We met Jessica Scheper from the Netherlands, Holland, currently living in Bali.
The author of the Book The Joy of Good Shit.
"My goal is to help break the taboo on depression and mental health"
What do you do for a living ?
I’m a content writer, yoga teacher and author of ‘The Joy of Good Shit’ (only available in Dutch now, but the English version will hopefully be ready in April). I write mostly about mental health, emotions and psychology, both for clients and for my own website www.jessicascheper.com
As a yoga teacher, I coach women how to live mindfully and reduce stress and anxiety. When the world is back to normal, I want to organize offline surf & yoga retreats again. I’ve done that in the past and it’s so much fun! Plus, I’m setting up online workshops and YouTube videos based on my book, in which I cover all the tools & amp; tricks from yoga and Ayurveda that help balance body, mind, and soul.
Why did you choose this career path?
From the first moment I learned how to surf, which is now 10 years ago, I knew that I had to do something that would give me enough freedom to surf as much as possible. It took a few more years until I finally started doing the stuff I really wanted to do. My Yoga Teacher Training, 7 years ago, helped me realize that we really have only our own minds blocking us from doing what we want to do. So, after finishing the YTT, I started teaching yoga and organized six Surf & Yoga
retreats in the Netherlands, which was a dream come true.
Content writing came a bit later. I’ve always loved writing but it wasn’t until a friend of mine showed me that it was possible to make money of it and how. I’m still super grateful to him. As to being an author, well that is definitely something that chose me. I couldn’t not write a book. It was something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a child, and in the last couple of years I knew it was going to be about the trauma I experienced with losing my dad to depression. He died twenty years ago, and it’s been a long, long road to recovery for me.
Can you tell us some benefits of yoga, how can it improve your surf?
Yoga has so many benefits! Firstly, it helps to reduce stress and it can lift your spirit up. Secondly, it helps to prevent all sorts of mental and physical health problems (as long as you are doing it ‘right’ there are a lot of injuries in yoga from people pushing themselves too much). It releases ‘happy hormones’ (endorphins), like all kinds of exercise does, but meditation especially (which is the core of yoga) has been proven to actually alter the brain structure in a positive way, increase self-acceptance, and with that, increase compassion towards others.
Plus, the physical practice of yoga, of course, helps to strengthen and stretch important surf muscles.
Photo Credit: Dennis van Dijk
Since you practiced yoga, have you seen any major changes in your Surf and daily lifestyle?I started doing yoga at the same time I started surfing. I was living pretty far from the beach, so I needed to do something on land to stay fit and flexible. Yoga for sure has improved my surfing, and it still does. It helps me recover way quicker as well.
How's the surf in the Netherlands?
Hahaha, well…there are waves, but mostly it’s incredibly choppy and inconsistent. There are some guys and girls who totally rip on the tiny, powerless waves (they’re bigger in the winter though). I’m not one of them. I mean, I can be when the conditions are good, but that doesn’t happen a lot. Hence, I try to find my pot of gold elsewhere.
So in the book, I speak openly about the death of my father from depression; how that loss led to my own depressions (plus anxiety and gut problems); and how I learned to manage and heal from it all. It covers my physical health journey as well as my mental health journey, and my way of choosing a life of freedom,surfing and traveling. It has two parts, in the first part I share my story, and in the second part I share effective tools, exercises and recipes from yoga and Ayurveda.
Tell us more about your book?
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book?
I initially started writing this book because I wanted to record my eating patterns. Last year, I went on a major health journey, and I cured myself from chronic gut problems and inflammations. Main things that have helped me were stress reduction through yoga & a new way of eating/living with Ayurveda (Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic health systems and has a strong connection with yoga). So, I started writing and then I kept writing and writing... and eventually wrote down my life story.
What's the biggest challenge you have through your work(book)?
