7 mentally tough people and the tactics they used to build resilience and perform under pressure

Kobe Bryant
Mental performance coach Lauren Johnson says Kobe Bryant created the alter ego “Black Mamba” to give him confidence on the court.

  • Mentally strong people often use specific practices to build their resilience, says writer Polina Marinova.
  • At least two of them – Kobe Bryant and David Goggins – created alter egos to build confidence.
  • Mental performance coach Lauren Johnson says these tactics can help you overcome fear and defeat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lauren Johnson is a mental performance coach who most recently worked with the New York Yankees, where she helped develop strategies for athletes and sports professionals to help them cultivate mental resilience.

In this conversation, Johnson and I deconstruct the strategies and tactics of seven mentally tough people and how they learned to perform under pressure. Below is a summary of our conversation, but you can listen on Apple Podcasts.

1. David Goggins, the toughest athlete on the planet

David Goggins grew up living in fear. At school, he experienced incessant bullying and racism. At home, he suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his own father.

By the time Goggins was in his early 20s, he had asthma, a learning disability, a stutter, and crushingly low self-esteem. He was earning less than $1,000 a month spraying for cockroaches.

One night, he came home with a 42-ounce shake from Steak and Shake and sat down in front of the TV. He stumbled upon a documentary on the US Navy SEALs that changed the trajectory of his entire life.

Through a relentless determination and grit, Goggins went on to complete three Navy SEAL “hell weeks,” more than 50 endurance races, and holds the Guinness World Record for most pull-ups (4,030) in 24 hours.

He used a number of mental strategies to help him become mentally unshakeable.

Create an alter ego: Goggins believes he was built, not born. He intentionally created a separate identity that separated him from his past of bullying, fear, and abuse. “I had to create ‘Goggins,’ because ‘David Goggins’ was a weak kid. So I created ‘Goggins,'” he said. “I wanted to be proud of who I was.”

Johnson says that self-distancing is a helpful strategy in helping us manage our emotions better. “When you create an alter ego, it actually feels like we have a choice, and we’re not identifying with who we are in that very moment but that we have a choice to be who we want to be. When we distance slightly, we give ourselves the ability to choose.”

Follow the 40% rule: There’s a reason why even though most people hit a wall at mile 16 during a marathon, they’re still able to finish. Goggins explains it through his 40% rule: When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually 40% done.

“Your brain is wired to protect you,” Johnson said. “Most of the time our brain will show up to protect us when we don’t need protecting.” If you do one difficult task per day, you can increase your threshold for discomfort.”

Face the accountability mirror: When Goggins decided to become a Navy SEAL, he looked at his reflection in the mirror and said, “You’re fat, you’re lazy, and you’re a liar.” This sounds harsh, but Goggins says that he needed to face his insecurities head on in order to overcome them. He created something he called the “Accountability Mirror.” He pasted sticky notes around the outside of the mirror outlining the practical steps he needed to take to achieve his goals. They would say things like, “Go one day without lying for external validation” and “Go on a 2-mile run.” If you’re not happy with your reflection, Goggins suggests asking yourself, “What am I going to do today to change what I see in the mirror?”

Johnson says this strategy is so powerful because you are the only person in the world you can’t lie to and get away with it. “The same way we earn trust with others by doing the things we say we’re going to do is the same way we earn trust with ourselves,” Johnson said. “When you talk to yourself in the mirror, it opens up your blind spots and the things you may not want to admit to yourself. It may hurt, but it’s so necessary to get to that next level.”

2. Courtney Dauwalter, the ultra-runner who personifies pain

In 2017, Dauwalter dominated the headlines after she won the Moab 240, a 240.3 mile footrace through some of Utah’s most challenging terrain. It took her 58 hours, and she beat the second place finisher by more than 10 hours. In 2018, she won the Western States Endurance Run, which is 100 miles, in 17 hours and 27 minutes. The list of impressive achievements goes on and on.

Dauwalter credits her success to being able to master the art of suffering. She has managed to stay calm even through bouts of severe nausea, a bleeding head injury, and temporary blindness. “I don’t think those types of pain and suffering are signs you should stop,” she said. “I mean, I troubleshoot and try to fix what’s causing it, but my solution is usually to just keep going.” Here’s how she does it:

Embrace the “pain cave:” Dauwalter talks about pain as an actual place: the pain cave. The reason it’s helpful to personify pain is that it serves as a reminder that you’re in control when you enter and equally as aware that you can leave. “It’s not a place I’m scared to enter,” she said. “It’s a place I’m excited to find the entrance to.”

