Ep 88. Being Mentally Fit with Shona Vertue

Feb 8, 2020 | Anxiety, Blog, Podcast

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This week I speak to personal trainer and yoga teacher Shona Vertue.

We discuss:

  • Her experience of therapy and SAD
  • Attachment theory and why there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you are needy or codependent in relationships 
  • The pressures and boundaries of social media 
  • And of course, ask her the question – how are you really? 


Mentally fit with Shona Vertue

Chloe Brotheridge: Hello and welcome to the ‘Calmer You’ podcast. This is your host Chloe Brotheridge. I am a coach, a hypnotherapist and I’m the author of the ‘Anxiety Solution’ and ‘Brave New Girl’. Thank you so much for listening today. I have an amazing guest this week Shona Vertue. Shona is known for being a fitness instructor and yoga teacher. But for some reason, this conversation isn’t actually that much about fitness. We get into such a varied number of topics. She has had her career so far in the fitness industry, but she is now studying psychology and so this is a real passion of hers.

So, we get into topics like her experience of therapy, why it’s totally okay to have therapy and we talk about things like how to find a therapist. We talk about something called ‘Attachment Theory’ and you might have heard this before. Some of us might be anxiously attached for example and it has to do with things that happened in our childhood. We really get into why there’s nothing to be ashamed about if you’re somebody that is perhaps needy or codependent in relationships because it’s not your fault and it can often go back to these things in childhood. So, we chat about that.

We get into the pressures and boundaries of social media and I also ask her my favorite question to ask people which is. How are you really? I love Shona’s answer this, she’s really honest and open and talks about something that I think a lot of us can relate to particularly at this time of year. So, I think gonna love this episode. I felt like I was chatting to an old friend where I met show know even though we just met ten minutes before.

Confidence Challenge

Also, I want to let you know that my confidence challenge is coming up on the 24th of February 2020. You can sign up at Calmeryou.com/confidence.

It’s going to be 5 days of community, fun challenges, helping you to think differently and take some action. So, that you can take a few steps towards living the life that you want to live, being the person that you want to be, accepting and loving yourself more, building your own self as and just feeling better about being you overall. Last time I ran, it was really really amazing to see how people made profound changes over just five days and made new friends and expanded their idea of what’s possible for them. So, I’d love for you to join us as well. You need to sign up and register to get all the downloads and workbooks and access the community. You can do that on my website calmeryou.com/confidence.

So, let’s get into the episode, with Shona. Welcome Shona, thank you so much for joining me. How are you?

Shona Vertue: I am good. Thank you for having me.

Chloe Brotheridge: I would love to know a bit about, what it is that you do people that don’t know.

Shona Vertue: Okay.

Chloe Brotheridge: And how you got to where you are today? Can you share a bit about that?

A bit about Shona

Shona Vertue: Yeah, I mean I’ll try and summarize I have a tendency for anyone that does follow me or know me to kind of go on big tangents. But I’m gonna do my best, you can always use the editing tool to cut this out cut this down. So, I’m a personal trainer and a yoga teacher. I have been for over 10 years now. Most of my business now is based on online. So, I have a method called the ‘Virtue method’. Which is essentially a combination of strength training and mobility training. That really comes from my background as a gymnast. I found that the way to healthy functioning and well-functioning not just functioning but the well-functioning body was to really make sure that you were equal parts dedicated to strength and fitness as you were with like mobility and flexibility.

Most people tend to do what they’re good at. So, you get lots of people that you know can touch their toes, but they’re not very fit or they can barely do a push-up. Or you get people that you know can run marathons and are super fit, but can barely even bend over to look at their toes let alone touch them. So, that’s one of those things that I’m like if you really want a body that’s going to be able to do the things that you love to do for longer then you need to be dedicating equal time to those sorts of modalities.

Chloe Brotheridge: I can attest that your online program is amazing. I love your integrity and the way you do things has so much integrity, I think. Doing things properly and taking care, there’s so much out there that is not like that and so it’s so nice to have that approach.

Exercise is an expression of self-love

Shona Vertue: Yeah, thank you. I think that for me I know this is one of the questions you’ll ask later, but fitness should really be this expression. It is an expression of and it’s cheesy now it’s a cheesy term, but it should be an expression of self-love. I really believe that and if not self-love if that feels too far away from your mindset right now if you’re in a bad place and I totally get that. Then at least at the very least fitness should be an expression of self-respect. If you are punishing yourself with fitness, then it’s not an expression of self-respect. I think that for too long the fitness industry has really perpetuated this notion of punishment, no pain no gain.

Like sweat is fat crying like all this sort of be at just right off. It’s like I’m trying to move us away from associating fitness with punishment totally.

Chloe Brotheridge: Totally, I love that and yeah not many people are saying that that Fitness without self-love. I think that is a really important message.

Self-love isn’t so easy for everyone

Shona Vertue: Because self-love is fucking hard, it really is. Like I find it really difficult trust me like I grew up as a gymnast. So, for me, health and fitness particularly fitness has been something that has been in my life. So, I see it as naturally fitting in my life as something like cleaning my teeth or having a shower. That’s what I’m trying to get people to do, but there are other aspects that are important in life that I am terrible at. I’m a procrastinator in other areas and procrastination I often talk about I think is really a form of self-harm. It’s a disrespect to yourself as well. So, self-love is difficult and some of us are better at doing different things that express self-love or that are an expression of self-love. For some of us just it’s a difficulty, we’re all on a journey.

Chloe Brotheridge: Thank you for saying that, because I think it’s so easy to think of self-love’s blah blah. Just be kind to yourself. I’m actually acknowledging that is a journey it is hard work and there are times when you know all of us will procrastinate and that is kind of taking us in the opposite direction but it’s also very normal as well.

