For months, experts have warned about the prospect of a an entirely different threat unleashed by the coronavirus: a mental health crisis that could sweep the country.
Their concerns are rooted in more than a year of social isolation, the grief and loss, and economic and emotional trauma that the pandemic has inflicted. A new survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan is shedding light on which groups might be most vulnerable to the effects.
Four groups – women, people ages 50 to 64, people with higher levels of education, and individuals in either fair or poor physical health – “are more likely to have experienced worsened mental health during the first nine months of the pandemic,” or to have felt heightened anxiety or sleep problems, researchers found.
As many as one-fifth of all older adults said they felt their mental health had worsened throughout the health crisis, the findings concluded.
Women were found to be likelier than men to have broached the topic with a health provider or considered medication as a treatment option. The research was conducted by surveying more than 2,000 adults across the US in late January in the National Poll on Health Aging.
Based on the poll’s findings, which were published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the University of Michigan researchers now suggest that health providers look more closely at older adults to spot signs of worsening mental health, they said this week in a blog post on the university’s website.
Stepping up treatment offerings
“We need to continue to look for and address the mental health effects of the pandemic and connect people to treatment resources,” Lauren Gerlach, a doctor and assistant professor at the university’s medical school who was the primary author of the newly-published paper, said in a statement.
“Poor mental health can decrease functioning, independence, and quality of life for older adults but treatment can significantly help,” she added.
There were some bright spots for certain groups who participated in the poll. People ages 65 to 80 were less likely to report declining mental health, the university said, and, overall, two-thirds of respondents viewed their mental health as being “excellent or very good.”
Nearly a third added that they’d taken steps to “improve their mental health” since the pandemic began, like increasing exercise, diet, and meditation.
Other warning signs are emerging
Meanwhile, other research has alluded to the dangers of a looming mental health crisis brought on by COVID-19.
Roughly 40% of US adults have professed to feeling the symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder – about four times higher than those who felt similarly in 2019, prior to the pandemic, the Kaiser Family Foundation said in February.
As early as May 2020, the World Health Organization sounded the alarm over the potential for “a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months.”
In that warning, which called for increased investments in mental health services, the WHO reported that women were especially at risk of declining mental health, while balancing demands like childcare and home-schooling.
And Insider reported in June that mental health and substance use experts are concerned that this tumultuous year might also have intensified the consumption of alcohol among underage youth.
This week, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew from the 2020 Olympic Games to care for her mental health. After a wobbly vault run where Biles risked serious injury, the athlete admitted that the high stakes of the Olympics felt like too much, and the stress was affecting her performance.
“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my wellbeing,” Biles said. “We’re not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day, and sometimes you just have to step back.”
And Biles and her supporters are right: Quitting when your work is harming you takes courage and is an immense burden to parse out. The fact Biles was able to understand her own limitations and communicate her boundaries to the world in such a high-pressure competition is no small feat, and she should be commended for it.
Many people have taken this moment to call on others to also take stock of their mental health and take a rest when they need it. Those of us who have struggled with mental illness for most of our lives are all too familiar with this phenomenon: There’s a cycle of mental health affirmations that circulate on social media everytime a famous person opens up about their mental struggles.
The problem is that these affirmations don’t actually reflect a society where mental self care is truly taken seriously. Particularly after a pandemic where many of us experienced death and trauma, but were barely granted time away from work to process a global disaster, the gap between “it’s okay not to be okay” and actual mental health provisions at work feels enormous.
Everyone should have the right to quit or take paid time off to care for their own wellbeing. But the reality is that many of us can’t afford to take time off or quit, as much as we know our mental health is suffering. It’s a fantasy to keep repeating that mental health is important and we must care for it, without actually looking at the crushing pressures of capitalism and how they manifest in the workplace. The constant grind of working for food and shelter doesn’t allow most workers to take time off for self care and rest.
I can’t afford to pause for my mental wellbeing
By far, one of the hardest parts of being mentally ill is dealing with work stressors and financial responsibilities. I have been semi-public about my struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and depression for almost a decade, and I was recently diagnosed with PTSD. As part of my treatment plan, I’m being encouraged to slow down the pace of my working life, but quitting isn’t simply a matter of choice.
As a freelance journalist, I have to follow the news cycle to make money and be able to pay rent and bills. I wish I could simply drop everything and take extended time off. But I can’t afford to spend a whole month unpaid, nor do I feel like I can risk editors forgetting that I’m available to be commissioned by being on hiatus.
Plus, treating any mental illness is expensive. Though I’d love to only focus on becoming mentally well rather than working, I also need to make enough money to pay for my mental health treatment out of pocket. In addition to paying for food and rent, I also need to pay for my medication, my psychiatrist, and my therapist.
It’s a never ending cycle: I should slow down to take care of myself, but to take care of myself, I need to make money, so I exhaust myself to make money and be able to pay for treatment. The odds are against me, but my situation can illuminate what we should be focusing on when we talk about mental health and wellbeing. There needs to be efforts to care for our mental health that go beyond the rhetorical.
We need systemic changes to truly prioritize mental health
A good place to start would be raising the minimum wage and decreasing job insecurity. A recent study determined that a mere $1 increase in minimum hourly wage can decrease suicide rates. Job insecurity is directly related to higher rates of anxiety and somatic symptoms, so creating jobs where people feel secure is essential to caring for people’s mental health.
Prioritizing mental health has to be a concrete possibility for everyone, even when their wages are high and they have a secure job. This means that employers, institutions, and governments have to prioritize mental health over productivity and profit, rather than sending out memos and social media posts with empty platitudes about taking care of our mental health. Paid time off without consequences and a good healthcare plan are basic mental health provisions any employer should be giving their employees.
Biles is right: Everyone should have the right to quit harmful situations that are detrimental to their mental health. But no matter how many infographics I see on Instagram that tell me my mental health is the most important thing in my life, the rhetorical affirmation that I deserve to be well won’t change my current material inability to slow down and get the treatment I deserve. We need concrete ways to care for ourselves and our minds, and that requires major structural changes in our places of work and in how we make our money.
