Jen Hope, B.S. Slayer, Shares Her Personal Anxiety and Depression Journey
In today’s HealthYeah interview, we talk to Jen Hope, founder of B. Slayer, an executive coaching practice, and queen of helping people unleash their inner badass and finding success on their own terms. Jen, who has lived with chronic depression and anxiety since childhood, has made it her personal mission to de-stigmatize outdated and false perceptions of anxiety and depression by sharing her story. In addition to executive coaching and workshop facilitation, Jen is an OrangeTheory Fitness Coach, a Leader for The Stability Network, an active volunteer in her community, a dog mom, and an avid trail runner.
Working with entrepreneurs and executives for more than 20 years means, Jen is highly skilled at collaborating with talented, ambitious people who have tons of drive and dedication. She uses her success in leading teams inside of scaling organizations, combined with her own life experiences to coach people in thriving professionally, even while battling chronic challenges.
She’s not a clinical expert but has focused on personal and professional mastery of living with anxiety and depression for 25+ years. During today’s interview, we learn more about what has worked and what has not. She then dives into how she’s applying those learning’s in her own life to live the life she finally wants, and to help others do the same thing.
We’ve included a written summary below, but jump into the below interview anytime!
Don’t Label Depression and Anxiety with One-Size Fits All Fixes
Jen was very clear in the interview that there are no one-size fits all approaches when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. It’s all individual-based. For Jen, she likes to think of her brain as having some really unhelpful and ineffective habits. Born an exceptionally sensitive kid, she feels like the coping mechanisms she learned as a kid and then tried to apply in adult life, just didn’t work.
She struggled with anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her brain was generating some troubling thoughts, which kept repeating like a broken record. Struggling with identity and feeling lost, her fearful thinking produced more difficult patterns and she’d get caught in those places. For Jen, she needed coping tools that also validated her emotions.
She considers herself in mental health recovery, which is a lifelong journey. At the center of her journey, she has turned to behavioral therapy with compassion and empathy at the core. This has helped her breakdown her mental health recovery into three themes:
- Not trying to avoid pain: Pain and struggle are part of our day. We might not want to experience it, but when we do, we need the tools to deal with it.
- Validating own experience: Recognizing that experiences are real and not judging self for them, but instead having compassion for them.
- Discovering skills for coping with emotions
Thriving with Anxiety and Depression
Jen has turned her experience in struggling with anxiety and depression into her own toolkit to help others. Emphasizing that what works for one person, might not work for another, these themes are at the core of what works for her and her clients:
- Empathy: If someone is struggling with depression and anxiety or troubling emotions, be with them. Share in their experience with empathy. Sit next to them, even if you haven’t been through it. Just listen vs. trying to fix the person.
- Compassion: Let people know that whatever struggle they are having, that it makes sense. Even if doesn’t make sense as an outsider looking in (the beast of our Facebook lives), validate that what they are experiencing makes sense and have compassion.
- Behavioral change: This will vary for everyone, but Jen has found success in breaking things down into a systematic way of thinking. In this system, she focuses on creating awareness of thoughts, feelings, and in some cases, stories tied to our “Then.” The goal is to focus on creatively changing habits over time.
- Celebrate: Create a culture of pausing to celebrate personal and professional wins. Taking time to celebrate how far you’ve come is critical.
- Exercise is medicine: Group fitness and movement is at the core of everything Jen does. She notices it helps her get more energy and create more emotional capacity for whatever comes her way. Jen’s experience with fitness is supported by research showing that physical activity lowers the risk for depression and anxiety, but again, Jen doesn’t believe in one-size fits all approach. For her, consistency is key. She happens to enjoy the gym and considers herself an “exercise junky”, but recognizes that not everyone does. It’s important to find what works for you. At Excy, we find that people with fatigue or those battling limited mobility due to injury, disability, or a health condition might struggle to get to a gym as often as they’d like, so suggest exploring home exercise options.
- Meditation: She relies on Headspace and Kristin Neff’s self-compassion tools for medication, which focuses on having compassion for self and dealing with uncomfortable things. She suggests exploring whether you have intrinsic or extrinsic motivation as you explore meditation. Some people need to be cheered on, others like self-accountability.
- Journaling: She consistently does reflective journaling. Celebrating once a month, documenting what she’s trying to achieve, pausing and celebrating. She uses pen and paper, creates lists, and focuses on getting clear with troubling emotions. She emphasizes the importance of discovering what you are trying to avoid (note where fear is at the core of it).
Be a Source of Hope, Consistently Show Up
There was a time when Jen felt disconnected from herself, her zest for life, and loved ones because of her depression. During this time, she felt like she was wearing a protective layer (or as she calls it a “shell”) that was less kind, more irritable, and overall less optimistic than she wanted to be. As much as people wanted to get in, she felt protective, and her communication was short and impatient. She felt like a porcupine who wanted to let people in, but the exterior pushed them away. What helped Jen cope during this time was support from family, friends, and colleagues:
- Knowing it’s not personal. Don’t give up the person
- Being a source of hope
- Consistently showing up
When it’s all said and done, Jen’s main message is for people to know that it’s going to be ok. Whatever the thing is, it will pass. It’s not permanent. Getting through it is crazy hard, but it’s possible.
What is Jen Reading?
- Re-reading: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (for a 3rd time). This book is “church” for Jen.
- Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is about behavioral change and creating great frameworks for creating new habits.
Join us on Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. PT at www.healthyeah.news for the next live interview.
Previous Interviews to Explore on YouTube