anxiety comes up or depression comes in, it just hits them and they're like, what is this? Do you hear a lot of those kind of stories? And that's when people start looking to make healthier decisions about their own health and well being?
Brian: For sure. I think, again, right, kind of an answer that is a little bit all over the map. I want to make sure that I include everybody here in the sense that if someone has dealt with anxiety for 40 years right. I would assume that anxiety will not just pop up on them out of the blue, but maybe at the beginning of their experience, 40 years before that, it may have come up out of nowhere. And I think also sometimes there are signs maybe in our bodies, in our minds, in our psyches and spirits and stuff, but they're not strong enough, right, for us to really pick up on them all the way and be like, oh, I'm entering crisis mode and I now need to do something about it. So sometimes it's sort of a matter of perception, right? It's like sometimes I guess the precursors may be there, but until those precursors get large enough, it doesn't hit us. And maybe that's the reason for us feeling as though it comes out of nowhere. But definitely, yeah, I talk to a lot of folks like, I guess I'm trying not to be semantic here. If somebody's experience is that they felt as though this thing came out of nowhere, I want to make room for that. I want to talk about it. And in having conversations, I did a lot of prewriting interviews for my second book. The first book, only a handful, only a couple, just because I was less open at the time. I was kind of just like, I'm telling my story and that's that sort of thing. But the second book, I did prewriting interviews with over 20 folks and definitely got that message from a lot of people, right? Because it's like, I am lucky enough to have grown up in an affluent suburb in Massachusetts and a lot of the folks that I talk to and that I know come from that same background, and they're like, hey, I was 25 and I had no problems with any of this. And then all of a sudden, boom. Like, depression hit me like a brick wall or something like that. So, I think it definitely is a common experience and it's kind of strange, right? On this I would definitely consider myself, I guess, a bit of a spiritual person, right. We're all on these spiritual journeys, and it's like we have no idea where the road is going to twist and turn. And I think that for somebody who changes paths or doesn't change paths but is on the wrong one. Right. It's like, at some point, maybe whether it's emotions, whether it's a specific event in their life something will come along on that spiritual journey and kind of wake you up, right? You could be 25, you could be twelve, you could be 45. And those might be I'm not an expert here, so I can't really say. But those could be sort of the I guess those could be what are responsible for making those events. Could be responsible for making us feel like these things come out of nowhere. I'm not trying to make light of or downplay these situations because these are hard. I look back on it's not like tooting my own horn or trying to garner sympathy or anything but it's like I look back on the depressive episode that sparked me writing my second book and I'm like, that really was painful. And I would really much like to not have to go through something like that again. And even though it helped me write the book and it led me to different places in some ways I wish I didn't go through it. But it is what it is, right? And it did lead me to where I am today. And so, I take that message and say, I'm able to help folks. I'm able to share more content as a result of that experience. And also, sometimes not only for me, but also for other folks, I guess I would say sometimes these events can shape us in positive ways that we do not originally foresee. I want to be cautious there, right? Because it's like if somebody loses a spouse or a partner or a sibling or a parent and that is the cause of their depression, it's much harder to make sense of those experiences and sort of look back at them and be like, yeah, that worked out for the best. Right? It's like, no, we'd like that person to still be with us. But I guess I'm sort of just, in general, one of those guarded optimists, right? It's like I look for the silver lining, but I don't have my head in the clouds or anything like that. And it's just trying to figure out, okay, when these things feel as though they approach us out of nowhere or hit us like a brick wall what can we learn from them in the long run if something like that is possible?
