Depression Archives - Embodied Living

Before COVID-19 struck, burnout was on the increase. Carers and people in positions of responsibility are more at risk. A friend of mine recently went on holiday and had to spend 48 hours in A&E because he collapsed with exhaustion. He recently told me, ‘as the MD I am the lifeblood of the business, if I stop, it all stops.’ Do you know anyone like this who needs some help with burnout?

Burnout on the increase

Half a million people in the UK suffer work-related stress and there is a worryingly high number of cases of burnout. Anyone can get it. A stay-at-home mum, a busy business owner, students, middle managers. It is particularly prevalent in the  caring professions. During the coronavirus crisis, it does not have to be inevitable that our frontline carers suffer from burnout. We can be under even extreme pressure and not be at risk.

The first step in getting help with burnout is to be aware of the symptoms of burnout so that you can do something about it before it affects your physical and mental health.


There are three core categories of symptoms in burnout: emotional exhaustion; depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment. How do you spot them?

  • Do you feel empty? Like the life has been drained out of you? Are you unmotivated and perk up only when you think about leaving work?
  • Another insidious symptom of burnout is depersonalisation. Perhaps you are finding yourself increasingly cynical or using sarcasm more. Are you experiencing more and more feelings of bitterness or resentment? Perhaps you have just stopped caring?
  • The final symptom that hits the often high-achieving sufferers of burnout hard is reduced personal accomplishment. If the warning signs are left unheeded, burnout will inevitably start to have an adverse effect on your work performance.

The causes of burnout

On the surface these symptoms are similar to depression, but being specific to the context of work is what makes the difference. The causes of burnout can include:

  • Having to work very hard for little or no payoff
  • Pressure to achieve
  • Pessimism (those of a more pessimistic nature (glass half full) can be more prone to burnout in certain circumstances
  • Isolation (think of the pressures of being the boss, or the stay-at-home mum, or the student away from home)
  • Mindless social media consumption. The keyword here is mindless. Have you ever found yourself on social media because you are bored, or out of a compulsion or habit? However, using social media mindfully, with purpose can reverse burnout (things are never black and white!)

What you can do about burnout

Importantly, perhaps it is worth knowing about what you can do to handle burnout symptoms before you collapse from exhaustion:

  • Listen to your body and give it what it loves: exercise, good food, relaxation (avoid alcohol etc)
  • Identify areas in your life that are contributing to burnout. Perhaps it is your workload? Perhaps you have ‘issues’ around control? Do you have enough community and support around you?
  • How good are you at delegating? Rather than talking about giving the less onerous tasks to the nearest ready hand, I am talking here about working on your pattern of ‘I’m the only one who can handle it.’
  • Finally, find ways to actively antidote burnout: take your annual leave and build in time for fun.


If you can relate to this article, you might need some help. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. And seeking the help of a professional can often be the greatest gift you can give to yourself, and your loved ones!

Resources to help with burnout

Here are some resources to help.

A simple self test if you are worried about yourself or someone you know.

Read more about stress on our blog.

Read more about breathing techniques to help you relax.

Find more resources here.

If we want help with depression we need to understand the link between depression and sense of self. From the moment we are born, the development of a sense of self does not occur in isolation. Indeed its secrets lie in the complexities of the right hemisphere of our brain. Furthermore this evolution occurs through the infant’s interaction her mother (in particular, her mother’s mature right brain)

Difficult childhood experiences affect our brain

Injurious experiences from childhood affect the development of our brain. The corresponding emotions such as separation, distress, fear and rage are stored in our implicit memory and in our body. These have an important impact of our sense of self that is at the heart of conditions such as depression or anxiety. Depression itself is related to our limited sense of self and is usually triggered by interpersonal or relationship difficulties. It is only our most intimate relationships that have resonance with the original attachment relationship.

Trouble in relationship

Troublesome relational events, such as loss of or rejection by a parent, emotional neglect, parental depression or other absence (Schiffer, 1988), get “affectively burnt in” to our developing brain. These experiences have a negative effect on ‘affect regulation‘ in the infant. Importantly, this interferes with the development of the child’s brain (especially the right hemisphere). And it is this that interferes with the infant’s (and adult’s) development of self. Unfortunately this also means that the individual has predisposition to to negative feeling experiences and emotions and a tendency towards depression.