Johnson says there’s an important distinction between listening to yourself and talking to yourself. You should avoid the former and encourage the latter. When you listen to yourself, you hear all the negativity and all the reasons why you can’t go on, she said, but when you talk to yourself, you can tell yourself the things you need to hear in order to overcome the challenge ahead of you. Johnson adds: “Courtney approached it with a challenge mindset instead of a threat mindset. That’s why she’s performing from a place of power instead of a place of fear.”

Stay motivated with a “carrot” goal: In one ultra-race, Dauwalter’s goal was to complete 200 miles in 48 hours. But she had a rough race, and another competitor passed her for first place in the very last stretch. She needed to find another reason to continue pushing her body, so her new goal became: “If you’re not going to get first place, then try to finish under the 50-hour mark.” It became a new “carrot to dangle.”

Same goes for everyday life. If you fall short of a goal, you can find another carrot that will keep you motivated and get you closer to the goal for your next attempt. “Be committed to the outcome that you want,” Johnson said, “but stay flexible in your approach.”

3. Tara Westover, the relentless student who overcame it all

Tara Westover was 17 years old when she set foot in a classroom for the first time. Born to survivalist Mormon parents in the mountains of Idaho, she grew up isolated from mainstream society. Her father had a severe mistrust of the government to the point where he forbade the family from visiting hospitals or attending school.

She taught herself enough algebra to pass the college entrance exams and became a competitive applicant to Brigham Young University. There, she studied history and learned for the first time about world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement.

“For some people, education is self-determination, and that’s what it was for me, and for other people, it’s like predetermination and it’s something that keeps them down,” she said. “It’s like the difference of education being a ladder or being a fence.”

Here’s what she learned along the way:

Don’t mistake your reality as the only truth: When Westover was growing up, she considered her father’s opinion as “the truth.” After she began to attend school, she realized that there is no universal, absolute truth. Our version of the world is not the only version – it is simply one of many, many perspectives. It takes strength and courage to start questioning your own family’s beliefs and opinions in order to adopt ones more in line with your own path.

“At first people are going to tell you that you can’t do something out of their own fears,” Johnson said. “But the second you start doing what you want to do and you start doing it well, they’re going to tell everybody how they met you.”

Break your patterns: When Westover used to return to her family’s home, she felt herself falling right back into the same identity she once had – that fearful and insecure 16-year-old girl. As kids, some of us learn unhealthy patterns from our parents.

The second we venture out on our own, we feel liberated and changed, but as soon as we get back in that familiar environment, we repeat the same patterns. “The environment is that invisible hand that shapes us, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to who you’re surrounding yourself with,” Johnson said. Spend your time with people who challenge your existing beliefs and teach you to be more resilient.

4. Anthony Ray Hinton, the man who survived death row

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and wrongfully charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Hinton knew it was a case of mistaken identity and naively believed that the truth would prove his innocence and set him free.

But as a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He maintained his innocence through the entire duration of the 30 years he served on death row, which makes him one of the longest serving death row prisoners in Alabama history.

In his time on death row, Hinton watched 54 men walk past his cell to be executed. Another 22 took their own lives. “My cell was 30 feet from the chamber, and I could smell the burning flesh,” he writes. Yet he managed to maintain hope and befriend those society had given up on.

Visualize a better reality: On death row, Hinton figured out a technique that was able to get him out of his tragic circumstances: Daydreaming. While in his cell, Hinton traveled the world, married Halle Berry, had tea with Queen Elizabeth, and won Wimbledon – all in his mind. “I never used my mind for garbage,” he said. “I used it to cope through some lonely days.” Hinton started a book club for fellow inmates who also wanted to experience the power of visualization.

“The cool thing about visualization is that our brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality,” Johnson says. “It’s the same as watching a movie – we’re not part of the movie, but we’re having an emotional reaction to it.” Mental toughness is easy when things are going well, but the true test comes if you can train yourself to use mental strategies like visualization in moments of crisis, panic, and disaster.