Moira: I think. Thank you. We shared just briefly at the beginning that about coming up to three weeks ago. I had a fall and my chin got very injured split open and my left hand. And it was a wake-up call. Like, I have the Soul Awakening Academy. It's my business, right? It was my personal wake up call to really look. I wasn't happy with my life. Even people see me happy outside. It was like, just where my life is right now. And I couldn't understand it because we've moved to the beautiful Nova Scotia State. We're on a lake. We have beautiful, beautiful neighbors and community, and everything's great. However, there was a part of me that came up, said, you're not happy with this. What are you going to do with it? And there was a wake-up call. It scared me big time. And then I almost had a fall again on the weekend in our garage, sorting things on my mom's walker, I almost tripped and hit the cement floor, and I thought, oh, my God. That's two things. Within three weeks, for me, it's pulling back and really honoring myself, my time, really exploring, what do I want to do for the rest of my life? Where do I want to make an impact? And it's really a huge self reflection and boundaries and really speaking my truth and finding out what that is. Again, it's a journey.
Brian: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. And it's certainly not easy to I guess to the degree that you're comfortable, I'd love to dig in on it a little bit if that's okay.
Brian: Cool. Sorry. I know you probably have some questions planned, but this could be I don't know, it could be valuable to the listeners.
Moira: Let's go for it. I know when I used to have a TV show, there was somebody that said, do you want to do this exercise? You want to play? And I looked at him, and I knew him, and I said, sure. I said maybe.
Brian: Okay. Yeah, let's try the sure, maybe sounds good. Yeah. We'll tread cautiously, and we can keep it short. I guess the question that I have for you, right, is, like, when you've had these falls, do you feel as though they are related to your emotional experience? As in they are actually telling you something, or they are caused by something, or they are just reminders of whatever that thing is?
Moira: No, definitely a big message, because it scared me. I didn't have stitches. My son and my husband looked after me. But the fact is that for me, it was really, look at your behavior, your habits, your beliefs, what you're doing in your life, how precious life is, really. And I felt sort of the cut was through a glass, so I'm nervous around glass now, and I'm more anxious around things, which I wasn't before. When I met my husband over 30 years ago, one of our first dates was Skydiving.
Moira: Yeah. Now I don't want to go up a ladder. I don't want to do all those things. I'm really cautious around my step, like, where I'm stepping, not tripping over the cat that runs under your feet. So no, it was physical, mentally, emotionally. I think it hit all levels, and I'm a very spiritual person, so that definitely was in there, too. I think I hit all these areas.
Brian: Okay, very interesting. I guess the follow up question I have and then we can pause if you want to, is sort of I think I can relate to what you had said in terms of, like, you bought this beautiful place in Nova Scotia. You live on a lake. It's like, I should be happy now, right? Everything is lined up. When you had these experiences, when you had your falls, if you look critically at where you're at because you have this podcast, you're helping a lot of people, what do those falls tell you is missing or lacking or that you would like more of?
Moira: So, I have my best girlfriend who's also very spiritual, and I said to her, I'm feeling very sad. And before with emotions like sad or feeling, I do so much for, especially my mom, who I love dearly. She's 95 with a walking disability and myself being her caretaker, and that's been going on for a lot of years because we moved to more or less a two-story house from a very large three story. We're kind of in each other's face more here. There's not so much privacy. My husband and I just went on a trip when we came home after traveling, not traveling for three and a half years around COVID, I think I thought that trip was going to be like, fix everything, right? Like, I'll be fine. I could handle everything again when I got home. And I realized within a short time that's when I had the fall, that, oh, my God, I've gone back to the old looking after everybody's meals, everybody's clothes, like, all those things, right? And I had the fall, and I said, I can't do this anymore. I can't do my life around my home and responsibilities that I've taken on the same. I just can't do it anymore. My mom's been talking about her balance is getting worse. She's going to be in a wheelchair. And I was just sort of, like, sort of swearing to myself, like, what the ... this? I don't even know what that will look like in this house because there's no room for a wheelchair, really. So, it took me over the top, and my girlfriend said, well, what if money wasn't an issue. All those questions, and you didn't have the responsibility to your mom that, what would you be doing? And I said, you know what? I'd be traveling the world with Cliff. Cliff is not only my husband, but also my soulmate, my business partner, and I love him more every day than the day I married him. I just am so in love with him. And I'd be traveling the world, experiencing people continuing the podcast, but I wouldn't be responsible for other people, would just be responsible for myself and my choices. So, I know travel was a big part of it. That's what I want. And so, we're adding more of that into our life again and not be the person that's sort of like that caretaker. That's a 247 job. Yeah, that's my emotions there, Brian.