Depression shrivels our sense of self

Damasio (1999) writes that depression, in its acute and severe stages, exhibits alterations in extended consciousness, causing the sense of self to shrivel. Yet in difficult, earlier memories there is ‘something to be known’ which presents an opportunity for the client to re-experience and derive important new meanings about his own identity:

“Sets of memories which describe identity and person can be reactivated as a neural pattern and made explicit as images whenever needed. Each reactivated memory operates as a ‘something to be known’ and generates its own pulse of core consciousness.” (Damasio, 1999).

Resolving memory

Therapy can help with depression in amazingly powerful ways. The right type of psychotherapy in a responsive therapist-client relationship can literally rewire the client’s right brain. In this respect therapy is not a talking cure but a limbic-system ‘communicating cure’ composed not just of two minds but of two bodies. The therapist can work with a client to help them understand patterning from their past history. By implication this will help them to resolve memories – particularly those associated with negative emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, hurt, guilt and shame. Clients can then safely re-present old traumatic or negative memories from much younger ages and take new insights and meanings that will reinforce a more resilient sense of self.


Mindfulness can help

Schwartz (2002) suggests that the mind can affect the brain in that neuronal connections in the brain can be remodelled by consciously strengthening certain pathways (in particular in the neo-cortex and precuneus) and inhibiting the pathological ones (those between the frontal cortex and basal ganglia).

This means that every one of us can utilise the inherent plasticity in our adult brain by drawing on the brain’s higher order functions to change its own neuronal structure. By using mindfulness-based practices to develop what is often called the ‘witness mind’, the mind can learn to experience negative thoughts ‘simply as events in the mind’ (Schwartz, 2002). This seems to serve a similar purpose to Korzybski’s ‘silence’ and ‘orders of abstraction’, thereby allowing the emergence of new meanings and a more complete map of the self.

Stopping the automatic patterns

Stopping the automatic patterns of pathways of ‘depressogenic thinking’ allows people to find new ways to think about their feelings. The mindfulness model encourages people to ‘stay with’ the bodily sensations (felt sense) and allows the emergence of new understandings and meanings thereby changing their emotional responses to internal affective events and thoughts. This breaks the strong physical (somatic) connection between unhappy thoughts and memories which causes the ‘depressive interlock’, so that new understandings may be encoded from the somatic cues that triggered the depression (Schwartz, 2002).

Perhaps even more powerfully, “the empathetic therapist’s capacity to regulate the patient’s arousal state within the affectively charged non conscious transference and counter-transference relationship is central to clinical effectiveness.” (Schore & Schore, 2008).


Therapy as a profound encounter to rebuild sense of self

The therapist can use implicit non conscious, non-verbal communications in the therapist-client relationship to regulate the client’s limbic response and positively influence dysregulated affective states in a new ‘secure’ attachment. The therapist who has a ‘trained, practiced and disciplined sensitivity’ effectively has a right hemisphere that allows her to know the client “from the inside out” (Schore & schore, 2008) and will thus be able to use her own bodily-based reactions to the client’s communications to facilitate a ‘profound encounter’ (Corsini, 2000). Developed over time, this can allow for expression and re-expression of experiences that resonate with the original mother attachment experiences in the first two years of life to co-create a new secure attachment (Schore, 2008).

In such a deeply connected and sensitive relationship where the therapist is somatically attuned to the client’s right brain, the relationship serves to change the neuronal structure of the client’s right hemisphere so that psychotherapy becomes neurobiology in a right brain to right brain communicating cure (Lewis et al, 2001).

Implicit in this is the process of body-based communications (as in body-based psychotherapy), as Schore says:

 “The body is clearly an instrument of physical processes …. This sensitive instrument also has the ability to tune in to the psyche: to listen to its subtle voice, hear its silent music and search into its darkness for meaning.” (Schore, 2008)


Read more about depression here:

More resources, can be found  in my resources section.

This includes a PDF of my post-graduate dissertation on how the felt sense informs a resilient sense of self in psychotherapy. This looks at the neuroscience of reconsolidation that occurs during the psychotherapeutic process. And how this brings about deep and lasting change in the individual, at the level of self or identity.

