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From Breakdown to Breakthrough: How Michael Phelps Used ACT to Overcome Anxiety and Depression

As an athlete, it's not uncommon to experience anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions that can hinder your performance. These emotions can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as the pressure to perform, fear of failure, or self-doubt about your abilities. These negative emotions can lead to poor performance and even burnout if left unchecked.


That's where acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) comes in. ACT is a form of psychotherapy that helps people accept their thoughts and emotions without judgment and commit to action that aligns with their values. It can be an effective tool for enhancing sporting performance by helping athletes develop a healthier and more adaptive relationship with their thoughts and emotions and by assisting them in clarifying and pursuing their values and goals.





Michael Phelps


One famous athlete who has used acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to enhance their performance is Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time. Phelps, who won 28 medals in his career, has struggled with anxiety and depression throughout his life. In 2012, he experienced a significant breakdown and considered retiring from swimming.


At this point, Phelps began working with a sport psychologist who introduced him to ACT. Phelps found that ACT helped him accept his thoughts and emotions without judgment and stay focused on the task at hand. He also used ACT to clarify his values and set goals for his career.


Phelps's use of ACT was instrumental in his comeback in the 2012 Olympics, where he won four gold and two silver medals. He credited ACT with helping him stay present and focused and motivating him to continue competing at the highest level.


Today, Phelps advocates mental health awareness and has spoken openly about the importance of seeking help for mental health issues. He credits ACT with helping him overcome his struggles and reach his full potential as an athlete.


Mindfulness


One of the fundamental principles of ACT is mindfulness, or the ability to be present and aware of your thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. This can be especially helpful for athletes, who often need to stay focused and present to perform at their best. Practising mindfulness can teach athletes to stay present and focused rather than getting caught up in negative thoughts or emotions that can distract them.


Pressure


In addition to mindfulness, ACT helps athletes develop coping strategies for managing anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions that may arise in high-pressure situations. This can be especially helpful for athletes who struggle with anxiety or stress before or during competition. By learning to accept these emotions and stay focused on the task at hand, athletes can perform at their best and avoid getting overwhelmed by negative emotions.


Strengthen values


Finally, ACT can help athletes clarify their values and set goals that align with those values. This can help athletes stay motivated and focused on what is most important to them, even when faced with challenges or setbacks. By committing to taking action that aligns with their values, athletes can stay motivated and focused on their goals, which can lead to improved performance and well-being.





Conclusion


In conclusion, ACT is a powerful tool for enhancing sporting performance. It can help athletes develop a healthier and more adaptive relationship with their thoughts and emotions, develop coping strategies for managing anxiety and stress, and clarify and pursue their values and goals. By using ACT, athletes can overcome the mental obstacles that may be holding them back and reach their full potential as an athlete.



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