Brian: Wow. It was great to hear you break it all down and it almost felt like it's like you have your answer, right. And maybe that took a lot of work previously, right. Maybe you've been thinking about this for quite some time, but I like to think, right, I like to look at these experiences, these situations, and say, like, we usually have maybe not the answers and every answer or something like that, but we usually have answers within our hearts and our souls, right? And it's like, I think that there's two ways to look at it. One is like, you have to listen to them, and you have to take action on them because they are always correct. The other way to look at it is a tiny bit more guarded. It's more like you listen to your heart, you see what happens, and then you course correct from there. Right. I think when we take the first approach and say, I'm going to go get that house, that house is going to make me happy, and that's that. We leave ourselves exposed to the proverbial abyss where we get there and all of a sudden, we say, this was supposed to be the thing. I'm here. I'm not happy. What is going on? Right? And that sort of depression smacks you across the face sort of thing. So, I love the work that you're doing internally there and having the answers. And it's like you seem like one of those persons that you'll figure it out, right. If you start traveling and you're like, well, we went to this place, and I realized this was not the specific culture I want to be in or the experiences I want to have. Just like trying to remain open, right, and saying, I'm on the path, but it's not a one-way street, and there are many forks in the road. I can take any of those to see what eventually leads me to that happiness. And sometimes it's like the happiness is just presence, right? Being in the moment and enjoying those things and not necessarily putting those deadlines on ourselves and saying, I'll be happy when I get to Paris, when I get to Berlin, whatever it is, just enjoying each moment of the ride.
IMoira: It's funny because just before we got on today, our neighbors who are just ~ well, they're like angels. They're just the most beautiful people. Debbie is a wonderful cook and baker, and they bring over goodies and just amazing people. And we kind of feel like we deserve them because we used to have the neighbors from hell, now we have the neighbors from heaven. But I just received this unit that you put your herbs in, and I love to cook, and I'm getting back to that. That's part of this process of realizing I'm not cooking just to feed people. I want to cook from the place of passion and creation and enjoy the process. So, I just got this herb thing to put herbs in before. And when you're talking, I was all excited thinking about my herb thing that just came sitting in the kitchen.
Brian: That's great. It's just remarkable. Right? It's like, I think society and consumerism tend to tell us that we need to have these grand plans for happiness, right? And then you talk to somebody who's been either living off the land or they are left corporate America and they're now like, what's the right word? Like a craftsperson or somebody who makes, what do you call it? Somebody who makes like yes. Products out of wood and stuff like that. They got their tool shed or whatever it is, and they're like, I'm way happier than I ever was in corporate America. I'm having a good time. I hang out with my friends after work. I spend time in the community and whatnot. And it's just fascinating. Sometimes we do overcomplicate things, that's for sure.
Moira: Cliff’s father, who passed a year ago at 104, was a wood carver. He did some of that in his later years and he loved that. Yeah, it is nuts, but it's pretty cool.
Moira: You talk about acceptance and commitment therapy. I think that would be a neat thing to share with our listeners. Act, what is this type of therapy and is something that you recommend?