The moment something unforeseen happens, many of us tend to slip into negative thinking habits.
Not only do these thinking patterns drag you down when it comes to achieving your goals – they can, in extreme cases, be detrimental to your health.
“Humans are very creative when it comes to finding new ways of thinking unconstructively and unrealistically,” explained psychologist Elke Overdick. “But in my experience, these nine – with which I enjoy working very much – are the most common.”
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, all thinking traps have one thing in common. As a general rule, they don’t meet the criteria for appropriate thinking:
Thinking should be realistic.
They should be helpful.
That may sound pretty obvious but it’s hard to ensure all your thoughts always fulfill these two criteria.
Take perfectionism or people-pleasing as examples: neither thought pattern is realistic or helpful and yet many of us fall into these thinking traps. Unfortunately, by the time we notice, it’s usually too late.
“To be honest, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who isn’t affected by thinking traps,” said Overdick.
In an interview with Insider, she explained how you can manage or even rid yourself of these negative thinking patterns.
Being an overly harsh critic
Self-deprecation can be very damaging.
“I think it’s the worst thinking trap of them all,” said Overdick.
If you keep telling yourself you’re not likable or loveable, that means you’re focusing single-mindedly on your weaknesses.
“And if you only look at your weaknesses,” she said, “then, of course, it will be hard to like yourself because you’re not picking up on your strengths or your potential.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
If you’re doing the above, are your thought patterns reasonable? Probably not.
“If you have friends or there are people in your family who enjoy spending time with you, that’s evidence that, realistically, you have positive or lovable qualities”.
As well as bearing this in mind, it might also be helpful to make a list of your own positive qualities.
If, on the other hand, it’s your work you’re devaluing and you genuinely believe you aren’t good enough for your job, you need to bear in mind that companies are always thinking about how to fill vacancies.
When negative thoughts enter your head, actively try to remind yourself to be realistic by saying “I am lovable” or “I make an important contribution”.
“Anxious thoughts can be rational and, to a certain extent, serve an important purpose,” said Overdick.
“If we’re afraid or worried, we may be able to better prepare ourselves for or avoid situations that endanger us — however, if the thoughts get out of hand and become unrealistic, you’ve fallen into a thinking trap.
How to get out of the thinking trap
Overdick likes to work with five questions against fears and inhibitions. These questions can help bring your fearful thoughts down to a realistic level and work as a good guard against catastrophic thinking. Here they are:
1. What’s the worst that could happen?
2. What can I do to prevent “the worst that could happen”?
3. How likely is it the worst thing will happen?
4. What can I do if the worst thing does happen?
5. What will it mean for my future if the worst thing happens?
If you take a moment to answer these questions, you may find that the problem is not as bad as you’d previously thought and, equally, that the worst-case scenario isn’t either.
Rather than worrying, try saying to yourself: “I can handle it” or “There is always a way”.
Taking on too much responsibility
Do you sometimes feel responsible for things that are out of your hands? Do you often feel like you want to influence things you can’t change?
That’s a sign you have a tendency to take on too much responsibility.
While it may sound a positive trait, unfortunately, your behavior can also have a negative impact on others, as Overdick explains: “People in this thinking trap sometimes tend to incapacitate others without intending to and, obviously, with no malicious intent at all — but not delegating tasks to others might prevent those people from learning something and progressing themselves.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
Sometimes you can take the time to ask yourself whether something is really your job, or you can ask yourself whether you can actually influence a situation.
Remind yourself: “That’s not my job”, “I have no influence over this” or “I’ll let another person do this for their own development”.
Dealing only in absolutes
We all have values and standards we adhere to in life.
People who fall into the trap of absolute demands, “musts”, and “shoulds” find it very important to adhere to these values — perhaps even to an exaggerated degree.
“If someone doesn’t adhere to your standards and you can’t accept that, you’ll end up angry. Often we forget that our values aren’t universal.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
Unfortunately, you have to face the facts: you are not the measure of all things.
“Sometimes it’s also good to be in others’ shoes. Other people have different rules that may be just as good and valuable to them as yours are to you,” Overdick explains. “The trick to managing this trap lies in accepting that there are basically no universal values and standards.”
Values and standards are subjective — they vary from person to person and are influenced by things like upbringing, culture, religion, and education.
Alternatives thoughts for when you find yourself stuck in the “must” or “should” mindset are “I am not the measure of all things” or “standards and values are subjective”.
Salvador Dali once said: “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”
Perfectionists expect themselves and others to be perfect and end up failing massively.
“It’s unrealistic and unattainable,” said Overdick.
However, perfectionism shouldn’t be confused with striving to improve.
It’s useful to strive to better oneself so you can develop, progress, and be successful. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is not.
“If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you aren’t just putting yourself under a lot of pressure; you can’t develop any further either because, without mistakes, you can’t learn.
How to get out of the thinking trap
The goal should be to see the positive in mistakes and to accept one’s own mistakes, as well as those of others.
“Mistakes are a learning experience and help you to progress. They teach you how to do things differently and how to get closer to your goals.
Instead of looking into the past with an “Oh God, how could I have done that” mentality, Overdick said it’s more productive to think of the future and say to yourself: “Okay, that went badly and I did it wrong. Next time I’ll do it better.”
Alternatives phrases to say to yourself include “mistakes get me ahead in the long-run”, “mistakes are human” or even “mistakes make me likable”.
“After all, nobody wants to be around someone perfect all the time,” said the psychologist.
Can you think of a single well-known public figure who has ever managed to be liked by everyone?
The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi? Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon?
While all these people were admired by many, they were by no means liked by everyone. This is demonstrative of how unrealistic it is to aim to be liked by everyone.
How to get out of the thinking trap
“I think it’s very important to remind yourself that you don’t like everyone,” said Overdick.