Guild hangover

Shona Vertue: That’s also a very human, yeah exactly. So, I think it’s not, the criticism around those sorts of things can often be more damaging than the actual act of procrastination. It’s the guilt you have after it. I always call it like a guilt hangover and it’s so shitty that’s where all the shitty stuff happens too. You know what I mean. It’s not just putting off paying a bill and then getting letters about the bill or whatever it might be that you’re procrastinating in. It’s the guilt that you have later where your self-criticizing. Then what that leads to, that leads to the need to binge in the other direction. You know what I mean or perhaps it leads to whatever numbing yourself from that guilt which might look like alcohol which might look like excessive use of social media. Which might look like excessive sexual relationships. So, think different things like that. We’ve gone deep too quick.  Let’s go back to fitness.

How are you really?

Chloe Brotheridge: I was gonna go even deeper, I’m gonna ask a very deep question that people love hearing the answer from people. Know that you can answer that you’re doing really well I’m not doing; well all answers are okay and welcome. But the question is, how are you really?

Shona Vertue: When you sent me, so I have to tell it I’m telling a run that listened. Ask Chloe just send me like a basic kind of overview what she wants to ask and this was the first question. I honestly it was like reading it was like when you step into a warm bath or a warm shower. You’re like, oh it just felt so nice because it was like oh you actually want to know and you. I felt seen, no it was trendy to say was like I felt seen. So, that’s a really beautiful thing is asking how you are really.

Because how are you is such an interesting question in that most people are just hoping that you’re just gonna go, yeah, I’m all right you know or whatever and keep it really light and easy and it’s just a quick question. S, I never know how to answer that. Because I’m like how deep do I go. So, when you say how am I really, I am really good which I’m happy about but as I was just saying off record off microphone before. It’s been a really interesting two years or so I would say. Where I’ve had to do a lot of unpacking around dysfunctional behavior in my life and how that has been a symptom of some deeper subconscious things that were going on for me.

So, I am good now, but if you’d asked me that question, I probably would have said I was good anyway. Because it just would have been too long to unpack all of it. But I think I’m I can safely say that I feel good because I’ve been going to regular therapy and trying to work on these dysfunctional behavioral patterns in my life. So yeah.

Chloe Brotheridge: Amazing. Can I take aside of it more?

Shona Vertue: It’s so fun, probably to open. But let’s go back, you can edit like I said.

Chloe Brotheridge: Unedited Shona Vertue.

Shona Vertue: Yes.

Choosing a therapist

Chloe Brotheridge: What was your experience of therapy? Like, how did you choose a therapist and how was your relationship with your therapist came into?

Shona Vertue: A great question, all right. So, how did I choose a therapist? I’d actually had some really not so great experiences with therapist here in London. This is a therapist that I met in Sydney and she was just actually given, she was recommending her number was given to be my mom. My mom was seeing her and then she had to stop seeing my mum when I decided to see her, I saw her because I’d had a breakup in a relationship that really was only for like six months. But it really hit me in a deep way and kind of uncovered all these behavioral issues that I was trying to get to the bottom of.

She was really amazing. I would say the relationship that I have with all therapists is very honest and open. I think that’s what it should be. I think when we try to filter our answers is where therapy becomes pointless. I mean the whole point is being able to speak to someone so honestly in a non-judgmental way that you can project every single subconscious experience and interpretation of your world onto that person. Essentially all they’re doing is reflecting it back to you, but they provide you with the tools at which to handle those thoughts.

Whereas when you speak to a friend or someone that’s unqualified in that area, they have their own that they’re going to project back to you. Or they have their own life that isn’t neutral and so their opinions can sometimes walk yours. We often attract people into our lives that were having like experiences with. I think all of our relationships are mirrors, but when you speak to a trained professional and a qualified professional in that way, they will reflect back to you. But then they also provide you with a way to actually process that reflection and then learn from it and grow from it.

So, I guess my therapist has been able to in a non-judgmental way say, okay these various behaviors that you are trying to change in your life are a cause of this thing that maybe happen in your childhood or this thing. So. let’s try and work through that. Its’s so interesting because as soon as you uncover something it kind of neutralizes a little bit. Doesn’t always fix it, because the real work happens in everyday life happens outside of the therapy room, right. It’s not like suddenly someone says to you, oh that behavior is because of this it’s actually because you know the change doesn’t happen there. You just become aware of it and then when you go out into your everyday life that’s when you have to sort of make the changes, right.

So, I think that for me my relationship is it’s one of the most important relationships in my life absolutely, yeah. Something I think needs to be less taboo that’s why I’m talking about it. I think that when someone says to you, feeling a bit unhealthy I’m gonna go see a personal trainer. You’re like, oh cool that’s great tell me what they tell you, like let’s awesome, like let’s work out together whatever. When you say I’m not feeling so great I see a therapist people like, oh my gosh okay is everything okay.

Chloe Brotheridge: It must be really bad.

A personal trainer for my mental health

Shona Vertue: Really bad yeah, it’s like no not necessarily. If it is really bad that’s also okay, but if it’s not really bad and you just decide that you’re like do you know what I’ve never had any guidance or quote-unquote personal training around my thoughts and how to process them and how to behave in a society where we’re taught to behave a certain that doesn’t align with what I believe or my values. It’s like we’re just kind of winging it. I think that it’s really important to have less taboo around speaking to someone about your thoughts. Ultimately that’s all it is personal trainer for my mental health literally. Why is it so taboo, I don’t understand? So, anyway.

Chloe Brotheridge: Arguably, your mind and your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Even more important to some people.

Shona Vertue: Yeah exactly. It’s silly, because it’s like I don’t I don’t know where it’s come from, it’s well I do. There’s lots of reasons. But I think that more and more we need to move away from the taboo of it.

Chloe Brotheridge: Totally, yeah, I’ve had so much therapy in my life and often talk about it and love hearing other people’s experiences. It’s so helpful for others to hear about. Is a good idea to get a recommendation from somebody. The relationship that you have with your therapist is so important. I think when they’ve done studies into different types of therapy, it’s actually the relationship that you have with them. That is the biggest indicator of the outcome rather than CBT versus counselling.

Shona Vertue: Right interesting. That makes sense yeah.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Chloe Brotheridge: Can you, I remember you writing about SAD a while ago. Can you share a bit about you experience of that and what effect that had on you and what changes you made?