Are you suffering during this COVID-19 crisis? Do you feel low and would like a more mindful approach to help you cope? Are you feeling more anxious and want to learn practical coping techniques?

Anyone with pre-existing anxiety, trauma or OCD is likely to be triggered by everything that is currently happening. In fact the trauma of COVID-19 – loss of control, feeling of helplessness and overwhelm – is triggering for all of us. I’m a registered clinical psychotherapist based in Stafford. I’ve have set up a group offering many FREE resources and support during this time. This includes a FREE online course ‘Emotional Wellbeing’ to help with anxiety and depression.

You can access this online course anywhere and at any time. All you need to do is join the group. This is totally not-for-profit, I am not profiting from this in any way. I’m offering this to be of service. This Module was granted approval through mental health professionals in the Satyananda Yoga UK network. Satyananda Yoga is accredited to the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY). It was also approved and grant funded through Staffordshire County Council. I designed and ran the course a few years ago and luckily I had all the assets which I could easily put online.



“Everybody’s better off for a bit of psychotherapy”, says Henry Marsh, leading British neurosurgeon, who is 68 this year.

Recent statistics drawn from the UK population shows that older people experience more mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Yet many people over 60 never seek psychotherapeutic help and it is estimated that 85% of older people with depression receive no help at all from the NHS.

Ageing Population

Over the last 40 years or so, the number and proportion of older people in the UK population (aged 65 and older) has grown by 47%, now making up nearly 20% of the total population. Given that we have an ageing population, why don’t more older people make it to the psychotherapist’s proverbial couch?

One reason is clear. People of a certain generation were brought up to ‘just get on with it’. After all their parents survived the war and other traumas. This means that they can have a kind of in built prejudice to seeking help: they might see it as ‘navel gazing’ or ‘thinking too much’ about things. Or in the very least they see counselling or therapy as self-indulgent.

Limiting Beliefs

However these beliefs, sadly, can often result in a serious impairment of their life. They may be too anxious sometimes to leave the house, they may experience fatigue and loss of interest in the things they used to enjoy that comes with depression. They might be experiencing anger and irritability.

But nevertheless they remain trapped by a belief that to seek help is somehow weak. This is the ego defences at work: if we have been through trauma and hardship and, because of familial or cultural expectations, we ‘just got on with it’, that becomes our ongoing strategy. However, when it comes to the unconscious processes of the psyche, we often cannot fix it our self. We need an experienced other, to help see into the windows that we haven’t yet been able to see into for ourselves and help us to facilitate our own change from this new perspective. We are simply too close to our own unconscious processes to see through them, without someone to help us (otherwise we would have done so a long time ago).

We were made to be able to be happy in an imperfect world. It is not a sign of weakness to seek (the right) psychotherapeutic help, it is a sign of strength that we are overcoming our own ego defences.


The stats from this article were sourced at The Mental Health Foundation

For help with mental health problems contact us.

Suicide is terrible but we need to talk bravely about it. It is terrible for those who take their own lives and also for the friends and family involved.

Leaving others with impossible feelings

Those left behind in suicide can experience unbearable feelings of guilt. These ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs’ can seem almost impossible to reconcile. Suicide is not a proportional response to anything. It is a desperate act to escape pain that is seemingly unbearable and unmanageable.

A desperate act

We need to talk about suicide because the figures are appalling. In 2015 1,732 people died of road traffic accidents yet in the same year 6,188 people died by suicide in the UK. On the face of it, men are more at risk. However, if you include the number of attempted suicides, or para suicides, it seems that both sexes are equally at risk – and across all adult age groups. This year the number of children and teenagers who are taking their own lives has hit its highest rate in 14 years.

For the sake of those at risk

But mostly we need to be brave enough to talk about suicide for the sake of those at risk. Contrary to opinion, people don’t have to have a mental illness to be at risk of taking their own lives. Yes those with depression, personality disorders or self-harming tendencies are more at risk. But many who have suicidal ideation, battle with it for many years and have no such presenting factors.

Common factor

The one common factor with those at risk is that their feelings are unbearable and their motivations unconscious. These feelings often include a sense that they are a burden and the world will be a better place without them. They often feel that their problems are somehow bigger and more overpowering than anyone else’s: a displaced sense of being special but in a terribly negative way.

