Female First – Exclusive Interview with Dr Jessamy
The ‘This Book Will…’ series aims to give you the tools to understand why you feel, think and behave the way you do – and then to change it. They make it really easy for you to actually do something about any difficulties you may be facing so you will feel happier, calmer and more in control. The strategies are proven to work and will change your life (no exaggeration). No one feels perfect all the time and everyone shares the same insecurities and worries. These books will reassure people that their fears and phobias are totally normal because we’re writing and discussing them and we’re (fairly) normal
Each book focuses on a different issue and because we’re not waffling lunatics who get off on complicated medical jargon we’ve tried to make them as concise, accessible and funny as possible. The books aren’t heavy – literally or figuratively – providing clear and simple ways to overcome problems using real and relatable anecdotes based around a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) framework.
Why is modern life so tough for some?
We’re living in the ‘having it all’ era, but the fact that we’re told we can have it all (fulfilling jobs, amazing relationships, perfect bodies etc.) doesn’t necessarily mean we all do. The recession has made jobs more precious and careers more sought after. We’re all working longer hours (often for less money) while trying to maintain meaningful relationships with our friends, kids or partner. Our work lives and social lives have become vaguely competitive. We’re all suffering from the fear of missing out and have never been so aware of how we ‘measure up’ in certain situations.
It’s perhaps no wonder that sometimes people feel they’re lacking in some way, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy, failure and defensiveness. This quest for perfection can have a seriously negative effect on your mood. You’re so busy chastising yourself that you’ve got no time to enjoy and appreciate what you do have and what you have achieved.
Why are the books designed for busy creative people?
Each book focuses on a different issue. We know that time is precious and that modern life means people don’t have time to wade through a huge book just to find the tiny paragraph that relates to them so each of our books focuses on a different issue (happy/calm/confident/sleep) which means you can pick one up and know that everything inside will be pertinent to what you’re going through. They are concise, practical and informative so you can find the information you need and learn how to put the strategies into practice. We hope that you’ll also find them fun to read and entertaining, so that making positive changes doesn’t feel like a chore – just because you feel low or can’t sleep, it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your sense of humour!
Why are anxiety, lack of confidence and sleeplessness such common problems for people?
Life can be tough sometimes and things like low mood, anxiety, poor confidence and sleeplessness can be caused by a particular current stress or an on-going situation (i.e. difficulties at work, a trauma or problems in your relationship). Nature and nurture can play their parts too – genetics can influence our susceptibility to these problems and how you were raised will have shaped how confident you feel within yourself, how you deal with problems and how well you feel you can cope with emotional distress.
Mood naturally fluctuates and no-one feels good all of the time, but if how you’re feeling is starting to cause you significant distress or have an impact on your work, social situations and other areas of your life it’s time to seek help.
What is CBT for those who are unsure?
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) may sound like an induction process for the Starship Enterprise, but thankfully that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a problem-focused therapy that’s very easy to grasp and is also evidence-based, which means the strategies are proven to work. The fundamental belief CBT is based on is that it’s not the events themselves that affect you – it’s how you interpret them. The meanings that you give situations affect how you feel emotionally which in turn affects how you behave, think and act.
For example: Jenny sees her friend Rachel standing at the bar of a pub in town. She waves and shouts out her name. Rachel peers around, stares at Jenny and then looks away and orders a drink.
Low mood thinking: ‘Wow, Rachel just ignored me!’
Body: Tenses up
Feels: Sad, worried, insecure or annoyed
Behaves: Ignores her when she next sees her
By changing how you think, act or feel physically it can have a positive impact on how you feel emotionally.
Happier thinking: ‘She couldn’t see me without her glasses.’
Feels: Neutral, calm
Behaves: Says hello at next opportunity
CBT is focused on helping you to understand the problems you’re facing and teaching you strategies so you can manage the difficulties in your life. It’s been suggested that one of the main reasons it’s so successful and people stick to it is because it’s giving you control in a situation that otherwise feels very out of control. After all, you’re the expert on yourself, right? CBT teaches you the skills to manage your problems so you can become your own therapist.
Please can you tell us a bit about each of your backgrounds?
I’m a Chartered Clinical Psychologist, specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and relationship difficulties. I run a private practice in London. Before setting up my own practice I worked for the NHS for eight years. I also enjoy contributing to magazine and newspaper features.
Jo is a freelance journalist and editor, writing for a huge range of national titles covering a variety of topics. She spent 18 months as Cosmopolitan’s Sex and The Not So Single Girl columnist and writes topical features, celebrity interviews, health/lifestyle articles and opinion pieces for other titles including Stylist, Fabulous, Heat and Mirror.co.uk. She’s also been a talking head on Sky News and Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour and has worked extensively online. Before that she spent several years in commissioning in factual entertainment and features at Channel 4.
How did you collaboration come about for this book?
Jo and I are friends, neighbours and colleagues. We’ve known each other for about seven years and our partners have been friends since they were teenagers .We collaborated on several magazine features before I approached Jo to write a self-help book. I knew lots of the theories behind CBT were so effective they would make a huge difference to people’s lives whether or not they had a problem that had been specifically diagnosed. I thought Jo would be the perfect person to give the books wide appeal and make CBT more accessible as she‘s brilliant at writing in a entertaining and clear way while still getting a strong message across and she had lots of experience writing health features. Jo came up with the idea of a series and we took it from there! It’s been a great partnership and we’ve loved writing the books together.
Why is New Year a great time to start and tackle these issues?
The start of the New Year is typically a time for reflection and new resolutions. Making goals for yourself gives you direction and hope for the year ahead and can be great motivation. However resolutions can be difficult to stick to, quickly forgotten or turned into another thing to be cross at yourself about. It’s important to work out what you want to change and how you’re going to do it so you have a better chance of sticking to it. With the help of our books, you’ll have a helping hand in how to tackle these difficult issues and you’ll be taught practical techniques that can make a huge difference to your life and are proven to work.
What is next for you both?
We’re promoting the books and working on several upcoming events. There are also hopefully going to be more titles in the series so we’ll be very busy working on them while continuing our other work.
The new self-help series THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU… Calm, Confident, Happy, Sleep by Dr Jessamy Hibberd and Jo Usmar is out now from Quercus, £7.99 each.