Shona Vertue: Absolutely okay. So, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or SAD because it makes you sad. So, I’m Australian and I am also not just Caucasian. My mum is from Fiji. So, I have brown skin, means I need a little bit more access to the Sun in order to get the vitamin D I need or to process the vitamin D I need. So, and I just grew up in Australia. So, you know having Sun in my life really makes a huge difference. So, Seasonal Affective Disorder is essentially when people are affected by mostly winter and the lack of Sun that you get in that period of time.

It doesn’t really happen in those countries that are around the equator. It’s more so the ones that are further away that experience really deep winters. It’s mostly linked to or the depressive downward kind of feelings that you end up having and all other things. Other things that your immune system is usually down to a lack of vitamin D. So, you can supplement at the time to make you feel better but to be honest vitamin D supplementation didn’t. It did a little bit for me it definitely got me through the winter months in in London but nothing compared to just being able to get on the Sun.

So, it was something that really affected me when I was spending full winters here in the UK. It just shows really a lack of resilience for me not for everyone. I mean in the sense that I should have really, I did speak to other people with SAD and they’re like yep but I’ve got a like push on through in winter it’s gonna be over and it’s gonna come through. That’s not me saying that it’s not okay to have it. It’s me saying I know that I became very uncomfortable to spend time around at the time. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that it is a real thing.

It’s not just someone being mopey it’s not just someone whinging a bit more in the winter time. It’s like honor those feelings and be like okay I may actually have seasonal affective disorder, go and seek some advice. Whether that is as simple as trying to increase your time out in the Sun trying to in whatever way that you can. Whether it is supplementation and vitamin D, I mean that’s not something that I can doesn’t generally blanket recommend to everyone. But definitely those are things that you can do. If they’re very severe depressive thoughts, then again speaking to a therapist to try and work through those. But also acknowledging that it may be increased or your feelings are probably more sensitive down to the fact that you may have or be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.

Chloe Brotheridge: I suppose it’s well if you’re somebody who loves being outdoors and active. So, cold and dark in the winter months and so that is gonna inhibit you from being doing the things that you want to do. It’s not to make a bigger impact.

Shona Vertue: Yeah, it does and I think that I’m Australian and so it’s really, we’re really lucky. Australians are really lucky and privileged in that sense. Because we have access to winter months but they’re not winters like this and so yeah, just I really wasn’t used to it. I wasn’t ready for that kind of experience and it’s just something that you have to think about. I think around that time, that winter-time.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah.

Shona Vertue: But it’s a real thing. So, it’s not just people kind of whinging about winter, it’s like if you’re having really strong not even strong if you’re feeling down just know that it may be related to that and there are things that you can do around the winter months to make it better.

Chloe Brotheridge: Just on the topic of vitamin D, the NHS actually recommends a vitamin D supplement for everyone.

Shona Vertue: Amazing, we can link that statement.

Chloe Brotheridge: We can actually say everyone to take that supplement. Because in the UK we are deficient in some sunshine. So, get on that especially if you think you might be struggling at this time of year. Thank you for sharing that. Another thing I wanted to ask you was about something that I think I caught the last half of a talk you were giving. I think you’re on a panel this is like a year and a bit ago. You were talking about something really fascinating to me heart rate variability.

Heart rate variability (HRV)

Shona Vertue: Yes, I’m so glad you asked about this, know like what’s your favorite outfit to work in. I was like, you asked me the best questions, HRV (Heart Rate Variability). So, simply Heart Rate Variability is a measurement of the time with a variation in the time between each heart beat and it’s controlled by the autonomic nervous system. So, I have to give a bit of a breakdown. Is that alright?

Chloe Brotheridge: Yes please.

Shona Vertue: Okay, let’s do this. So, stay with me I’m gonna try and keep it as interesting as possible. So, autonomic nervous system, which means it’s really just automatic. So, it’s things like your heartbeat, your bladder, thankfully it is automatic. Because if we had to remember to make our heartbeat, we probably would be dead for a lot of us. Given the amount of things that are on our plate, I definitely wouldn’t remember to be like nah but I’ve squeezed my heart. So, the blood pumps around my body. Luckily that’s autonomic okay. Now the autonomic nervous system can be kind of broken down into two main branches. I’m sure you know this I’m just explaining this for everyone.

So, you’ve got your parasympathetic nervous system and your sympathetic nervous system. In more simpler terms, your sympathetic nervous system is like your fight-or-flight. So, we often hear about this story about the saber-tooth Tiger when talking about the nervous system. I’ll go into that a little bit but it’s your fight-or-flight mode is like are you either gonna like fight the saber-tooth tiger or you’re gonna flight you gonna run away. Then the parasympathetic nervous system is kind of like your rest and digest mode. It’s like actually another friend of mine talks about it as your feed and breed mode.

I sometimes say it’s like Netflix and chill mode, but it’s essentially, it’s kind of where all the good happens to be honest. It’s where all the rest and then the recovery and the sleep happen. So, we want a balance of activity between those two aspects of our nervous system. We obviously need, stress isn’t a bad thing. Now coming back to this saber-tooth Tiger in time the reason we talk about the saber-tooth tiger is because it’s a very primal aspect of our nervous system, right. A nervous system is primal its primitive. Back then, we would have had saber-toothed Tigers right, that we had to watch out for.

So, if you need to if a stress like a saber-toothed tiger comes into your life, I promise I’m gonna come back to Heart Rate Variability in a second but you just need to understand this background bit. Saber-toothed tiger comes in and you think I’ve either got to run away or I’ve got to fight it. So, there are physiological changes and chemical changes that need to occur within your body to facilitate you to either run away or fight, right. So, things like your being able to breathe at a faster rate, your heart rate moving at a faster rate, pupils dilating. Your digestion either well it’s inhibited but sometimes it’s actually stimulated in the sense that you’ll either yourself or you’ll become really constipated.

So, I’m team shit yourself, other people I know under stress are team constipation, I don’t know which ones better. I think it’s pretty shitty to excuse the pun to have to always need to go the toilet whenever I’m nervous. But that’s about the term like nervous poop comes from. So, that’s one side of the nervous system, the other side as I said is your feet and breathe. It’s kind of like when you really chill when you’re able to relax the body goes, okay now we can recover now we can start to. So, digestion is actually increased in the certain parts the digestive system is increased, so we digest our food better.