Outside of conscious awareness

Motivations for suicide are mostly outside of conscious awareness. It is obviously an act of killing and destruction. However the less obvious intention is that it is an act to both destroy the self and also to save part of the self that can benefit from the act. For instance, the motivation may be a longing for peace. Indeed if the person has a lifetime of having no sense of peace whatsoever, they may feel that killing their self will bring peace. However integral to this (but outside of conscious awareness) is a belief that part of the self will remain to experience peace. Clearly this is not true.

Another motivation can be revenge. A person may have long-held (real or imagined) grievances against others who didn’t care enough. Or they may have deep hurt from being thwarted or abandoned. All this remains deep in the unconscious. Nevertheless behind the suicide action is a fantasy that some part of the self will survive in order to gain satisfaction from the act. This is the tragedy that makes suicide so heart breaking.

We need to be brave

And this is why we, as family, friends, or therapists, need to be incredibly brave to have careful and appropriate conversations with people at risk of suicide. In this way they can feel someone can bear the unbearable with them and begin to help them explore the unconscious nature of the act.


(Please note: anyone at risk of suicide needs specialist professional help and support from a registered mental health professional)

This article was first published in the Staffordshire Newsletter.

Neuroscience and neurobiology are now confirming what we know in our hearts to be true. That the role of the ‘good enough’ mother in the infants first 3 yrs of life is crucial in right hemisphere brain formation.

Development of self

This attunement that generally happens between mother and infant in the first few months of life affects the development of the ‘self’.  More importantly, it will impinge on the individual’s ability for self regulation and processing of negative emotions particularly rage.

Brain development through sensitive mother

It is absolutely essential to brain development that the infant has a sensitive, responsive mother to help be a ‘container’ for the developing self. This is a limbic-to-limbic brain relationship and if the infant does not get enough of this it is akin to a kind of ‘brain damage’. This is the concept of the ‘good enough’ mother.  Good enough means that we don’t have to be perfect or get it right all the time. In fact if we get it right just 40% of the time with our kids this is ‘good enough’.

When parenting is not ‘good enough’

Yet if the parenting is not good enough, the wiring goes wrong which has significant implications into adult behaviour. Traits or behaviours such as sarcasm , judgementalism (sexism being one) being a couple. Even worse are addictions, depression and withdrawal. Of course the inability to ‘do’ relationships will be a key factor in anyone who didn’t get enough correct attunement with a good enough mother. And sadly the risk of self harm, suicide, violence or sexual abuse, and serious mental health disorders increases when we haven’t had our emotional needs met in childhood. The ‘good enough’ father is also crucial but for different reasons at different ages.

Vicious cycle

Where is individual choice in this? If the mother’ right hemisphere was not nurtured and sustained by her mother, in turn she will not be able to nurture and sustain her own child. And so the cycle continues, into a ‘sick’ society. So for those of us who want to try to dismiss or rationalise this, it can useful to remember the miraculous plasticity of the human brain. In that even this deeply embedded wrong wiring can be changed with effort and acknowledgement.

Individual choice

That’s wherein individual choice lies. But it is not a rational process, we cannot ‘think’ our way out of the problem. But psychotherapy can be a limbic-to-limbic brain relationship that can change the very wiring and change lives in the most positive ways imaginable. Amazingly, even the repeat rate of sexual offending of children is dropped to 5% or less. And these are the reasons why mothers are ‘culpable’ but should not be blamed.

It’s not hard to imagine that acting is an inherently rewarding profession. It gives the performer a chance to perfect their art, they receive recognition and adulation and are loved by us all after all their performances keep millions of us entertained and offers escapism from stressful lives. However have you ever thought about the strain that acting might put on performers?

Actors are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as the general population and they report high levels of stress, bullying and sexual harassment as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The Australia Actors’ Wellbeing Study reports that a third to a quarter of actors are likely to be on some form of medication for their symptoms.This is not just about the stressors that inevitably go with the actor’s life: low pay (often); long hours; uncertainty of where the next job will come from. But it has more to do with the psychology behind how actors get into roles or, more importantly, how they derole.

Read my article on Acting out: the psychological risks and rewards of acting on Psychologies Magazine LifeLabs Channel.

The signs of depression vary from a general sense of unhappiness and meaninglessness to persistent changes of mood and feelings, and to psychosis (Hale & Davies, 2009). Whilst depression can have a deep impact on our lives, it can be helped with therapy.