“Whether or not someone likes you depends on so many different factors, over which you simply often have no influence at all. For example, what does the person I’m trying to impress like? If he likes tall blonds, I can’t change that I’m small and dark-haired.”
Alternatives things you can say to yourself include “It’s enough if my friends like me”, “I don’t like everyone either” or “I don’t have to be popular, it’s enough if people respect me”.
Your telephone provider doesn’t need to like you; it’s enough if you get what you need.
Trying to mind-read
Sometimes it can be as little as a glance or an ambiguous comment — those who get caught up in attempting to mind-read end up interpreting others’ actions or remarks as being directed against themselves, which leads to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
How to get out of the thinking trap
Is your thinking rational and accurate? Probably not if you’re trying to read someone’s mind.
Maybe there’s a completely different reason for the behavior you’ve picked up on.
For example, could it have something to do with the fact that the other person is stressed or under pressure? Is there a reason for his behavior that has nothing to do with you?
Counter-thoughts at times when you find yourself worrying about what someone else is thinking might include: “This behavior isn’t necessarily intended for me” or “It’s their issue; not mine”.
Do you often find yourself saying: “Everyone else is to blame, not me”?
People who think like that are usually over-simplifying, according to Overdick.
“On the one hand it’s easy to cede responsibility; on the other hand — and this is the big disadvantage of this thinking trap — you end up losing sight of your own potential to influence a situation, as well as opportunities to develop yourself.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
Question the extent to which you’ve contributed to a situation.
Do you always get handed pointless, thankless tasks at work?
Well, had you ever stopped to think that, perhaps, you failed to mention that these tasks are a waste of time?
Have you ever asked to do something else? If not, then why aren’t you thinking about what you can do to change the situation?
If you can’t solve the problem alone, you can also get help — for example from a colleague, by talking to your manager or, in extreme cases, by talking to HR.
Remember to say to yourself “There’s always something I can do” or to ask yourself “How can I do something to change this?” before you start pointing fingers.
Kidding yourself when it comes to over-indulgence
Sometimes it’s okay to indulge a little, but it can become problematic when you delude yourself into thinking something that isn’t all that good for you is somehow beneficial: it can prevent you from achieving your goals in the longterm.
“It’s good not to focus on goals and achievements constantly but, in the long run, continually indulging and focusing on things that distract you from what matters are actually good for you is obviously an ineffective approach,” said the psychologist.
“Unfortunately, as humans, we function in such a way that we want short term gratification but aren’t always prepared for the long term negative consequences. Take gambling addiction or food binges as an example: we’re looking for quick and immediate pleasure and, at the time, prefer to ignore the long-term negative consequences, like financial loss and weight gain.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
“I think the same logic can be applied here as for those who victimize themselves — you just need a bit of a kick up the behind,” said Overdick.
In general, it’s good to question yourself, to be critical, and to ask again and again what longterm drawbacks you may experience by seeking short term enjoyment. In that way, you can stop to consider what to do about it.
“It’s better to intervene with yourself as soon as possible.”
Useful affirmations such as “I can stand up for my own goals” may help you to stop and consider what needs to be done.
Practical tips to avoid thinking traps
Thinking traps wouldn’t be so awful if we were able to recognize them and nip them in the bud immediately. Unfortunately, it’s usually only the case that we recognize the symptoms once they’re really getting out of hand.
One thing you can do to challenge your own thinking traps is to look for a “sparring partner”, which is basically someone who supports you using their own experience and knowledge — particularly any knowledge and experience that’s relevant to you.
“This can be anyone from a family member or partner to a good friend or colleague, and it can also be a coach or a therapist,” said Overdick, “as long as it isn’t someone who’ll be easily satisfied with your first answer.”
Another method is to write “counter-thoughts” on a small card and place them somewhere where you’ll look often during the day. It could be your wallet, your desk, or the front door — or you can also use a symbolic object.
“In psychology, we refer to these objects as ‘anchors’ — a new way of thinking ‘anchored’ into a postcard, a shell from a nice beach or a pretty piece of jewelry. The object itself is less important — it’s more important that you put it in a place where it will always actively remind you to think of the alternative.”
This is a great technique for those thoughts that resurface when you least expect them to, according to Overdick, “because they hit you even harder”.
It’s especially important that you’re reminded over and over again: you don’t adopt a new way of thinking overnight simply by flipping a switch. It takes a lot of repetition to get rid of your old thinking patterns.
“It’s like learning to play the piano — it’s not enough just to understand how a piece works; you need to consolidate what you learn through repetition and practice.”
The effects of this situation were different from the average depressive episode: My near-constant consumption of COVID-19-related news was clearly bogging me down, as was my irritation related to how my community was handling its response to the pandemic.
These were new and unusual factors and far beyond my control. Now they were affecting my work, my personal well-being, and my relationships with my loved ones.
I needed help, and with my busy schedule, I decided to take advantage of one of the many online services available to work at shaking my dark feelings.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s the proliferation of options available for mental healthcare online, although access to care for marginalized communities and those who can’t afford to pay for it still lags behind.
After evaluating the surplus of offerings available, I elected to go with Brightside
Brad Kittredge, a former 23andMe executive, told the San Francisco Business Times that he founded Brightside Health in 2017 after witnessing his father’s battle with depression and wondering why the US healthcare system wasn’t more helpful.
Kittredge got together with Mimi Winsberg, a former in-house psychiatrist at Facebook and now Brightside’s chief marketing officer, who created the basic tool that later became one of the backbones of the Brightside experience.
The company’s stated commitment is to deliver the kind of care it’d want its family members to have, and as of May, the company has secured more than $31 million in funding toward this goal, including a $24 million Series A round from ACME Capital.
For me, the main selling point was its offer to combine psychiatry with therapy
I’ve been in treatment for mental-health issues since the 1990s, so I’ve seen quite a few of these apps. It never really seems like they have a good, coherent grasp on the need to integrate psychiatry with therapy (but then again, neither does the outside world). It appeared that Brightside might be working toward a truly integrated approach, which is why I decided to give it a try.
