5 ways Michael Phelps plans to take care of his mental health in 2023

Michael PhelpsPost on Pinterest
The Olympic icon shares why setting mental health goals has been a key part of his New Year’s resolutions and how he plans to achieve them. Image provided by Talkspace
  • Michael Phelps launched a campaign with Talkspace to encourage people to incorporate mental health care into their New Year’s resolutions.
  • The campaign focuses on sleep, movement, breathing, separation and communication to get help to ensure mental health.
  • Phelps hopes to help more people gain the tools they need to take better care of their mental health throughout the year and beyond.

Goal setting has been a part of Michael Phelps’ life since he was 8 years old. His swimming coach at the time encouraged him to set goals regularly.

“I always wrote them down on a piece of paper. I’m kind of old school where when I get up in the morning, I want to be able to see what I’m trying to accomplish when I get out of bed,” Phelps told Healthline.

Setting short- and long-term goals, achieving them, and then adding more to his list of goals has all played a role in making Phelps the most decorated US Olympian of all time.

“Every day, I didn’t feel complete. I felt like I was hit by a bus sometimes. I still had to get up and do the things I needed to do to allow me to achieve my goals,” he said.

While much of his swimming career has been based around physical goals he has met time and time again, over the past 20 years he has also come to understand the importance of mental health goals.

“[All the things] That I’ve done in my career has been technically perfect with the body that I’ve been given. I was swimming as efficiently as I could with every stroke I took [but as far as being] “Mentally fit, I could probably do a little more work,” Phelps said.

In 2004, he won six gold medals and two bronze medals at the Athens Olympics, but once the event was over, he experienced “post-Olympic depression,” which led to years of living with anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

In 2014, after getting his DUI, Phelps forced himself to get help for his mental health, something he said saved his life.

“It was very difficult because I really didn’t know how to do it or what to do. [When] I sought help and saw that I was really able to learn a lot about myself and I felt more relaxed, my shoulders were down, I could process things easier, and life just got simpler. “I was able to be myself in this very complicated world,” said Phelps.

Like many people at the beginning of the year, Phelps makes resolutions. This year, he aims to stick to the home routine he created with his wife during the pandemic, squat more than 400 pounds, and listen more intently.

“[I] I have a tendency to interrupt people because I get so excited about what they’re saying and instead of just listening to what they have to say, I’m excited to insert what I want to say.”

However, his biggest goal for 2023 is to spread awareness about mental health, including suicide prevention.

“[I] I have an idea of ​​what suicide looks like because at some point I didn’t want to live. There are a lot of people who struggle and suffer in similar ways as I am, so I’m really able to teach and pass on the knowledge I’ve found…[is] Something very important.”

To reach as many people as possible, Phelps launched the “Start at the topWith Talkspace to encourage individuals to incorporate mental healthcare into their New Year’s resolutions. The campaign focuses on 5 ways to improve mental health. They are:

  • asleep
  • moves
  • Disconnect
  • same
  • Talk to someone.

“When we were talking about the campaign, I loved the idea of ​​starting at the top,” said Phelps.

Suggest establishing a routine with each class by setting aside 30 days for each class before moving on to the next.

“If you get into a routine, you’re basically creating habits. If you create habits, it becomes second nature…then you can figure out what other things you want to tackle, and then you can start focusing on that while you’re still focused on [your first goal],” He said.

For example, as a swimmer, he figured out the best way to kick, and once he mastered it, he would practice it for 30 days.

“Then I get in the pool and I’m like, ‘Wow now I can focus on the glide or the take off, or the turn with the foot’ because naturally the kick is there and it’s on autopilot,” Phelps said.

Jenna MoffaLCSW, psychotherapist, said physical and mental routines are essential to general well-being.

“If we are someone who struggles with anxiety or depression, our physical routine can play an essential role in treating the more intrusive symptoms,” Mova told Healthline. “We focus a lot on self-development and self-improvement at the beginning of each year, but we leave out self-care and self-compassion. That means including our mental and emotional needs in the equation and asking ourselves what self-care might look like for us.”