Depression is classed as an affective disorder involving a prolonged and fundamental disturbance of mood and emotions (Cross & McIlveen, 1996). The signs of depression are associated with changes of behaviour and even physical symptoms (somatisation) such as backache and headache (Hale & Davies, 2009).

Core symptoms of depression

Depression’s core features are:

  • pervasive low mood
  • loss of interest and enjoyment (anhedonia);
  • reduced energy and fatigue and diminished activity (withdrawal).

Other features include poor concentration attention and decision making, diminished or increased appetite and loss of libido and disturbed sleep (waking early or over sleeping). Increased agitation or restlessness (pacing about, complaining) and irritability can also show for some. And of course we all know the risks of ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide that go with depression. In the depressed person self-esteem and self-confidence are incredibly low. And they are plagued by feelings of guilt and /or unworthiness. There is a bleak or pessimistic view of the future and depersonalisation (a feeling of I’m not me anymore). Some people may show multiple physical and behavioural symptoms in the absence of low mood (‘masked depression) (Hale & Davies, 2009).

Feeling flat

Another feature of depression is a loss of reactivity, individuals will show a blunted or ‘flat’ affect to life events (Sims, 1995). They show a failure to express feelings either verbally or non-verbally, especially when talking about issues that would normally be expected to engage the emotions. The difference is in degree. The client himself is not aware of his deficiency but when pointed out to him, may agree that there is a lack of any sort of emotional reaction (Sims, 1995). This may be experienced as a feeling of a loss of feeling made worse by the client’s own questioning of himself, feeling guilty about the lack of feeling.

Depressive episodes

A depressive episode may be classed as mild, moderate or severe. Nevertheless, diagnosis lies in skilled clinical judgement (WHO ICD 10), and usually symptoms have to be present for at least two weeks. A diagnosis of mild depression requires that at least two of the core symptoms are present (low mood, anhedonia or fatigue) and at least two of the other symptoms. For more severe depression more of these symptoms are present.

The Hidden Side of Depression

Clients often come to therapy presenting the physical symptoms of depression: lack of energy; loss of libido; disturbed sleep; absence of periods; unexplained aches and pains; difficulty making decisions; low motivation and inability to start or complete things. However they may not call it depression.

In an intake conversation a client talked of many symptoms of depression but presented them as problems related to her ‘tiredness’: ‘when I get tired my default position is negative, like I’m useless and no one likes me’. This client was clearly preoccupied with her lack of motivation to go into work. Her fear of not being able to get into work, ‘I cannot afford not to go into work’.

Alcohol and depression

Depression may also present itself as excessive alcohol consumption, this is perhaps more common in men (Rowe, 1983). Rowe (1983) observes that many men use alcohol to hide their weaknesses from others and to hide from themselves their own fear and despair. They drink excessively in social situations and also alone at home.

Anger and Depression

Many people learn early on in childhood that it is wrong to get angry. (Rowe, 1983). This may be through having seen too much anger expressed in parents’ relationships with each other or with the child and the child then ‘decides’ that to be angry is bad and so represses it.

Schiffer (1988) proposes that this leads to depression because when a young child’s needs are not being met they will protest loudly (raging tantrums). This makes them even more difficult for the parents to handle so that parents become threatening or unresponsive.  Eventually the child may become anxious (threatened) then ultimately defeated (depression) thereby establishing a limbic brain tendency towards depression. (Schiffer, 1988)

Depression is anger turned inward

Freud and Abraham posit that depression is anger turned inward against self (Schiffer, 1988) when the child internalises the parent figure and then attacks the parent inside. People often perceive depression as a failure or weakness and as humans we have an innate tendency to get angry with those that fail.This is why depressed people often attack themselves.

In addition a tendency towards ‘identification’ with the persecutor means that sometimes when a person feels overpowered by someone else there is a desire to befriend them. In this way, the mind of an abused or mistreated child seeks to befriend the abusing adult. But to join the tormentor the child’s troubled mind must take sides with the abuser and therefore turn to attack himself (Schiffer, 1988).

Internalising the critical parent

Exacerbating this for many clients is the critical parent that has been internalised in the child’s superego, and which will serve to torment the adult client with lifetime barrage of criticism and negative self-talk (Schiffer, 1988).

