Even Michael Phelps struggles with mental health issues during the pandemic
Michael Phelps is not only the most decorated Olympian of all time, he is also an avid mental health advocate. He is well known for disclosing his history of depression and ADHD. In recent years, Phelps joined the board of Talkspace, a mobile phone app that provides access to mental health professionals via online therapy. Phelps noted that he has found online therapy to be crucial to his mental health while he is on the road. He has recommended online therapy to his friends and family, as he has found it “life saving.”
More recently, Phelps met with ESPN to discuss his recent struggles during the pandemic. He admitted that this pandemic has been the most “overwhelming” period of his life. His mental health issues were exacerbated when he attempted to ignore the problem rather than seeking professional help.
Phelps shared how the pandemic upended his rigorous daily workout routine, which has been a vital source of structure and selfcare. He said a single missed workout could lead him into a pattern of negative thinking and irritability that can quickly spiral into larger problems with his mood. As one would expect, the quarantine has led to weeks of disruption to his routine. He admitted to struggling emotionally more during the quarantine than any other time in his life.
Phelps noted that without his workout routine he has needed to deliberately engage in other coping skills. Now, when Phelps notices that he is struggling emotionally he reminds himself to pause and take a breath. He then examines his emotions by asking himself the question, “Where are these emotions coming from?” He tries to model this skill for his children and teach them how to do it for themselves. He also stated that he has learned an important lesson about resiliency from his kids. He pointed out how if they fall and hurt themselves, they cry for 30 seconds, and then feel better and move on with their day. In many ways, he aspires to be as resilient as them.
Phelps commented that he believes society is finally taking mental health issues seriously. He hopes that opening up about his struggles will help others to get the help that they need.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.