The app matches you with a medical doctor, who will assess the need for prescription medication, as well as a therapist to develop a “personalized treatment plan.” You can choose a medication-only subscription plan, a therapy-only plan, or a plan that includes both, and charges are as low as $45 per month.
I chose a subscription plan that blended both medication and therapy for $299 per month, with the first month discounted to $199. I’m now in my third month with the service.
One terrific value of this service that’s embedded within it and very well hidden is that all medications prescribed by its providers are $15 – and believe me, for some mental-health-related medications, that could represent a significant savings. Just one of the medications I take is $300 a month without using the GoodRx card.
Also, while I sought treatment for pandemic burnout, Brightside boasts that it treats anxiety and depression in a “full spectrum of related conditions” ranging from panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Some online services won’t accept those with diagnoses of bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, for reasons of which I am unsure.
After signing up, I went through a lengthy intake questionnaire that assessed my personal health and my mental-health background, and what I was looking to achieve
The questionnaire asked for general information such as my height and weight, as well as for mental-health-specific information such as what medications I was taking and what treatment modalities I’d tried before. It concluded by asking for specific outcomes I’d like to get from my treatment.
The algorithm then gave me a score on both my depression and anxiety, and those scores were displayed on my homepage, along with my medication and therapy assignment. The score doesn’t appear to be standardized to the DSM-5, just the company’s own particular scoring system that gives it the ability to track your progress. From the user’s side, having everything on one dashboard is convenient.
Based on the questionnaire, I was matched with a psychiatrist and a licensed clinical social worker, both of whom were licensed to practice in my state.
My appointment to see the doctor was within 36 hours of the time that I signed up for the service
My appointment with the therapist was within 48 hours. I was pleased with this response time and hopeful about getting some relief.
When I met with the doctor, he was understanding about my situation and demonstrated a knowledge of the extensive information I’d already entered into my chart through Brightside’s intake questionnaire.
He went through the medications I’d entered into my questionnaire to ensure that he fully understood what I was already taking and asked my opinion about how each was working. He was warm and personable, and he empathized with me about the feelings I was experiencing.
He asked me how I would feel about him prescribing a medication that I had taken once before, to add to my medication routine. I told him I’d be happy to try it.
I decided to have the prescription filled at the CVS down the street from me, as opposed to having it filled via Brightside’s mail-delivery pharmacy, and that was the end of our interaction.
Since we spoke in the evening, I was able to pick up my prescription the next morning. For some reason, I was a little suspicious about whether the prescription would actually be at the pharmacy, but I picked it up without any hitches.
I talked with the therapist via Zoom
She listened to me discuss my symptoms and what I wanted to get out of therapy. She also let me know that Brightside’s methods are based on cognitive behavioral therapy, and she outlined the therapeutic program, which is structured around 10 interactive lessons, a self-guided, computer-based program that you progress through at your own pace.
At the end of our session, she told me that our next meetup would be in a month, which was a surprise to me. I’d previously read “unlimited access to caring providers” on Brightside’s homepage, and I envisioned that I’d more or less have an always-on Zoom connection with my therapist – not so, I was learning.
To be fair, the text messaging with my therapist was, in fact, pretty much always on. And it doesn’t say anywhere on the Brightside site that you’ll be able to contact your Brightside providers via video chat whenever you feel like it.
But be forewarned that the service is self-directed – which is, incidentally, in line with the price – so if you’re looking for something to deliver more of an up-close-and-personal experience, this isn’t it.
I think technology is the way of the future when it comes to delivering mental healthcare. It cuts through barriers of cost and accessibility. But in a lot of ways, we’re just not there yet.
As a case in point, I got a note from my therapist shortly before billing was to go out for the second month of my subscription to Brightside that she would no longer be with the service. It was a lovely note, but this is a red flag for me: As with choosing a hairdresser, you don’t want to chair-hop from therapist to therapist, even if it’s online.
Subscribing to Brightside was definitely worth it to snap me out of my burnout for the psychiatrist appointment alone
The appointment was quick and easy, and it produced a prescription that has been successful in providing relief.
Whether I’ll continue with the subscription for the medication management alone or discontinue it and leave that function to my primary-care provider remains to be seen.
Late in February, mourners gathered at Zuma Beach in Malibu to remember Zachary Wohlman, a boxer who had recently died at 32. In the billion dollar sunshine, they stood around a wreath of white orchids, the flowers Wohlman tended when he wasn’t bloodying his opponents.
Wohlman’s movie star good looks had survived a broken jaw, a textbook pugilist’s nose, and multiple other facial traumas. One eulogist, a longtime sparring partner, boasted about kicking Kid Yamaka’s ass.
Some of the bereaved wore jackets embroidered with Wohlman’s tag line, “All class.” His young widow gave out t-shirts for Kid Yamaka’s “retirement party.” Some grievers wore wetsuits. Others went shirtless. They embraced and stood close, mostly wearing masks.
Wohlman had survived a nightmarish childhood in the Valley to become a promising welterweight and telegenic media star. He had hoped to fight for a world championship.
However realistic the dream, his ongoing struggles with addiction, made it less so. “I’ll just be honest,” he said in the Emmy-nominated docu-series, “Why We Fight.” “I have a problem with opiates.” Yet for a time he was able to overcome his illness to express himself as a fighter and as a man with an enviable capacity for love and empathy. “There’s nothing more therapeutic than being of service to somebody,” Wohlman had said.
As one mourner said: “He often helped me when I should have been helping him.”
“If you make a living getting hit in the face, something went wrong,” Wohlman said in a short film directed by Matt Ogens. But keep listening and unarmed combat sounds less like a job and more like a calling, the purest distillation of the human condition. Boxers say you don’t know someone until you fight them, and maybe they’re right.
Jews have a special reverence for our tribe’s great athletes, perhaps because there are so few of them. Wohlman wasn’t observant, but he cared about his heritage. He got Bar Mitzvahed at 20 and had an attachment to Jewish stars, whether diamond encrusted or massive and tattooed across his belly – “FAITH”.