Case Study

(A fictional client assembled from real life experience)

For MN anger was an alien emotion. He stated that he rarely got angry and was proud to be a very placid man most of the time. He can remember two occasions when he did ‘lose it’ and he was shocked and scared at his reaction. This reinforced further repression of the emotion. In fact MN had a lifelong pattern of repression of emotions. This meant that he was not in touch with emotions to be able to talk about or express them. It was clear to the therapist that he had unresolved anger, as well as sadness and guilt about his wife’s death: ‘I wasn’t brave enough to challenge them,’ and ‘why do bad things have to happen to good people?’

Repression helps us cope, somewhat

Repressing anger by burying it deeply , perhaps because of fear of rejection or that it may escalate out of control, may be a good coping strategy to survive childhood. But the trouble with this is that it is the coping strategy itself that becomes problematic in adulthood causing many of the somatic presentations.

Depression as people pleasing

Another defence mechanism in dealing with anger is reaction formation where the unacceptable ‘bad’ feeling of anger is turned into its opposite extreme of needing others’ approval to feel good. This ‘people pleasing’ (Parker-Hall, 2009), shows itself in putting others before self or needing excessive amounts of approval from others. External behaviour presents as trying to please others all the time, being the peacemaker, going out of one’s way to never offend others, or a preoccupation with what others think about you. (Rowe, 1983). These types of people often find it difficult to say no and get put upon a lot and go to great lengths to avoid conflict.

To summarise, depression or depressive tendencies can show themselves in many varied and surprising ways. However, by understanding the patterns that present in our adult life and linking their origins to our past, we can heal. By recognising unmet needs and addressing them, we can begin to be more whole and become our authentic self.

Have you ever realised what a crazy monkey your brain is? Have you ever been still enough to realise what tricks it gets up to and what considerable energy it uses? Constantly commenting on this or that.

Putting interpretations on things, making judgements – good or bad, right or wrong, like or dislike, nice or nasty. This constant need to comment, to judge is the default operation of our minds. It gives us a way to make sense of the world, gives us an illusion of control.

However, when the mind has become still; when its fluctuations and disturbances have ceased and the waves of activity have become still like a windless still sea, its natural tendency is to observe. To remain a dispassionate observer – and to develop what Buddhists call ‘witness consciousness. This is a mind that, when something happens externally that might provoke a reaction of extreme pleasure or displeasure in someone else, says “We’ll wait and see”. It is a state of mind that is simply not interested in deciding ‘this or that’ but is content to ‘be’. Far from being a way to disconnect from the world, or dissociate ourselves from feelings; it is a way of living deeper, more embodied with our whole self and with far more energy and health. There is a lovely zen story to illustrate this state of mind.

There once was an old farmer, who lived in a remote region of the mainland, where the terrain is rough and the villagers manage to eek out a meagre existence only through hard work and the grace of God. One day someone left the gate open on the farmer’s pasture, and his only horse ran away. Now this was a very grave situation, indeed, as in these parts it is said that one horse is worth ten sons or the earnings of a lifetime. The villagers, hearing of this great loss, came to console the farmer. With pity in their eyes of those who are glad it did not happen to them, the villagers shook their heads and moaned in unison that the running off of a horse is a terrible thing. The farmer, who was very wise, accepted their consolations, and shaking his head, muttered calmly, “We’ll just wait and see.”

Within a week the horse had returned, bringing with it three wild ponies of such magnificence only heard of in the ancient fables. The villagers all came to witness and marvel at these wondrous creatures, and some brought gifts in the hope of incurring favour as now the farmer was a very rich man. With envy in their eyes, the villagers applauded the farmer for his good fortune. But the farmer appeared unmoved, and showing neither pride nor excitement, accepted their blessings, stating calmly, “We’ll just wait and see.”

Three days later, after the villagers had gone home, the farmer’s only son was out breaking in the new ponies. But their magnificence was matched by an unexpected strength, and the second pony threw and trampled the farmer’s son, leaving him near dead with two broken legs. There were tears in the old peasant’s eyes as he carried his child off the field. The son survived the critical period, and his bones were set, but as the villagers gathered to hear the news and lend support, the doctor could not pronounce if the son would ever walk again. With eyes like smug rodents whose faith in themselves is confirmed when ill fortune attends to a lucky man, the villagers shook their heads, lamenting what a tragedy had occurred for the farmer, who now had a cripple for a son. The old farmer thanked them for their concern and condolences, calmly saying, “We’ll just wait and see.”