Brian: Yeah, so there's different kinds of therapies and different it's tough to talk about because everybody thinks about therapy, as in, like, I'm going to therapy, I'm going to the psychiatrist's office and whatnot. There are different schools of thought, different methodologies that a therapist could leverage, that maybe we could leverage on our own. One that people are familiar with is cognitive behavioral therapy. Right. So, it's like we look at how our thoughts and our feelings and our actions are associated. Right. So, it's like I thought a certain way, I acted a certain way, and then because of those things, I felt a certain way as a result of the actions that I took. And being able to look at some people look at sort of call it the CBT triangle and say, how does what I'm thinking influence how I feel and how does I feel? How does the way in which I feel influence how I act and all that stuff. Right? So, act is just another it's a different version. It's another kind of therapy. But it's a small one. Right. It's not like you go to some fancy island and, oh, I did act for a month, or something like that. It's just a different perspective of looking at some of our challenges. Right, so you look at the acronym itself, acceptance, and Commitment Therapy. It is sort of just like a different way of looking at some of our struggles, right. Saying, I accept the challenges that have been bestowed upon me, I commit to doing what I can to change some of those things, right? So, if it's like one of the challenges is that let's say we're dealing with depression, right? It's like nobody asks for depression, nobody wants to feel that way, and we would all like for it to just disappear. At some point in our lives, I think we realize that. I guess the tricky thing with depression is it's very much like a state of helplessness. So maybe depression is a tough example to talk about because when we're depressed, we very rarely want to take action, right? We feel helpless. Like, we say to ourselves, there's nothing that we can do. But at the same time, that's kind of just the voice in our head, the emotion that is speaking to us. In reality, you hear from folks like me and yourself, different authors and speakers and psychiatrists around the world, and they'll all tell you it's like you can certainly do a lot of things to alleviate depression or to help nudge it along, but it takes work and it takes effort. And one of the most difficult parts of that is getting past that feeling, the sort of the signature of the disease, which is the helplessness itself. But once you get started on that path, you can look at your struggle and say to yourself, like, apply, act, right? And say, whether I brought this upon myself or not. And I would assume again, pretty much nobody in the world brings depression upon themselves, or very, very few people do. I accept that I am in this spot in my life, and then I commit to do whatever is necessary to get myself out of it, right? So, it's sort of at least speaking in terms of depression, it takes the helplessness away. It sort of puts us back in the driver's seat and allows us to have some power again, to be able to say, okay, even if I don't have the answers right now, even if I don't know what to commit to, then I commit to, at the very least, getting help, going to a psychiatrist, talking with loved ones, whatever it is, and then see where that path may take us. So, yeah, it's sort of just a different approach to a different mental approach to some of the things that we struggle with.
Moira: That's great information I want to touch. Also, on there's just a few things here I definitely want you to share. Is synergy work. How can synergy again, my mouth today synergy help you break the cycle of intense feelings of negative thoughts or physical symptoms of pain? What is that?
Brian: Yeah, what I believe you're getting at, right, is I talk about in my blogs and in my first book, a decent amount, is how these mental health conditions have synergistic components. And it's funny because we tend to think of synergies as like positive things, right? So basically, in a nutshell. A synergy is where one plus one equals three, right? So, when it comes to anxiety, it's like basically the sum of the parts added together equals a larger amount than that sum would normally equal, right? So, when it comes to anxiety, I talk about this again in the first book, which is basically anxiety acts as a synergy, pretty much a negative synergy in the sense that you add basically I'm sure there's many factors, right? But it's like there is the symptoms of anxiety that our body demonstrates and then there are the thoughts that are running through our heads. And so, let's say the symptoms are, I don't know, the first part and the thoughts are the second part. And we add the thoughts and the symptoms together and if they both equal one, we add them together and we get three. And where I'm going with this is basically essentially anxiety becomes this vicious circle, this vicious cycle where we feel