Michael PhelpsPost on Pinterest
“[I] I have an idea of ​​what suicide looks like because at some point I didn’t want to live. There are a lot of people who struggle and suffer in similar ways as I am, so I’m really able to teach and pass on the knowledge I’ve found…[is] Phelps said. Image provided by Talkspace

Phelps shared his personal goals for each of the five categories in his latest campaign and how he plans to achieve them.


When it comes to sleep in 2023, Phelps is focusing on getting seven and a half to eight hours of sleep with each night’s sleep consisting of 20% REM and 20% deep sleep.

“If I can have it [all] These numbers in the night then fired on all cylinders,” he said.

This may be due to the fact that sleep helps process and store emotional information and that lack of sleep can affect the brain’s ability to consolidate and remember positive emotional experiences. Natalie Christine Dattilo, Ph.DA clinical psychologist and health expert.

“Being able to remember positive emotional experiences is important for managing our moods and reducing emotional reactivity,” she told Healthline.


Not only has the movement made Phelps his icon, but it’s also an integral part of his mental health.

According to Moffa, regular movement or physical activity should be part of your mental health toolkit.

“Beyond releasing endorphins, movement can provide an aspect of mindfulness that reconnects us with our bodies and helps allow emotions, such as anxiety, to pass through our bodies instead of remaining stagnant,” she said.

Dattilo agreed, adding that exercise releases endocannabinoids, “which enhance our sense of social connection. It also heightens our sensitivity to pleasure, which means it makes everything we do more enjoyable.”


Our fast-paced, always-on culture can lead to poor sleep patterns and higher rates of anxiety, Mova said.

“Having routines where we turn off our phones and computers several hours before bed and not turn them on or call them right away in the morning is a way to reconnect with self, emotions, and our emotional and physical needs,” she said.

Phelps turns to 5- or 10-minute breaks for himself throughout the day, and he said showers and a quick nap also help him reset himself when he’s feeling mentally unwell.

“My depression and anxiety come and go whenever they feel the urge to. [Over] Over the last eight to 10 years, I’ve really been able to acquire these tools, so you’ll be able to, and also learn more about who I am and understand myself and what I need in those specific moments.”


Breathing is a powerful determinant of a person’s physical and mental state, which people have more control over than they think, Dattilo said.

“Breathing is one of the only physiological functions that is involuntary and voluntary, which means we can influence it on purpose. We can speed up or lengthen the inhale if we want to feel more energetic and alert, or we can slow it down and lengthen the exhalation if we want to feel more calm and relaxed.” .

Dattilo explained that the optimal breathing rate to induce a state of “relaxed focus” is about 5 to 6 breaths per minute, or about 10 seconds for a complete breathing cycle (one inhalation, one exhalation).

For Phelps, taking a lot of breaths is hard, which he jokes he needs to improve on land.

“In the water, it was a lot easier,” he said.

Talk to someone

Lack of communication is the number one modifiable risk factor for depression, according to a study by researchers at Harvard Medical School. The study considered contact to include a trusted person, such as a family member, partner, friend, pastor, rabbi, teacher, coach, therapist, or counsellor.

“Increasing your sense of connection can go a long way when it comes to prevention and promoting mental health,” said Dattilo.

For Phelps, his relationship with therapy saved his life and helped maintain his mental health.

“I became too weak to allow myself to get the help and care I needed. Also, I had to go and find different therapists from time to time.” [because] Sometimes the therapist may not work for me at the moment and that’s fine too.”

Phelps plans to help others connect with a suitable therapist as part of his latest campaign. Explain how in file Instagram post In early January. Campaign participants are eligible to win a free month of unlimited messaging or live video therapy from Talkspace. For a chance to win, comment on Phelps’ campaign post with #StartfromtheTop and follow @Talkspace to see a list of the 31 winners at the end of the month.

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