The farmer’s son did begin to recuperate, but it took a long time. The farmer was now poorer than ever, as he had no son to accompany him in the fields, and no one wanted to buy the ponies because they were afraid. Yet, by the help of occasional gifts and his own labour, he managed to gather just enough to feed his family, always giving the best of whatever he had to his son to encourage his recuperation. During this time the other villager’s flourished as much as poor villagers can, and as those who are better off are wont to do, they were generous with their sympathy for the farmer for having a crippled child.

For no reason that had anything to do with the village, the king from his palace far off in the capital city declared war on a neighbouring country. That was how it came to be that in the spring, just as the old farmer’s son was taking his first steps, the government officials appeared with orders to conscript all the able-bodied young men into the army. The only son in the entire village who was not drafted was the old farmer’s.

“How lucky you are, old man! We are sending our children, our very seed off to war, probably to die,” one or another of the villagers yelled out as they bade farewell to their departing sons. Full of tears, their eyes showed no particular emotion toward the farmer, so overcome were they with their own grief.

The farmer watched the leave-taking, and his heart went out to the villagers as he was a kind and compassionate man. So, he answered softly, “We’ll just wait and see.”

One of the main ways in which we can start to regain some order and peace over the crazy monkey of the mind is through meditation. However even simple sitting is hard for many beginners as the mind is so busy. So a thought record diary can be a real help to at least make you aware of what the mind is up to.

This simple daily chart will allow you to monitor and track your ‘ticker-tape’ thoughts and is the first step in regaining control of the mind (the final aim being that you can ‘let go’ and let the ’embodied mind’ just ‘be’ – but there is some work to be done before that can happen. It’s a lovely process though!

Click here to sign up to my next Personal Development workshop on Sunday 12 November.

Depression, anxiety and stress are all interrelated. Perhaps it starts with stress. We get ‘stressed’. This may be chronic (long term consistent level), or acute (short term intense spike) or both (ie acute on top of chronic). This stress affects our breathing, compromises our immune system and puts our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) into overdrive. This results in many psychological, physiological and behavioural symptoms that reduce the quality of our life.

Stress can lead to anxiety, a state of over arousal where fears, worries and negative thoughts can take over. Ultimately, I believe this over arousal of the ‘cognitive’ (thinking) mind, the ‘left brain’, and SNS can lead to a kind of cognitive ‘burn out’ which is wear depression comes in. (Remember the normal brain uses up the calorific equivalent of two kit kats and a packet of crisps, just in the process of thinking. Can’t remember exactly how many calories – i think its about 400 /day!).

Depression is when our nervous system is completely out of whack.

“Depression is not so much a condition of having no energy, as a kind of psychic constipation blocking our energy flow.” ~ Swami Satyananda

Depression is classically shown as excessive tiredness, apathy, no energy, lifelessness, intense introversion and inferiority – these are all classic signs of depression.

In yogic terms we look at the energetic state of the person, not the causes of the depression. And those of us trained in yoga for mental health, can put together yoga practices to balance the nervous system. After all the ‘hatha’ of hatha yoga is about balancing left and right, yin and yang, ida and pingala nadis. This rebalancing of the nervous system is central to yogic treatment of depression.

We achieve this through:

  • asanas – postures such as strong backward bending movements (cobra, camel, bow) are ideal because of their effect on the adrenal glands and thyroid, sidebends are good, and dynamic work of yang yoga and sequences such as surya namaskara as these release endorphins and testosterone helping us to feel good and connect to a sense of inner power
  • shatkarmas – cleansing practices such as kunjal and neti can release emotional blockages and rebalance us
  • pranayama – classically nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) is ideal, and bastrika type breathing will vitalise energy. Ujjiyi is also good for calming agitated states.
  • psychophysiology/psychotherapy – we address the subtle bodies and also the psychic knots (granthis) and aim to address somatic change before we address the mind
  • relaxation
  • meditation – antar mouna is especially powerful

Lifestyle factors such as diet, are also very important.