something in our bodies, we feel our hearts racing and we say, oh my goodness, what is that? And that reaction. So that thought of oh my goodness, what is that? Then feeds back a message of fear to our bodies and to our brains. And then our brains release more neurotransmitters stress hormones, cortisol, adrenaline, all that stuff. And all of a sudden, our symptoms are strengthened. And then we look at our stronger symptoms and we say, oh no, what's happening here? Am I dying? Am I going to have a heart attack? Why are my hands sweating? Why can't I think straight? Why can't I see straight? And this vicious cycle or vicious circle continues, right? So, it's this negative synergy in the sense that a negative thing or what we perceive to be a negative thing sort of causes a chain reaction in which we then think more negatively and then our symptoms exacerbate themselves and so on and so forth. And so being able a lot of dealing with anxiety and sometimes depression too, because that is very cyclical, is being able to look at this cycle or look at this circle and sort of like put a pin in it and say it's like we can only control our bodies so much. There are parts of our brains that control the autonomic or the automatic responses in our bodies, such as our heart rate and digestion and all that stuff. So, we only have so much control over our bodies. But what we do have control over, at least to a degree, is our thoughts, right? And it's like when we are revved up, when we're in a fight or flight state, our prefrontal cortex, the sort of the executive functioning of our brain, where we do a lot of our thinking and have our rational capacities, those go offline a tiny bit, right? And then our brain stem and our amygdala, those are taking over sort of our reptilian capacities. And what we need to do right, is like, we need to get that prefrontal frontal cortex back online and get out of the fearful state, because if we don't, then that synergy is going to continue to grow. And so, it's like as much as we want to say, hey, if I could just tell my heart to stop racing, that'd be great, and then the synergy sort of collapses from there, that's pretty difficult, right? Again, we don't have that much control. We have some influence over our body, but we don't control all of those automatic processes. So, what I like to say to folks is, like, if we want to cause this negative cycle, this negative synergy to sort of implode upon itself, we need to come in with the awareness. We need to come in with more self assuring, more self compassionate thoughts and say to ourselves, okay, I understand that what I'm dealing with right now is not fun. I don't want my heart to be racing. I don't want to feel like I'm in a panic. But it is okay to feel these things. It's okay to experience these symptoms because this is what it means to be human, right? And then we talk ourselves down and all of a sudden, we send sort of calming and reassuring messages to our brains. And then our brains interpret those messages and say, oh, okay, even though I am scared and even though these things feel a little different or whatever it may be, it's okay to experience them and I don't need to keep sounding the alarms. And then all of a sudden, that synergy sort of, I keep saying, like, collapses upon itself. It's not always that quick or that dramatic, but at the very least, we can get that synergy to tamper down and eventually shut off entirely. And so that's when I talk about synergies, that is the sort of thing that I'm talking about, is like, we need some way of flipping the downward spiral upon itself and turning it into an upward spiral or at the very least, just bring us back to baseline.
Moira: Yes, that's wonderful Brian. I would love you to read an excerpt from your book. Could you do that?
Brian: Yes. Let's see. So, we've got ten minutes left. I think I can get through this. It's not that long. I just want to make sure that I can get through it in time. So, this is from my second book, which is, again, Get Out of Your Head, volume two, navigating the Abyss of Depression. This comes from chapter six, which is called Scylla, Meet Charybdis. A little bit of Greek mythology and stuff in there. I don't know, I find it fun to bring in different sources and all that. So, this is the beginning of a section called The New Sources of Stress. And the idea behind this chapter is basically so Scylla meet Charybdis, right? In Greek mythology, there were these two oceanic beasts that lived on either side of the Strait of Messina in Italy. And so, Scylla is really scary. I forget if she has six heads or twelve heads or something like that, but she would stand on one side of the strait and scare folks that are like ships and crews that are coming into the strait. And then on the other side there is Charybdis, which is basically another monster, but you'd never really see her. She's like a whirlpool. And so, I don't know. The lore would basically say that a lot of people have heard the concept of stuck between Scylla and Charybdis.