Various things happen, we facilitate sleep which is where a lot of our recovery comes from. We know about sleep deprivation being really detrimental to our health. So, back to that rate variability, knowing that you have these two aspects. If back in the day where we didn’t have such complex stresses in our life, so we don’t have things like divorce stress and relationship stress and boss stress and deadline stress and all that sort of stuff. We just sort of had like the stresses of you know survival versus just chill. Once the saber-tooth Tigers gone and you’ve dealt with that situation you’re like okay I’m back to the parasympathetic nervous system. Life is more complex now.

If we are too imbalanced in the sensor if we spend too much time in that sympathetic state in that fight-or-flight mode. Let’s say you wake up in the morning, you face traffic you’re late for work you can already see that your boss is like gonna be mad at. You can actually put yourself in a sympathetic state without an actual stressful situation being there. So, we as humans are capable of doing all these physiological changes and chemical changes that in excess are really dangerous just by imagining what your boss will say, if you do a job. You know what I mean and or fighting with your partner in your mind or whatever it might be.

So, with this imbalance comes a reduction in your heart rate variability. So, a low heart rate variability is linked to things like depression, anxiety. It’s also linked to cardiovascular disease. It’s also linked to just a shorter life span. So, what we want to see with heart rate variability is a high variability. So, people often get it confused, because we think that actually when we take our heart rate, we want to see low heart rate right, we want to see a low pulse that’s true for a fitness. But heart rate variability we want it to be high because what it shows and what it’s indicative of is how well your system can shift gears between your sympathetic and your parasympathetic States and between that fight-or-flight mode and then back to chill.

So, we want a high HRV. The way that we can measure this is like waking up in the morning and taking our heart rate and seeing what the state of our nervous system is. Now the reason this information is important not just from a sort of like vague health perspective, is actually also because it does determine how you should probably do a workout for that day. So, there seems to be there was a big, I feel like it’s sort of phasing out a little bit. But there’s a huge push towards is where I come back to this Fitness punishment kind of mentality is that people often think like oh if I’m not working really really hard all the time, then it’s gonna be really bad for me. You know I’m not changing my fitness goals.

But we have to acknowledge the state. I’m not just talking about your mental state as in like, yeah, I feel fine I’m ready to get fit. It’s like, no how are you really. Coming back to your question how are you really, are you stressed out of your mind but you’ve been really good at ignoring it mentally. But your body is like I have a low HIV my hair is falling out, blah blah. All these different reasons right or these physiological signs. So, HIV can be some data that you can check in the morning that gives you a good indication of like should I go to that hit class at lunchtime or actually would it be better off going to the meditation class that I keep avoiding. Or would I be better off just actually resting today and going for a walk out in nature.

HRV is just a tiny easy non-invasive bit of data that you can collect every day there’s an app called ‘Delete HRV’. That’s one that I use, but there’s plenty out there. It just collects that data over time and you really need to collect it for a at least a month to gauge where your nervous system is at and how you should start to then go hmm, I should be chilling out on the workouts a little bit. Because another thing and I should have mentioned this is that we have to remember that fitness and exercise is a form of stress on the body.

Now if you’re in a relaxed state that stress is necessary because stress is what induces adaptation. Adaptation is just another word for the changes that occur which is what we know as in our minds results, #results right or #gains. So, if we want those changes to really occur, so all the work we’re putting into our fitness and our exercise. If we want those changes to occur, we need to be able to shift between that sympathetic state back to the parasympathetic state. If you’re not doing that then you’re inhibiting your results. So, your workouts are in vain and they’re just stressing you out further. So, that was a very long-winded way of explaining. Because I told you this is the way to happen.

Chloe Brotheridge: Fascinating, but as totally a penny has dropped now for me, I understand that. A lot of people that I speak to don’t really understand even things about the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. So, to have you explain that I think is really helpful.

Shona Vertue: Okay good.

Chloe Brotheridge: Obviously a lot of people listening with anxiety are very much in their sympathetic mode a lot of the time. I’ve heard it also described as tend and befriend. Do you hear that one?

Shona Vertue: I like that.

Chloe Brotheridge: Well, it’s kind of sounds cute, but it’s about people-pleasing looking after people, Because you’re so stressed.

Shona Vertue: Seem sympathetic has been named that.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah.

Shona Vertue: See, I’m so codependent that of course I’m like, people pleasing that’s my middle name.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yes, sounds really cute. Actually, if we’re scared interesting, then we might be more likely to carry out those behaviors. So, what is your opinion? So, for a lot of people that I speak to they say my spin class sorts me out when I’m feeling really anxious. I go and it really calms me down. Is that maybe not having a great effect on the body then if someone is really anxious to go and do that?

Cutting out the psychological interpretation

Shona Vertue: Yeah and this is why heart rate, yes possibly. I think it’s hard to again give a blanket answer, but something like HRV cuts out this sort of psychological interpretation that you might be making around yourself. So, like if you’re in a really anxious state, but you’ve been living like that for the last ten years and anxiety is your baseline and then you don’t know what actually that’s doing to your body. Getting data like that is very incredibly beneficial, because you can’t lie to yourself. It’s just pure data. Then you can kind of make honest changes. Perhaps the spin class is great for that person perhaps anxiety is, the term anxiety while it’s a very real thing.

It really is particularly if it’s an anxiety disorder it’s a really real thing and has real physiological effects damaging effects long-term and even short-term. I think that one of the reasons that things like this is so complicated is because it is down to individual psychology. So, some people handle the same environmental or situational stress differently to others, right. We know this, which is why it can be easy for some people to be like I’m not stressed I’m fine. They don’t even know that they’re anxious but their body is giving off these signs. So, for those that are addicted to things like high-intensity interval training or just training in general, right.