He was conscious of himself as heir to an endangered tradition of Jewish boxers. In the first half of the 20th century, when big bouts resonated far beyond the ring and Jews had a much more tenuous position in American life, quite a few found glory in the ring. In 1933, Max Baer wore Star of David trunks when he defeated Hitler’s favorite fighter and former heavyweight champion, Max Schmelling, at Yankee Stadium. (Baer’s victory led to an affair with Greta Garbo. Schmelling later defeated Joe Louis and then lost to him in a 1938 title fight dubbed the “battle of the century.”)
One of the most celebrated Jewish fighters was Barney Ross, a tough Chicago kid, the son of a murdered rabbi, who held world championships in three weight classes, including welterweight. Later, Ross enlisted in the Marines and earned a Silver Star for valor fighting Japanese soldiers at Guadalcanal. While recovering from his wounds, Ross became addicted to morphine. There’s a 1957 movie about him called “Monkey on My Back.”
Ogens’ film juxtaposes Wohlman wrapping his hands for the ring with wrapping tefillin. With the phylacteries, a rabbi tells him, “Your arms become instruments not of destruction but of God.” Wohlman shadow boxes across the old city of Jerusalem, a Rocky sequel that never got made.
A more memorable sequence, to my mind a more Jewish one, comes in the first episode of the docu-series “Why We Fight.” Wohlman travels to Tijuana, for an easy fight to juice his won/loss record and with that his prospects for a higher profile bout back home.
Wohlman scores a first round TKO against a tomato can named Roman Mendez. After the fight, he visits Mendez’ barrio to meet the boxer’s family and see the pig Mendez buys with his prize money. Wohlman meets another fighter, a candy hawker by day, and encourages him to train harder, and to be faithful to his wife.
A later episode distills the grim economics of bloodsport even more starkly. In Cambodia, Wohlman meets a 10-year old prize-fighter and his trainer/promoter, the self-described “Don King of Cambodia,” who both cares for and profits from pre-pubescent fighters. “I want [the 10-year old] to be wealthy and whatever his version of successful is,” Wohlman said. “But I don’t think what I hope he’ll become and the reality will meet.”
Wohlman didn’t just perform concern on camera. For the last two years of his life, he directed Ring of Hope, a boxing program for at-risk kids in Dallas. He’d hoped to open a branch in L.A., hinting at a life he could have led once his dreams of glory subsided.
Instead the people who loved him gathered on the beach to say goodbye. After the tributes, the singing and the crying, two guys in wetsuits bore the wreath out to sea. As the waves enveloped it, the crowd applauded.
“High-speed miserable chess”
I first heard of Wohlmann a few years ago from my friend Vanessa Adriance, a corporate litigator who became one of his closest friends. A serious amateur jock, Adriance had been cardio boxing for a couple years at an L.A. gym when he showed up.
Wohlman introduced himself as an acolyte of Freddie Roach, a legendary Hall of Fame trainer whose gym, Wild Card Boxing, is on the second floor of a Hollywood strip mall. Wohlman began to teach real boxing, how to throw a punch, how to dodge one, not anything Adriance had to worry about when she was just getting sweaty whaling on a bag.
Adriance found Wohlman “magnetic” and, with her marriage falling apart, she was open to new experiences. She and another woman decided they wanted to box each other. Wohlman wasn’t interested in supervising them, but he offered to spar with Adriance. He wouldn’t knock her out, but he’d punch her and she could punch back.
Adriance started going to every class he taught, pestering him for months until he told her to get a mouth guard at the Sports Authority. He found some dusty headgear lying around the gym and rubbed her face with vaseline – “greased” her – to reduce the damage from his punches.
“It doesn’t feel good to get punched of course,” Adriance said of that first day of sparring but the pain didn’t overwhelm her. “What I remember is being disoriented.” It felt like she was underwater and didn’t know which way was up. For some people, Wohlman said, throwing the first punch is harder. Not for my friend. “I don’t know what that says about me,” she said. She thinks she landed a sloppy jab or two.
She also found it intellectually engaging, like “high-speed miserable chess,” litigation in the raw. As she describes it, Wohlman indulged her, like a father driving with a toddler on his lap. But she refused to let go of the wheel. After three rounds she felt overwhelmed by the adrenaline rush, “Something about hard sparring cleanses your brain,” she said “It will rinse you clean or it will break you emotionally, whatever dam is holding it together.”
As she got to know Wohlman, she learned his story. (Wohlman’s widow didn’t respond to interview requests for this story.) His mother, he has said in interviews, changed the locks on him when he was 15 and he went to live with his father. They committed crimes and did meth together, he has said, until a police raid one morning. Wohlmann flushed money and drugs down the toilet and the cops told him his father was going to prison.
When Wohlman got fired from the gym, she followed him to the hallowed and intimidating confines of Wild Card. She felt the pull of the gym’s “weird, fast intimacy.” People whose names she didn’t know would wipe up her blood or reach into her mouth to pull out her guard. It seems she’s spoken about little else since.
Wohlman won the Los Angeles Golden Gloves in 2010 and then went pro, stringing together a professional record of 10-3-2 according to the site BoxRec. No brawler, he had an old-school fighting style and cared about technique. “He was a lot tougher and meaner and angrier than his boxing style almost allowed him to be,” Javier Calderon, a longtime sparring partner said. “He was willing to take a shot to give a shot.”
Calderon, who describes himself as “a gainfully unemployed artist,” sparred with and mentored Wohlman for about 12 years. “I beat his ass until he got better.” Wohlman lacked a “concussive” punch but he was accurate. Calderon thinks Wohlman may have been responsible for tearing his retina, an injury that needed surgery. “His jab was working beautifully and digging into my eyeballs”
“One of his love languages was sparring,” said Eli Cobillas, who knew Wohlman in Dallas. He had a “slick, crafty” style and liked to put on soul or jazz before he started punching.