Brian: Basically, is you sail your ship into the Strait of Messina. You come upon both of these, you either sail over to Scylla and you get scared out of your mind and you cause yourself to shipwreck, or you go over to Charybdis whirlpool, and you fall into it and all of a sudden another shipwreck. So, I sort of use that analogy to be like, Scylla is sort of the modern day version of Scylla or the mental health version of Scylla is anxiety and Charybdis is depression. And it was me trying to say that anxiety can lead to depression and vice versa. And so sometimes it's better for us to try to sail around both of those opponents and not bring our ships into the Strait of Messina. There is a lot of I guess I don't know what the right word is. There's a lot of thematic around and symbolism around ships and sailing and stuff in the second book. So, you'll pick that up if you get it. This section that I'm going to read again is called The Beginning of the section called The New Sources of Stress. So here we go. Let's face it, life today is challenging. That's not to say it wasn't in the past, just that it's different than it used to be. Now, don't get me wrong. I'd much rather live in our modern world than the disease and war plagued Dark Ages. At the same time, however, I can't deny how stressful us always on fast paced society can sometimes be. Two of the primary sources of that stress are our ubiquitous smart devices and toxic media outlets. Our phones, computers and notifications follow us everywhere we go. With them, they bring constant fun and entertainment, as well as gloom and doom. I say constant because one of the only times we're without them is when we're asleep. And even then, as soon as we wake, we roll over and check our texts, email, and social media once more. Naturally, there are many reasons we do such a thing. One is that it's a habit we've conditioned ourselves into over the years. Another is that it's exciting to stay up to date and connected. When we're online, we can chat with friends, work on our businesses, and read the latest rumors about our favorite sports teams. But that's not all we can do we can also stumble upon some serious stress and negativity. For example, we might find angry emails from our biggest clients, unsettling memos from our physicians, and breaking news articles warning how another world war is all but imminent. These notifications and stories are enough to make anyone go mad, and many of them appear prior to us pouring our first cup of coffee. Of course, I'm exaggerating slightly. It's not every morning our feeds and notifications are overly and utterly negative. It's just that they're always well, there, waiting to deliver the next update. Decades ago, when horrific things across excuse me when horrific things happened across the globe, we wouldn't learn about them for days. Sometimes we wouldn't hear about them at all. Now, those same terrible occurrences immediately plant themselves in our social media timelines and try to put us in fight, flight or freeze mode the moment we arise from our slumber. Yet even after we've fully awoken and taken our first bites of breakfast, the stress of our days often continues to grow. As we commute to work or school or simply take a break in whatever it is we're doing, we usually glance at our devices. On them, we see troubling headlines, Internet personalities with perfect bodies, and ads from a slew of companies suggesting that if we don't buy their latest, hottest products, we'll fall behind and lose touch with our peers. Worse yet, for those of us at the office, instant messages, group chats, companywide announcements, and calendar invites bombard us from the minute we sit down at our desks. Moreover, productivity related software programs constantly remind us that we're below quota or behind on our deadlines, and that the companies down the street. Heck, even the firms overseas and robots in Silicon Valley are trying to take our lunch. And that's assuming we're full-time employees. If we're contractors, which more of us are becoming these days. Thanks to our gig-based economy, we have the added pressure of always being on the lookout for our next assignment. How fun. If we're not careful, all of these sources of stress and comparison can infiltrate every part of our lives and lead to a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety when we add enough of them. Together, we create routines and environments that propagate burnout and depression at an astonishing pace. As such, we must be meticulous with what we let appear on our screens, in our timelines, and through our minds at all hours, not just those revolving around breakfast or where we spend the majority of our weekdays.
Moira: Wow. Quite intense.
Brian: Oh, yeah. The second book is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Moira: I was even feeling a little tense listening to you. I was reading it along with you in my mind, and then I kind of put it down and was listening to you and I was thinking, oh, this is stressing me out.
Brian: Thank you.
Moira: Thank you for that. And we will be putting the link for people to be able to contact you and also purchase your book and look at how if they reach out to you for coaching. That will all be in the links below as we come to an end. Brian, with this great heartfelt conversation, can you share the gift that you'd like to give to our listeners? I love our listeners being that they get a gift for taking the time to listen to you and myself during this time and to really look at their own lives, to create their best life on their terms and to work on themselves. We're always working on ourselves. So, if you can share that gift again, that will be below in the show notes.
Brian: Awesome. Yeah. So actually, I don't know if we necessarily worked out the details. I had mentioned that I have a handful of codes to redeem a kindle version of my second book, and so I forget the exact number. It might be five. I was saying that the first five folks to comment or something like that would get codes to redeem that book.
Moira: That will be perfect. Thank you so much. Brian, thank you today for sharing from your heart and your soul your wisdom on Get Out of your Head: Health and Wellness. Namaste.
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