Whether it’s a spin class or what it might be I would just urge you to start collecting that data. You don’t need to stop your spin class yet, just start collecting that data and see what it says. Then you can be really honest with yourself. Do I have an exercise addiction? Do I have an addiction to this adrenal state where I’m like trying to actually use exercise to ignore underlying issues? Is it still good for me? It’s fine and I’m actually I’m not, I feel great and it’s fine and my body isn’t struggling and my HIV is very high I have high HIV. Just remember that because it gets confusing people like no, I want a low heart rate variability. No, we want a low heart rate higher heart rate variability, yeah.

Chloe Brotheridge: Good to remember. I really want to remember what was that. Yes, so there are people who could be very anxious or stressed but not when you realize it. Maybe they are really snappy with their partner or they suddenly are not sleeping well and go to lots of spin classes.

Shona Vertue: You love the spin.

Chloe Brotheridge: No, I find spin stressful. That’s projecting my own patroness spin classes.

Movement imbalance

Shona Vertue: One of the reasons, I am sorry I’m just chiming in here, but one of the reasons I hate spin is because what I see is that a lot of office workers. People that work behind a desk go to spin and from a postural perspective there’s you’re essentially going from one chair to another chair. So, your hips are in a flexed position and they go to another flexed position. The reason that that’s problematic is that if you’re only doing spin is your only form of exercise and where it’s your main form of exercise, it’s an imbalance in the strength muscular strength in your body. Just movement imbalance.

Yeah, there’s so much flexion like forward flexion over a desk and then moving over a bike. So, to me it’s not an ideal way if you love spin and you love it on your lunch break. Because mentally it doesn’t make you feel better than do it. But then just make sure you’re also doing other stuff that is counteracting so much of that forward flexion. Yes, sorry so back to your question. What you’re going to say?

Chloe Brotheridge: I think it’s more a statement of just for people to be on the lookout for those signs that they might be stressed, more stressed or anxious. They realize the physical signs that the body shows us or looking into their HRV, see what that’s saying. Because we don’t always know because sometimes, we can get so used to feeling anxious all the time that it becomes totally normal. Often, I hear people say, what does that one, not lie awake at night on a Sunday no worrying about the week ahead. I thought that was you know everyone did that, I know not everyone.

Shona Vertue: Our capitalist society has really driven us towards glorifying this notion of busy and this notion of like high stress high resilience to that sort of thing. I think that that last probably we can get through it for ten years but then the body starts to break down. Then we wonder why you know I has falling out or we’re seeing different physiological signs that we hate and the worst part is that, then we’re sold some form of anti-aging cream or some form of like hair replace. It’s like what you think care of it that’s to fail in you. So, yeah exactly. It’s like the model our society sets us up in benefits from us being stressed out and dying.

Attachment therapy

Chloe Brotheridge: It’s a big topic talk about how capitalism affects us and our mental health. I didn’t ask you I didn’t tell you I was gonna ask you this question, but you mention it before we started recording. Can we talk about attachment therapy? We’re getting very like into.

Shona Vertue: Quite again, I mean I’m not qualified psychologists yet, but we absolutely can talk about attachment theory.

Chloe Brotheridge: Because you are going to train to finish your training.

Shona Vertue: Yes, I mean I’m very at the very early stages of a psychology degree. But yes, that is what I’m going into. Attachment theory was something that I became interested in after reading a good friend of mine Laura Mukha, who has written a book called ‘Love Factually’. She unpacks essentially through both interviewing experts on it, but also interviewing people from different categories of attachment theory. I feel like I’m terrible at explaining it in a really simple way. So, I don’t know whether you want to have, you might want to cut this bit out because I still haven’t found a very simple way to define attachment theory.

But it’s very very interesting when you start looking into it. There’re two sorts of it’s kind of broken down between insecure attachment styles and secure attachment styles. I think the facts that Laura Mukha had put in her book was something around or I think she taught member where she’d taken this from. But correct me if I’m wrong is around 20% of the population will have an insecure attachment. Might be more might be 40%. So, my memory is failing me but insecure attached people can be broken down into three categories. Avoidant attached, anxious attached and then one that’s called disorganized, which is kind of a mix between the two and usually indicative of people have had like really severe trauma.

So, they kind of go but in childhoods they go between being avoidant or expressing avoidant aspects and anxious aspects. Avoidant people, anxious and avoidant people tend to have the same fundamental belief. Something in their childhood or earlier childhood, sometimes even later childhood or some trauma in their life has caused them to believe fundamentally that they are unworthy of love. It expresses in different ways. So, an anxious attached person tends to be that person that we call is being really like needy. It’s always needing reassurance that they’re loved and might play a lot of games in the relationship to try and prove that they’re loved and might get very jealous very easily things like that.

Avoidant anxious, an avoidant attachment style is what is kind of glorified in Hollywood. Particularly with men is this behavior of like the bad boy that’s kind of like moody and always pushing their lovers away and who might Express. It’s will sometimes love bomb right at the beginning of the relationship really intensely. then suddenly the next day you wake up and they’re like they’ve disappeared on you as soon as they have to be vulnerable or intimate. So, securely attached people don’t really tend to express these sorts of things. It’s a very very deep and amazing topic and something that I think for just anyone that experience to really kind of I guess like shocking relationship experiences.

I would highly recommend reading attachment theory and I’ve had so many people write to me since I’ve started talking about it. On social media reaching out saying, oh my god I read Love Actually and it just totally explained me. There’s another book called ‘Attached’ which explains attachment theory in a really beautiful and profound way as well. Makes it less taboo as well, because I think sometimes if you are in securely attached if you do express these behaviors that seem kind of dysfunctional. It makes you feel a lot of shame about yourself. For a long time, I was like oh my god I feel so ashamed around that person or that I can just be described in these like 10 sentences of behavior.

But in actual fact, there are benefits to those behaviors and to why you behaved in that way at that time and why you developed those characteristics. Because they served you at a time when you were experiencing trauma in your life. So, it’s not worth actually hating on yourself if you are avoidant or anxious or have any of those sorts of behavior. It’s just about understanding them and noticing the triggers and being able to express and communicate so that you can start to calm those triggers down. So, I highly recommend people look into those.

Chloe Brotheridge: Such a great explanation yeah. Just talking from my own experience, I am pretty sure I was anxiously attached.

