Thursday, August 01, 2019

You Can Do It! Defeating Mental Health Issues with Your Own Voice

You’ve heard that you are your best advocate, but are you giving yourself pep talks? Maybe you should be.

Clip from Yowamushi Pedal

For years, I have been an advocate for talking out loud to oneself as a way to organize one’s mind. I’ve casually blogged about it (as can be read here), and there was one time I gave a tutorial of sorts on the subject over on[1] However, I have also been known to give myself advice as well as a pep talk, both here and in person, as a coping strategy for dealing with my depression. I have found talking to myself to be an effective coping strategy for ADHD & depression, despite people around me thinking it’s kooky.

I can do this!

You can do this!

You can do it!

You can find variations of those expressions all over my blog, but the “you” is usually you, the reader. In real life, however, I’ve been known to talk to myself in the second person as well.

Crazy, huh? I’m a certifiable nutter. But the technique works so well, I can’t see myself giving it up anytime soon. To be discreet, I’ve taken to speaking into my earphones as if I’m on the phone so nobody is the wiser.

Talking out loud to yourself is empowering

Recently, I read an article on this very subject.[2] There it was! Scientific evidence I wasn’t a nutter after all! What serendipitous joy! Apparently, saying “You can do it!” works even better that “I can do it!”. In practice, they found that…

…those who used the second person consistently completed the trial quicker and produced more power.

Then I read that the scientists gleaned their findings from the mind-stammering massive sample of twenty-two cyclists. That’s almost no better than my anecdotal observations. How fortunate for me that anecdotal observations are all I need when writing these articles.

Case in point, I once wrote:

Life is stressful for everyone. Where my depression and ADHD contribute is that one makes coping more difficult, and the other adds to the chaos. I tell myself “I can do this,” a favorite mantra of mine, and so I will, but it isn’t a simple matter of repeating the words. Coping strategies are more than mantras or prayers of hope. They are action plans.[3]

There is power in giving yourself a pep talk. When I’m unable to rise from bed, I tell myself “You’ve got this,” then force myself to move. When I’m under deadline and overwhelmed by stimuli, I take a deep breath and say out loud, “You can do this!” Then I do. You can argue that it’s a placebo, but I’m not sure if you can get the same results with made up words like “bibbity boppity boo!”. To me this technique is not a magical mantra. Speaking the phrases out loud engages the mind. I verbally reinforce what I already believe I can do. It’s a pep talk, but one that initiates a calm, focused state of mind. I’ve spent years practicing it.

You are The Little Engine That Could.

You don’t have to be an athlete to give yourself a boost when you need extra oomph. However, you do have to believe in what you say. Otherwise, you may as well be spouting gibberish.

You’ve probably heard of the story about The Little Engine That Could. Where other, larger trains passed up a hard job, the little engine showed them up, all while chanting “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” How curious that a children’s story from last century now has scientific findings from this century to back it up.

We can climb out of bed, shower, eat, and move out into the world despite the influence of depression. We can organize ourselves and prioritize our lives despite the influence of ADHD. The power lies within us to accomplish it. Now, you may say, “But I need my meds!”, and I’m not saying you don’t. I’m just saying that fictional trains may not be quite as trite as we’ve been led to believe. Maybe there is something to giving yourself a pep talk in the second or even first person. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll utilize whatever coping strategy will help me get closer to my goals, even if it makes me look a touch crazy.

So hold that phone close to the side of your face. Place your hand on your earphones as if you’re in a conversation. Find a private place and have a good loud chat with yourself. You’ve got this. You’ll be saying “I thought I could” in no time. You can do it!

If you’re looking for tips on how to help a loved one who struggles with suicidal ideation, read my book. I provide tips at the end of every chapter.