Eric Brown, a celebrated trainer who named Wohlman Kid Yamaka, said Wohlman liked to humiliate his opponents by standing right in front of them while somehow remaining untouchable.
Calderon is a tee-totaller who says he was never around Wohlman when he was high. Rather he emphasized Wohlman’s drive to improve himself. “I knew that even when things were going good, it’s a balancing act, a tightrope walk,” Calderon said. “There were times when he faltered and faltered hard.”
In December Wohlman came back to California and went to a rehab facility in the desert east of LA. It was the first time he was really sober since he was 19, he told Adriance, our mutual friend. In rehab he learned to play chess, which reminded him of slow-motion boxing.
On January 29 he posted a picture of a 60-days sober key chain on Instagram.
Adriance last spoke to Wohlman two weeks later, on the Friday before Valentine’s Day. He said he was coming out of a meeting with someone he’d met in rehab.
He died the next day. His body turned up at a gas station bathroom.
People with PTSD may experience muscle and joint aches.
According to PTSD UK, muscle pain is a common symptom of PTSD. “[The] anxiety and hyper-vigilance that often comes with PTSD can increase the tension you put on your muscles and joints in general,” the organization’s website says.
Dr. Michael Murphy, the medical director of River Oaks Treatment Center in Florida, added, “Much like the immune system reacts to a virus and causes damage, the brain can overreact and stay in a perpetual state of hyperarousal and fear that can lead to a cascade of symptoms.”
It may also cause inflammation in organs and gastric issues.
Murphy said that inescapable trauma can result in heightened levels of the stress hormone cortisol and pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. This can cause organ inflammation.
“There’s multiple organ systems that can be affected by the chemicals that are produced when someone is stressed,” Murphy said. “When these [hormones and chemicals] are left in a chronically elevated state, they can do subtle damage to the body over time.”
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, in which researchers examined 4,076 Danish participants who had PTSD over a 16-year period, there is an association between the disorder and the development of gastric disorders, like ulcers. People with PTSD were at a 25% higher risk of developing a gastric disorder.
There may be a correlation between PTSD and migraines.
According to Psychology Today, a 2015 study published in Neurology found a correlation between adverse childhood experiences and migraine headaches. The rates of migraines were higher in those who experienced adverse childhood experiences versus other forms of abuse.
According to research by the National Institutes of Health, 69% of participants who had both episodic migraines and PTSD reported experiencing symptoms of the disorder before the on-set of a headache. According to Very Well Mind, why people with PTSD experience migraines isn’t exactly known, but it may be due to the high levels of stress and emotional strain they experience.
PTSD can lead to substance abuse problems, which can worsen a person’s health in many ways.
“There’s higher rates of substance use in people who have had trauma,” Murphy said. “And substance use itself can do damage to the body, and so for some people, it’s a double problem in terms of the trauma itself causing hyperarousal and hormone imbalances, and the substance then exacerbating it.”
Murphy said people with PTSD may start using substances like alcohol or sedatives to self-medicate from symptoms of the disorder, but over time they become more dependent on them, which can damage their bodies in myriad ways.
People with PTSD may be at risk for hypertension, which can increase one’s risk of a heart attack.
Murphy said people with PTSD, or who had adverse childhood experiences, are at risk for hypertension or high blood pressure.
“They lead to elevations in chemicals in the body and hormones that are associated with a fight or flight response, and that leads to some damage to blood vessels in the body,” he said. “That can make people more likely to have a heart attack or stroke — even decades later. It may also increase the risk of certain types of cancer,” he continued.
According to Premier Health, people with PTSD were at an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke because their blood vessels don’t expand as they normally should.
They are also at risk of having a stroke.
According to a 2019 study by the American Heart Association, researchers examined 987,855 young and middle-aged veterans over a 13-year period and found a link between PTSD and ischemic strokes — they found a significant increase in risk of a stroke among those who had PTSD.
Symptoms caused by PTSD may leave people more susceptible to illnesses like the coronavirus.
Murphy said people who have hypertension may be more susceptible to serious complications with diseases like the coronavirus.
“I think with the COVID-19 virus specifically, it’s less that your immune system is more vulnerable and more that, for many of the people with serious complications, there’s been chronic damage to their blood vessels over time,” Murphy said.
There may be a correlation between PTSD and obesity.
According to the National Institutes of Health, PTSD has been linked to obesity, as well as metabolic dysfunction. Studies suggest this may be due to stress hormones and disrupted circadian rhythms affecting the “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis” in the brain.
Metabolic dysfunction and stress can change consumptive behaviors, which can lead to an increased consumption of foods with high calorie content.
Studies have shown a potential link between type 2 diabetes and PTSD.
According to research by Science Daily, PTSD is associated with an increased of type 2 diabetes. Possible causes include a higher prevalence of obesity, glucose deregulation, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and depression.
According to research by the National Institutes of Health, women who have PTSD were at twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who had no exposure to trauma.
People with PTSD may have insomnia or trouble sleeping.
“Sometimes people have trauma associated with nighttime,” Murphy said. “Going to sleep and being unsafe, meaning being unconscious, is scary — so they avoid going to sleep.”
People with PTSD are also prone to having nightmares, making going to sleep frightening for that reason, as well.
The lack of sleep, coupled with other PTSD symptoms, can lead to feeling fatigued or tired the next day or even longer.
People with PTSD may experience fatigue due to an overload of their adrenal system, which produces the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline.
Researchers from the CDC found an association between stress, childhood trauma, and chronic fatigue syndrome in adults. Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by unexplained fatigue that lasts for at least six months. According to the 2006 study, chronic fatigue syndrome “may result from the brain’s inability to cope with challenging experiences.”
Recovery from PTSD includes addressing both mental and physical symptoms.
“They will never completely recover to the person they would have been had they not been traumatized,” Murphy said. “They just need to adapt to a new reality for them.”
Family members of people with PTSD should be patient but also present for their loved ones, Murphy said. Realizing physical symptoms is also important when it comes to treatment.