Shona Vertue: Me to

Chloe Brotheridge: Like things like being left to cry as a baby that was very trendy when I was born. My parents did it in quite a I don’t know I think my mom, her mental health wasn’t great because she couldn’t sleep. So, she left me to cry so she could sleep and I don’t understand. It’s a very complicated topic. But I’m pretty sure that led to me thinking I’m not lovable. Then my boyfriend probably got the brunt of that. We’ve been together 10 years now and the first part of the relationship was probably a real nightmare.

Shona Vertue: Tumultuous and as he, would you say that he’s more securely attached.

Chloe Brotheridge: He’s very secure.

Shona Vertue: Beautiful.

Chloe Brotheridge: So, that helped me a lot and having therapy for those kinds of insecurities and making a real mission to overcome that. But yeah, I love what you said about not having shame about it.

Shona Vertue: Really important.

Chloe Brotheridge: It’s not anyone’s fault. What happens to you when you’re a child? It’s not even our parents’ fault. They are responsible but they’re not to blame. S, I think just some compassion for all parties when looking through.

Shona Vertue: It’s difficult and it’s hard. It depends on the severity of the experience you had growing up, but like working towards forgiveness towards anyone. Whether it’s your partner or your parents is not necessarily about liberating them but actually liberating you. Because it’s holding onto the resentment that causes the pain. Whether it be in the relationship or parental relation or any relationships that we have. Easier said than done. So, if that’s the journey and that’s why therapy again is so important because we all have those things.

It’s not about being crazy it’s just about having experiences in your life that have shaped the way you behave. It’s not necessarily taboo it’s just saying okay let’s unpack that a little bit let’s try get to the bottom of it because ultimately just harms you, right. Like all of the anxious attachment behaviors, they probably helped you at the time to gain what you perceive to be love from your parents. But in real life and adult life, it’s not that. But it doesn’t make it easy to just change one day.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah, we take on board that programming that exactly helps exact time. It just stays like a very out of date computer program, that’s running in the background like sabotaging our relations.

Shona Vertue: You need to do an update and unfortunately takes longer than an overnight. Kind of light plug the phone in you’re doing overnight updates only. God Imagine how good that means plug something in.

Chloe Brotheridge: It’s the future downloads, good mental health.

Shona Vertue: Download upgrade mental health no pain.

Social media and boundaries

Chloe Brotheridge: Thank you for that. I kind of wanted to ask you about social media because it’s such a big part. Well, I don’t know is it a big part of your life it seems like it is. But how do you manage that? Has it affected you negatively in the past or now? Do you have boundaries around social media?

Shona Vertue: Yes, absolutely. I definitely have had to implement some pretty strong boundaries around social media in fact. I even just downloaded an app recently because I was gonna test it out particularly when I started uni. Was it called? Actually, wonder if it’s downloaded on this phone. It might be on my Australian phone, but let me just check out me this girl right to the end, okay cool, no it hasn’t downloaded this one, great. But it’s basically an app that locks you out of certain apps that you want to spend of time. Isn’t it so funny that? I get the same reaction for everyone I tell them about, it like whoa.

So, once you’ve said, you can’t turn it off like as in once it locks you out you can’t turn. You can change the settings obviously but once it comes on. I just feel like that would be really beneficial for university, because it’s now become a very subconscious programming to open up that. Like I don’t know if anyone else can relate to this. You probably can relate to this in that sometimes when I do something with my phone. Once I finished doing it let’s say I’ve got something in the email app and I finished writing an email whatever before I closed my phone down. Because I don’t need to do anything else. Honestly, I will open Instagram. I’ll check it again even if I didn’t mean to.

Even if I literally just went on there to check my calendar, I will close the app and could open up Instagram. I think that definitely got to a point where that this is problematic because I’m losing control over my behavior. The experience that I’ve had in watching others with addiction, that’s the exact same thing. So, I can acknowledgement and I think being honest with yourself about addictions is really the first key to healing them. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that I am, do you know what I’m just gonna say I think that I am definitely addicted to social media. Because there is a real strong behavioral draw to opening it and interacting with it.

I can say it’s got to do with my work which it does. But when it becomes your work it’s very difficult to draw the line between what is really work what are you really getting done. So, I had to spend some time recently just saying, okay like how. When I’m opening this out like how much of it, am I really doing productive work that’s going to lead to an actual result. And how much of it is just me getting that dopamine hit from pulling down the thing scrolling checking things like that. So, you have to be very honest with yourself. For me, I just realized like do what I’d like to have designated times where I write back to my DMS and I write back to people asking questions about the program or fitness or health or things that I genuinely enjoy doing.

Then as soon as I’ve finished no scrolling, there’s nothing that I’m gonna get there that I can’t get from actually reading an article or interacting with something really beneficial and educational for me particularly with uni coming up. So, those are the boundaries that I’ve had to set now. It’s like designated time periods. In terms of affecting my mental health, I think that there’s definitely been times particularly for someone who is more on the codependent side. Where it’s like I feel like a real people pleaser that I found it difficult to manage everyone’s expectations. Which has caused me to get stuck in a little bit of a loop where I almost post nothing.

Because I’m like, oh my god I don’t want to do this and offended this person or do this and affect that person. If I talk about food in this way it might cause an eating disorder but if I don’t talk about it than the people that are wanting that information aren’t getting it. So, I’m just like oh I’ll just here’s a picture of me doing some yoga, like what’s the most mutual thing I can post. The problem with that is that we’re not getting an honest portrayal or any kind of information or integrity there because it’s just someone being too scared to post anything.

So, I think cancer culture has really influenced a lot of the way that people are presenting information. Particularly the bigger your profile becomes the harder it is to mitigate the effects of cancer culture. But I was having this conversation with my manager this morning and I just thought what my heart of hearts I know that I have no bad intentions and I have no intentions that are going to be detrimental to people. So, I just have to keep putting the information out there and acknowledge that people will do what they will with certain types of information. There’s only so much responsibility that you can take you can only take it so far.