The biggest challenge from my work and my book, and my whole business, is dealing with…emotions! Hahaha, I mean I’m trying to become an expert on this, but I still have to deal with my own emotions. It can be pretty hard sometimes when I’m alone in my house, after having talked or written all day about heavy topics. Then, suddenly it all comes up and memories pop up and I feel sad. But it’s a different kind of sad now. I understand where it comes from, and I know that I have to let it be there for a bit (it only takes about 10 minutes usually), and then it goes away again. When I fight it and when I don’t want to feel it, it can take forever. I’m also quite an emotional person, so I feel stuff quite intensely. I wouldn’t wanna do anything else, but I secretly also love writing about rational stuff like investing and finance for some of my clients, to just give myself a break hahaha
Do you see a change in people's behavior since the Covid ?
For sure. I think everybody has. I mean, anxiety and depression were already sky-high but covid just took them to another planet. It sky-rocketed fear and worry in us all. People started to fight in public, online as well as offline. I think 2020 could be known for the year of segregation, it tore us apart, even close relationships suffered from it.
Covid didn’t only affect physical health, it affected mental health as well, and maybe even more so. But maybe there’s a silver lining and maybe we’ll learn about the things that really matter to us (eg connection over the ego trying to be right all the time), and learn how to deal with difficult emotions better. Let’s hope so.
Do you feel in general, that we care enough about our health?I think every human is designed to care about their health (it’s our survival mechanism, you see that with covid we’re all trying to survive), but most of us don’t know how to take care. What comes first, and what is crucial for developing good health, is the cultivation of true self-love and self-acceptance. When you love your body and consider it a temple, you think twice about what you put into it. That is not to say that the body is more important than the soul. But what you put into your body, affects your mind and can either clear or cloud the window to your soul. Same thing applies to the mind. We can feed it shit or we can feed it love.
And that has an effect on the body as well, so it’s really all interconnected. There’s a strong relationship between the brain and gut. Understanding that relationship can help you understand yourself as well.
What's your vision and what message do you want to give?
My goal is to help break the taboo on depression and mental health. I see things changing slowly already, more and more people start to open up, even on social media. But there’s still a huge stigma on mental health issues. The funny thing is that, once you open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable for a moment, you’ll see that it’s just as normal as talking about physical health. It’s hard though, because being vulnerable doesn’t feel safe. And when you’re feeling depressed or
anxious, the last thing you feel is safe. Fear, shame, worthlessness, hopelessness, those are the emotions you may feel. Not safe. But if you break through that, and do share your emotions with someone, you’ll realize that your vulnerability is actually your superpower. It’s the thing that can genuinely connect you with others and helps set you free. It’s easier said than done, as it can be hard to find someone to trust (either professionally or privately) when you suffer from mental health issues. And even then, they might not respond the way you expected/wanted to. That’s why I would also recommend to not attach too much value to it. It’s about you, breaking your (perceived) limitations, not about what the other person can do. Although a professional therapist/psychologist can do a lot, in the end, the only one who can really help you, and needs to do the work, is you.
My focus is on women, so I’ve set up a Facebook group for women to connect, share their experiences and educate themselves on topics such as anxiety, depression, and gut problems.
Who inspired you the most?There are several people who inspire me; my own mom, she’s the strongest woman I know, and I’ve learned a great deal from her. She’s also taught me some things that I want to do differently, hahaha! But actually, I’ve been majorly inspired (and I still am) by a couple of my friends, also female surfers, just living their lives the way they want to, following the waves, the sun, and their passion. They also have their struggles, as we all have. Nothing/nowhere is perfect, but if we can
let our heart do the guiding and let our brain do the facilitating, then I think we’re getting pretty close.
Other than that, I find women like Kassia Meador and Carissa Moore pretty freakin rad, in terms of surf, but also lifestyle and the way they look at life. Oh, and of course Brené Brown, even if she doesn’t surf ;)
Do you feel you are also an inspiration for other women?Some women have told me that, yes. And I can imagine that my lifestyle does inspire others, because it’s the same lifestyle that inspired me years ago.
Anything else you will like to share with us?
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessica.scheper/ target="_blank"
First of all, thank you for this interview! Your products look amazing, and I hope to someday see the Canadian wildlife and surf there myself!
Many thanks to you Jessica, Aloha :)