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Lessons from Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, recently opened up about his mental health struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic, admitting that this is the most overwhelmed he has ever felt in his life. And he's not alone: it's been estimated that about 50 percent of the U.S. population is currently displaying depressive symptoms. The insights Michael Phelps shared in a recent ESPN essay were so powerful that we decided to make his candid comments about his quarantine experience the focus of this week's newsletter. As always, the 5-Minute Recharge is about giving you evidence-based strategies to help fortify your resilience as you navigate the pandemic and beyond. Let's get started! ONE TRICKY QUOTE “Nothing can hold you back, You just need to learn the tricks that work for you and stick with them, believe in them, to keep yourself from getting into a negative cycle.” Michael Phelps

We'll take a short break from Michael Phelps to share "We're all still here," a homemade map of Sam Emrich's life under lockdown highlighting activities that were his former and new normals. You can find Sam's map and hundreds of others here, and if you are motivated to create your own map, CityLab is still taking submissions. THREE PHELPSIAN IDEAS  #1 I HAVE TO GET TO THE GYM EVERY DAY Michael Phelps works out for 90 minutes every day, acknowledging the positive impact of exercise on physical and mental health. Sweat is one of our five pillars of wellness Addie described in her recent resilience workshop. Findings published in the journal Neurology reveal how exercise impacts cognition by improving blood flow to the brain. One of the study's most intriguing findings is that those who exercise for 40 minutes 4 times per week show signs of significantly improved verbal fluency. Sadly, a recent study of 3,052 US adults revealed that pandemic activity levels among previously physically active adults is down 32.3% and not surprisingly this increase in inactivity is associated with worsening mental health. “Our study showed that six months' worth of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve your verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness.” – Marc Poulin, professor at the University of Calgary's Laboratory of Human Cerebrovascular Physiology #2 I HAVE TO GIVE MYSELF MORE LOVE AND MORE COMPASSION Self-compassion is a recurring theme in our newsletter that we never tire of highlighting. Recent research shows that learning self-compassion skills can have long-lasting benefits for people like Michael Phelps who suffer from depression or anyone who tends to be too hard on themselves. Self-criticism is a feature of depression that can often spiral downward into increasingly negative thinking patterns. Treating yourself like a close friend is an effective way to put self-compassion into action, as is the self-compassion break and the negative-thought antidote exercise. We highly recommend these guided meditations from Dr. Kristin Neff, if you prefer to take your self-compassion lying down. “One of the most robust and consistent findings in the research literature is that people who are more self-compassionate tend to be less anxious and depressed. The relationship is a strong one, with self-compassion explaining one-third to one-half of the variation found in how anxious or depressed people are.” – Dr. Kristin Neff (From: Self-Compassion) #3 I GIVE MYSELF A TIME OUT When things get really bad, Michael Phelps will retreat to a quiet space where he can be alone with his thoughts and reset. This makes Michael somewhat unique: in a shocking experiment, 67 percent of men (and 25 percent of women) chose to give themselves electric shocks rather than be alone with their thoughts. But by choosing to be alone--away from both people and electronic devices--for as little as 15 minutes, research has discovered that you can relax and recover from intense emotions. The key is to actively choose your alone time and view it as an opportunity to deactivate stressful emotions and rebound. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, try giving yourself the gift of a time out. “The set of studies thus suggested that people can use solitude, or other variations on being alone, to regulate their affective states, becoming quiet after excitement, calm after an angry episode, or centered and peaceful when desired.” –From: Solitude as an Approach to Affective Self-Regulation *********************************** The Fast Five 1. How to Sleep When the World is Falling Apart - Wired 2. Shake the Etch a Sketch and Design a New Life - No Mercy / No Malice, NYU Professor Scott Galloway 3. Don't Let This Crisis Go to Waste - Ten Percent Happier podcast (Time: 71 minutes) 4. Lynne talks about the joy of virtual friendships - Global News Morning 5. The World's Most Accessible Stress Reliever - BBC Future *********************************** YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE A MIRROR OF REFLECTION “I try to write notes on my mirror with a dry-erase marker.” – Michael Phelps We're continuing our Michael Phelps theme, all the way through to the 5-Minute Recharge Challenge. Michael makes a point of journaling, of writing things down that pop into his head, things he thinks will help him later. Take five minutes (or more) to look into the metaphorical mirror and reflect on the previous week. What did you learn? What do you want to learn next week? Who are you becoming and who do you want to be? It's more important than ever to slow down, reflect, and most importantly, apply what you've learned. You get bonus points if you take a snippet of what you've written and write it on your mirror (be sure to use a dry-erase marker!). “I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time in it. I think your mind really controls everything.” ― Michael Phelps Wishing you a safe, healthy and happy week ahead, Lynne & Addie

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