I do take my responsibilities very important or with very seriously I would say on Instagram. But for example, I can’t if I post a workout and say this is a great workout for I cannot. There’s no way that I can accommodate for someone with a spine injury for someone with a knee injury for someone’s use can’t do it. So, what do you do you not post anything because it’s too dangerous? Someone with a spine injury that decides to deny their spine injury goes in there and does it and you’re responsible for that. Or do you have to put a disclaimer every time? Do you have to acknowledge like that person and say PS if you have this this and this, you shouldn’t be doing this. I mean it’s just very it’s difficult to navigate.

Chloe Brotheridge: Totally, because there’s only so much text and only so much space that you can write stuff in. So, it’s impossible to account for everything. I suppose it’s just a numbers game the more followers you have the more potential areas that someone’s going to get upset or offended or what above.

Shona Vertue: Exactly.

Chloe Brotheridge: So, it’s tricky.

Shona Vertue: It’s tricky. How do you navigate it?

Chloe Brotheridge: Up until recently, I noticed I posted something maybe December or November that on reflection on reading it back more carefully. I was like I actually don’t wind up sin agree with that.

Shona Vertue: Interesting.

Validating anxiety

Chloe Brotheridge: So, I post is something that was like, anxiety can be unlearned. I think it said something like no one is born with anxiety. So, I maybe just didn’t think enough. It was one of these kinds of memes that goes around. I just thought, oh this is a nice thing it said some other things as well, I did agree with. I didn’t get give it enough thought and there were people who felt and validated.

Shona Vertue: Their anxiety was invalidated.

Chloe Brotheridge: The fact they had anxiety and there was a genetic component which is a fact. It made me really reflect and have to realize I need to be more careful about what I’m posting. Because a kind of apathy two-sentence meme image can could cause harm or could really invalidate people. So, I realize I need to be more careful such as my people that follow me is going up. I mean it’s impossible to be completely perfect. Obviously, I wanting to be perfect but it’s impossible.

Shona Vertue: Then the other thing is that I have to say and this is my bone to pick with the rest of society is that, we’re also very hungry for black and white statements we’re addicted to those. So, we want them because ultimately gray it’s not only boring but it’s unsafe. Like a gray area is unsafe it makes us feel like we can’t control the situation. If we know something is black and white, we feel more in control. So, what irritates me is it will gravitate towards media headlines and headlines in general that are black and white. Because it’s like ah feel safe, no carbs after 4 p.m. By the way that’s total BS, but I’m just using that as an example, right.

So, people like oh okay or carbs are bad or whatever. Something ridiculous like that it’s like makes us feel safe because we can move in that direction. We go, okay tick I know to either do or don’t do this. So, while we feel frustrated and invalidated by statement that you’ve made in that sense. It can also be frustrating because people will tend to gravitate more towards those people in the media that I’m making black-and-white statements. Therefore, increasing their platform, which is that problematic, I don’t know.

Should we be working towards like polarizing our audience, so that the audience that we do have a really strong and really like focused and engaged. Or are we trying to cater to everyone and then not actually saying anything at all.

Chloe Brotheridge: I’ve actually thought about that a lot recently about, should I be more outrageous in order to get more followers or something.

Shona Vertue: You definitely don’t want to lose your integrity in order to get followers. There’s an element of like how do you play the game of not so much to get more followers but to just be to be a stronger voice in our society. Because I mean I don’t know, I’m still battling that. I’m like, do I become a bit more aggressive and have a stronger opinion. But I’m sort of like well that isn’t me because I do have compassion for those that don’t fit into those boxes, for someone that doesn’t accommodate for accommodate to. So, it’s like for now I’m just gonna have to have a long ass captions with disclaimers that are like PS, if you are this don’t do this if you are that don’t do that.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah doing things with more care and being okay with the gray areas. Things are complex things complex. We don’t have a there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for fitness for mental health.

Shona Vertue: No.

Chloe Brotheridge: there are statements that are not gonna apply to everyone and we need to acknowledge that I think.

Shona Vertue: It absolutely because also your post that you made probably would have helped a lot of people.

Chloe Brotheridge: I mean it got more likes then.

Shona Vertue: Well, exactly. So, it would have been enough to capture the attention of so many. So, I think it’s a really fine line. Because it’s like if it captured the attention of a lot of people and actually helped them rather than invalidate them and only invalidated a few. It’s like what’s better helping thousands hurting, I don’t know the answer.

Chloe Brotheridge: Like an ethics of social media.

Shona Vertue: It’s so new.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah.

Shona Vertue: It’s a really really new thing and it’s a really interesting social experiment that hopefully is not gonna be detrimental. But might be a little bit, I think it.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah, already is and lots of ways. But I want to ask you about Brazilian Jujitsu.

Martial arts

Shona Vertue: Oh, I thought you’re gonna say billion. All right, well go in there, that’s an interesting topic. Brazilian Jujitsu, yes martial arts.

Chloe Brotheridge: I want to try this; I’ve seen a lot of things about this. I heard it’s like wrestling.

Shona Vertue: Yeah, it’s a grappling martial art. I like to say that it’s like chess with the body, because martial arts are its physical, right. So, is a great form of exercise but the added element of being with an opponent means that you calculate, you have to try and calculate steps ahead before you make a move. It’s a workout for my brain as much as it is a workout for my body. I just find it so incredibly empowering. There’s no striking, so that’s beneficial for me because it doesn’t, to be honest it doesn’t really matter if I have a black eye enough to do some video content.

I did actually have a black eye not so long ago from jiujitsu randomly. Because one of the girls I was grappling with had dropped her head on my cheekbone. It just went completely brown bush, but that doesn’t happen that often. For the most part, it’s known as like the gentle art. It’s not really gentle, but for a martial art it probably should be closest to that. The highest level of martial art is really to be able to win without hurting the other. I find that such a profound statement philosophically as well. But that’s a whole other conversation.