“I think it cannot be stressed enough that there is a mind-body connection,” Murphy said. “I think that people have often thought of trauma as a psychological phenomenon, and they have to realize that every psychological experience has an impact on your body whether it’s positive or negative.”
You can learn more about PTSD, including symptoms and diagnosis, here.
At 21 years old, I started working as a part-time teller for a large national bank. Over the next decade, I held various roles that included seller, supervisor, and manager before transitioning to a non-customer facing program manager role at a smaller regional bank. There I was responsible for overseeing email messaging, inbound chat, and social media by creating and updating policies and procedures, establishing escalation guidelines, and interfacing across multiple teams. I enjoyed the fast pace and autonomy of the work.
Around 2018, I became interested in financial education.
After reading the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” I started having conversations with friends and family about saving, investing, and building credit. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share, so I decided to build a passion project around financial empowerment, to represent not only an underserved community, but a lack of diversity in content creators geared towards that community.
Over time, I became a financial literacy influencer on social media, wrote two books, and gave a TEDx talk.
While my passion project picked up steam, it also led to condescending remarks and questions from my employers around where my loyalties lie with the company. I was repeatedly asked to document any work I did outside of my role, from contributing to publications to speaking at conferences – despite that work being separate and done on my own time.
In February of 2021, I began to have anxiety about keeping my job amid the pandemic layoffs.
I found myself having to constantly reassure leadership of my commitment to the bank. Anxiety and fear turned into frustration and anger as I felt I was was being assigned unrelated tasks to keep me “busy,” given conflicting instruction on projects and assignments, and required to document my business interests and activities outside of the company.
That slow boil feeling also included me receiving the smallest merit increase I’d received, coupled with the comment that I should be grateful because “some people got nothing” and attempts to surveil and micromanage how I spent my time both on and off the clock. Ultimately it began to feel like a hostile environment. It started to take a toll on my mental health – I was angry, anxious, unfulfilled, and unhappy.
On May 28, I submitted my resignation via email effective immediately, concerned about retaliation attempts had I given a full two weeks’ notice. Leading up to this, I’d been sharing my frustration on the job with my small Twitter community since February, so I decided to share my decision to quit in what would become a viral tweet.
My manager immediately attempted to call and text me for an explanation, but by that time I’d made up my mind. I stuck around long enough to see the termination notice go out, and then I logged off with a sigh of relief.
On Twitter, I was immediately celebrated for sharing my story with likes, retweets, and comments that included “I’m next” and “I’m proud of you” as I shared my plans to continue building my passion project without limitations and fear. Since quitting, I’ve been focusing on monetizing my experience and thought leadership in personal finance via coaching, consulting, and digital content creation.
Mental health is a taboo topic, especially for men of color, and it’s not talked about nearly enough.
The most crucial thing I’ve learned from this experience is realizing the importance of my mental health. I’ve taken to reading and writing more as well as sharing my story via social media. I intend on starting a podcast and Youtube channel that speaks to not only my journey, but aims to highlight and support those on a similar path. I don’t have regrets, but I would advise anyone considering making the leap of quitting to ensure you have a strong support system, financial backing, and the stomach to handle the rollercoaster of emotions to follow.
The thoughts expressed are those of the writer. Insider confirmed his previous employment.
Rahkim Sabree is a personal finance influencer, author, speaker, and financial coach who focuses on helping entrepreneurs and business leaders optimize their financial future. Visit his website or connect with him on Twitter.
You want to change the world, so you work long, tireless hours, your mind never shuts off, and your body never rests. It feels as if your life were burning on both ends of the candlestick, but you can’t seem to let yourself stop.
Was it healthy? No. Was I more productive? Not necessarily.
Here’s the truth. If you want to actually impart change, drive your mission forward, and grow your business, then creating space and stillness in your life must be non-negotiable. To do so requires a mindset shift away from thinking breaks are bad. To turn downtime into a valuable asset, I started to do the following three actions.
Schedule your downtime
Most people think taking breaks is spontaneous, but the best way to stop is to plan accordingly. When nighttime comes around, your circadian rhythm and body know without consciously thinking that it’s time to sleep. You’re training your body and mind to anticipate shutting down. You can impart this same level of shift within your daily or weekly schedule.
Create a routine for your rest. Whether it’s a block of time in the morning, a day during the week, or a few minutes throughout the day, plan time to take a break and stick to it. Every Wednesday and Sunday, for example, I have blocked off time specifically for relaxation and reflection. This has become a non-negotiable in my life in order to instill the habit within my mind and the cycle within my body to unwind. Taking downtime becomes a habit, similar to that of checking email.
The thoughts and ideas that flow through your mind are how you raise your value as a leader. So use moments of pause to bolster your brain’s ability to think stronger and faster.
Take space to allow yourself to think. Focus on an aspect of business that you want to improve. Think about where you want to be and whether you are on the fastest path to get there.
In our society, we have become accustomed to constantly being stimulated and entertained. As a result, we must actively block time to find stillness, and allow these moments of perceived boredom to spark inner dreams and allow creativity to flourish. During this time, hold no judgment of the ideas you come up with.
You don’t need to work 12 grueling hours each day. You need one moment of insight.
Take care of your body
Some of the biggest deterrents to actual wealth creation and success are not resources, investors, or a strong supply chain; it’s your personal health. If you are energized, you are more likely to act and be bold when you experience fear or moments of opportunity. If you have taken care of yourself, you can more easily show up to connect with and support your employees, partners, and customers.
You are the leader within your organization. If something happens to you, everything is compromised. You must take care of yourself as if you are going to be around for a while. During your moments of space, create a wellness routine, navigate your fitness schedule, and give your body, mind, and spirit what it needs most. Some days, this looks like hitting the gym really hard, and other days, it consists of meditating, getting a massage, or reading a book.
Health is a resource that you can always provide to yourself.