For me Brazilian Jiujitsu is has changed my life in so many ways. I guess on the surface level it’s made it so that me. I find exercise incredibly boring. I have to say I have to tell you like truth be told. Lifting like a weight ten times in the same way in the same plane for different body parts. I mean I don’t know I find it really boring, but I do it because it supports my ability to do other things in life. That’s my whole approach to fitness is essentially fitness isn’t life PS, okay not for me anyway. But fitness and exercise and paying attention to nutrition is really directed towards enabling me to be able to do the things with my body that I would like to do for long periods of time.

So, I love snowboarding, I love jiu-jitsu, I love life surfing, I love to skate. I like to hike; I like all of these things that are very very dependent upon my body being in strong and fit and healthy. So. that’s why I exercise that’s why I lift a weight in the same plane of motion ten times. That is why I work towards doing those sorts of things that other people get more joy from being able to do certain things in the weights room. That is I told like that’s awesome. It’s just not, that’s not my background that’s not where I. My backgrounds in gymnastics so it’s like been such complex fun interactive movements. So, to go back to doing weights training is just having to rewire my brain and rewire what I like.

So, for me Brazilian Jiujitsu has shaped the way that I train in a different way. It gives me a more interesting reason to lift weights. It’s like, alright well I need to do these pull-ups because if I don’t have that level of strength in my grip in my back, then I’m gonna be not as good in jiu-jitsu or I’m not gonna have the stamina and the strength that’s required to do this. So, for me it’s given me a whole other kind of inspiration and motivation to train outside of the Jiujitsu space. Which is really beneficial particularly for anyone out there that’s like really struggling with motivation. I hear you; I get you need to find something that is something potentially like a sport. Then might make you go; okay I love playing football.

But if I want to play football well even if it is just like playing with your workmates or whatever, then I probably do need to do a bit more running or probably do need to strengthen my glutes, probably do you need to make sure that my knees are in good condition. So, I think jiu-jitsu for me has given me extra motivation in other areas of my life that benefit my health. The other thing I like about it, I just feel I guess more empowered. As a woman sometimes I hate saying the word empowered because it denotes that we didn’t have power in the first place and that we needed to have power.

So, I don’t like to use that word too much, but I also think that from a protective space feeling strong and safe and capable protecting myself. Definitely like before jiu-jitsu I would have felt less safe than I do now knowing a little bit of self-defense. That’s very and it’s amazing how much that can cyclonically influence other aspects of your life. Particularly if you’re a people pleaser, if you’re codependent in any sort of way the subconscious affects that even just knowing you can physically protect yourself.

Make your interactions with human beings a lot different. You feel less inclined to have to say yes or to say no what. Whatever it might be whatever you are doing whatever behavior eliciting in in a way of like people-pleasing, it changes that really really. I speak to all the people places out there. It’s just made me feel like more empowered to say, no, I don’t know I can’t explain it.

Chloe Brotheridge: That’s fascinating.

Shona Vertue: Yeah.

Chloe Brotheridge: There is such a link between our physicality and how confident we feel in the world. For a lot of people listening I’m sure people pleasing resonates, maybe get yourself down to-.

Shona Vertue: Some martial arts, another thing is that for me I find it very difficult. Again, as a people pleaser to express anger. It’s a very natural human emotion, but if you oppress anger this is where things like depression can come from. When we oppress and suppress it leads to depress depression. So, if you spend too long oppressing things like that it can surface in other areas of your behavior. So, Brazilian Jujitsu for me was a very controlled way to express aggression that, that is important to allow to come up but isn’t going to necessarily hurt someone else.

Because with Brazilian Jujitsu, your objective isn’t to hurt them. It’s just to put them in a position that causes them to submit. So, you tap you double tap someone wherever on the body part that you can reach or you yell out or whatever before they hurt you. So, there are various positions where you might be in a position where if they pulled any harder your elbow would break or you would choke them or whatever. So, the objective is when you get them into a submission, then you tap and that person releases you. So, there’s never whereas with a striking martial art, I mean you get hit in the face you’re not gonna tap before you get hit in the face. I mean there’s no protection there. So, that’s why it’s called one of the reasons it’s called the gentle up.

But, why was I telling you that? Yes, I think innately as human beings we all have primal aggression that needs releasing. I think it needs to be released in a physical way as much as it needs to be can be released in your career or your relationships in various ways. I think it’s very very important to release it on a physical level as well.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yeah, I was telling a client recently to pound on the sofa or on the bed with your forearms to release some anger and make noise and shout and scream and kind of wiggle your body around. As you’re doing it to move the energy of yeah anger so that you’re not suppressing it and keeping inside your body. Which is like a heavy weight to carry with you.

Shona Vertue: Exactly.

Chloe Brotheridge: Thank you so much for everything you share, there’s been a really varied conversation. I’ve loved the sciency bits. Can you share a bit more about if people want to learn about your online courses, the things that you offer? Tell us.

How to find out more about Shona

Shona Vertue: So, I have a thing called the ‘Vertue Method’, which is as I explained earlier focusing on strength fitness and mobility. So, you can find all of it either on my website which is just www.vertue.com and has all the information there and that’s where the program sit as well. There are 12-week online video-based programs. They’re all in real time. So, one of the things that I always wanted to create were online programs where we work out together for the full period of time rather than just kind of like a moving gift. That’s like lift this push that do this. it’s like I’m with you there the whole time along.

Chloe Brotheridge: You’re sitting along with us.

Shona Vertue: Exactly, sweating and swearing I always say. I always saying, you were probably swearing at me and that’s okay because I can’t hear you. So, that’s probably the best place to find me. Instagram Shona_Vertue. You can stalk me for a bit and see what I’m all about. But make sure you spell Vertue with E, VERTUE.

Chloe Brotheridge: Yes, amazing. Thank you so much.

Shona Vertue: Thank you for having me.

Chloe Brotheridge: Thank you so much for listening, I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode. Come on over to Instagram and let me know what are you taking from this episode. Find me @Chloe Brotheridge. I would love it if you would leave me a review in the podcast app or in iTunes. Subscribe to the podcast, leave me a rating. Is there someone in your life that would really benefit from this podcast, you can let them know by sharing this podcast. I’ll be so grateful. So, I’m just wishing you a wonderful week ahead, sending you loads of love. Hopefully, you’re tuned in again and I’ll see you soon.

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