Creating space for downtime in your life is necessary. After all, the entrepreneur road isn’t an end goal, it is a way of life. If you want to enjoy it for the long term, you must be willing to pause, reflect, and rejuvenate. It might just land you farther forward than those late nights at the office ever could.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says teen girl suicide attempts increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study, published Friday, found that suspected suicide attempts among girls aged 12 to 17 went up by 50.6% between February 21 and March 20 of this year, compared to the same time period in 2019 before the pandemic. Suicide attempts among boys of the same age range also went up but by 3.7%.
“Self-reported suicide attempts are consistently higher among adolescent females than among males, and research before the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that young females had both higher and increasing rates of ED visits for suicide attempts compared with males,” researchers wrote in the study, suggesting this new data falls in line with previous research.
“However, the findings from this study suggest more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic, reinforcing the need for increased attention to, and prevention for, this population,” the study continued.
To conduct the study, researchers examined emergency room visits between January 1, 2019, and May 15, 2021. Visits to the emergency room by adolescents, especially girls, across 49 states and Washington, DC, began to increase around May 2020, the researchers noted. After May 2020, the rates at which adolescent girls visited the ER continued to stay elevated.
“Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including a lack of connectedness to schools, teachers, and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems, which are all risk factors for suicide,” researchers who conducted the CDC study wrote.
I’m a proud mom to six-year-old twins and also a proud professional with a demanding, deadline-driven solo practice.
Most days – even when I’m not emerging tentatively from a pandemic like a thawing caveperson – it all just feels like a lot.
Indeed, like most working moms, I characterize myself as generally overcommitted and exhausted. But I have a strategy aimed at banishing burnout: I make my own summer Fridays.
For most of my career, I’ve wrapped up work around noon every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Up until a couple of years ago, this practice was conveniently built into my work life as an employee of various New York City-based media organizations, among which this type of structure is a common employer-sanctioned practice and a well-loved tradition among staff.
When I shifted to the full-time freelance lifestyle in 2019, it was entirely up to me to defend this sacred time from work and errand creep. But by now I’ve learned that doing so is a game-changer for my lifestyle and sense of self, so I create my boundaries.
In order to make it happen, I think of the summer as a whole, rather than looking at each week or day individually.
I get analytical about how much work and what type of work I want to take on in order to keep my summer Friday afternoons free.
Sure, work has a way of bottlenecking sometimes, and some deadlines don’t go as planned. But putting in the effort upfront – setting the intention, as I do – helps lay the groundwork that supports the structure I want.
I’m also an obsessive time manager, so I give myself – and stick to – artificial deadlines early enough that I avoid the potential for a Friday bottleneck.
In most cases, I assign myself deadlines only Monday through Thursday for the work requiring the most brainpower and time commitment – even if that means I’m delivering well ahead of a client’s drop-dead needs.
This, of course, is a good thing: It doesn’t just reduce my own stress on Fridays, but it also has the benefit of making me a favorite freelancer among my clients, and that general approach yields me more income over the course of the whole year (even if it occasionally might mean a bit less during a given week here or there in the summer).
If I’m in town, here’s what I might do on a summer Friday: Take myself to a solo matinee, get a massage, or go for a hike alone with my podcasts.
A post shared by Alesandra (Alice) Dubin (@alicedubin)
Here’s what I don’t do: Return stuff to Target, get a dental cleaning, or accidentally schedule a work meeting.
These few hours when my kids are in school and my husband is at work are reserved for joyful, indulgent, or contemplative activities – not to check stuff off a list. These 12 Friday afternoons provide my only time dedicated for this purpose in a typical year, and I believe they comprise a key pillar of my mental-health strategy.
Summer Fridays take the edge off the rest of the week. And they mean my kids get the best of me – not the smoke-breathing version of me who might be limping out of a week of meetings without having yet had a chance to regroup.
And summer Fridays are a mental-health boon throughout not just these weeks, but the whole year, too: It’s a cherished rhythm I look forward to and that makes me more productive, like a vacation already booked.
“By taking time exclusively for yourself and exclusively for the purpose of bringing pleasure, joy, and comfort into your life, [that’s] actually an act of radical self-compassion,” Leah Rockwell, a licensed professional counselor and founder of Rockwell Wellness, which specializes in therapy for burnout, told Insider.
“Yet for many overworked, overachieving women, it is an amazingly difficult concept to actually integrate into our daily lives,” Rockwell said. “While we might be the first person to rabidly advocate that a girlfriend should do whatever it takes to care for or prioritize herself, many of us cannot extend that same permission to ourselves.”
Rockwell said that by building that permission into my actual schedule, I’m showing myself (and others around me, too) that my emotional wellness is a priority for me. “Why not capitalize on how summer can fortify us?” she added.
Engaging in a relationship with what brings us joy is something that we witness our children do all day long, but we often deny it of ourselves as adults. “By structuring your summer weeks as you are, you’ve invited back into your life the bliss of summer that we often assume that adults just don’t have a right to, yet we inherently long for,” Rockwell said.
Podcast host and bestselling author Gretchen Rubin calls it “designing your summer.”
“You want there to be something special about summer,” she said. “If you don’t actually plan that out or at least be very intentional about it, it’s very easy for days to just slip by.”
Anyone can design their summer – not just people who make their own work hours or have lots of disposable income.
“It’s not about taking massive amounts of time off work,” Rubin said. Rather, it’s an attitude.
Habits and routines have the effect of speeding up time, whereas “time feels rich and slow when things are different,” Rubin said. (That’s why a three-day vacation can feel like a full chapter in our lives.) So to make our lives feel richer and more textured, we must make an effort to do something apart from our seasonally nonspecific routines.
And I need that distinction perhaps now more than ever given how the pandemic presented a seemingly endless stretch of days marked by the unrelenting sameness of staying at home.
As the world opens up again, I’m setting aside both time and headspace for novelty, for variety, for pleasurable personal challenges that stand to make time feel ever so slightly less ephemeral and much more vivid (all while actually fortifying my earning potential all year long).