Find the good in the awful: It’s hard to imagine you’d be able to forgive those who abused the system and sentenced you to death, but Hinton sees it differently. “I’ve never had an apology, but I forgave those involved in my conviction long before I left prison. I didn’t forgive them so they can sleep well at night. I did it so I can.”

Research shows that people who are good at framing negative life events in positive ways have better mental health. “I’m sure there are a million things Anthony could tell you about his misery and the things that were awful and unjust,” Johnson says. “But when you look back and you choose to find the good in the bad, your experience of it changes. It’s not for anyone else – it’s for you.”

5. Emily Harrington, the climber who befriended her fear

Emily Harrington became the first woman to free climb El Capitan’s notoriously difficult Golden Gate route in under 24 hours. She attempted it in 2019, but it ended in disaster after Harrington fell 50 feet, hit her head on a ledge, and suffered a concussion. “It’s definitely a mental struggle, coming over that hurdle, coming back into this year and trying again,” she said.

Here’s how she learned to accept fear:

Learn how to accept fear: Rather than push away the things she’s fearful of, she’s learned to befriend them. “I work through it by just accepting it and trying to understand why it’s there and then taking steps to move forward,” she said. “In a lot of ways, we can use fear as fuel and as strength.” But how can people learn not to fear the things they’re afraid of?

Johnson says it’s possible to think and feel one way, but act in a totally different way. “Your feelings and actions don’t have to match to co-exist,” she said. “So yes, you can feel fear and do it anyway. [Emily] is not ignoring the fact that she feels fearful, but it’s accepting it and choosing to act anyway.”

Use mantras in times of panic: Harrington uses mantras when she’s in difficult situations in order to soothe the panic in her brain. She says this to herself over and over again: “Be vulnerable, accept failure, and embrace fear.”

Passion is the result of identifying what makes you uncomfortable and scares you most. “Feelings aren’t facts. They’re data points,” Johnson said. “Fear is often a good indication that this is something you care about.”

6. Sarah Blakely, the founder who used failure as a weapon

Sara Blakely is no stranger to failure.

Growing up, she wanted to be a trial attorney, but then she bombed the LSAT. After college, she auditioned to be Goofy at Disney World, but she was too short to wear the costume. After a stint as an Epcot ride greeter at “the happiest place on earth,” Blakely returned home and moved in with her mom.

One night, she decided to wear her new white pants to a party, but her underwear left unflattering panty lines. So she cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose and turned them into a slimming undergarment. “The moment I saw how good my butt looked, I was like, ‘Thank you, God, this is my opportunity,” she said.

That moment changed the trajectory of her entire life. In 2000, Blakely used her $5,000 in savings to start her company Spanx, and by 2012, she was named the youngest self-made female billionaire.

The key to her success has been that Blakely sees an opportunity in every failure or disappointment. “Spanx wouldn’t exist if I had aced the LSAT,” she said.

Learn to celebrate failure: When Blakely was growing up, her family would go around the dinner table and share their biggest failure of the week. “If I didn’t have something to share, [my father] would actually be disappointed,” she said. The exercise re-defined failure in Blakely’s mind. “Instead of failure becoming an outcome, it simply became about not trying,” she said. “And that truly is the only failure – to not try.”

In reflecting on Blakely’s story, Johnson explains that we could never know how much we could achieve unless we go so far that we reach the point of failure. She adds:”How will you know how far you can go if you don’t risk losing it to some degree?” If you frame failure as a data point, you can get a lot of great feedback on how you can improve in the future.

Diffuse difficult situations with humor: Life can be heavy, Blakely said, and having someone who can lighten the mood or make you laugh is one of the most important things. For example, when she and her husband get in a heated argument, he extends his hand, and they slow dance.

Johnson explains: “Sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously. When we joke and laugh, it brings us back down to reality.”

7. Kobe Bryant, the player who turned greatness into an obsession

One year ago, Kobe Bryant’s life came to an end in a sudden and tragic manner. The 18-time NBA All-Star who had a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others also died in the crash.

But Bryant’s legacy continues to live on. On and off the court, he was best known for his obsessive pursuit of precision and excellence, which he dubbed “the Mamba Mentality.” Bryant’s life and career remind us that the only answer to surviving unimaginable hardship is to keep moving forward and drawing on our own resilience.

Use an alter ego to summon confidence: Bryant created his “Black Mamba” alter ego as a way to get through the lowest point of his career. His nickname was inspired by the movie “Kill Bill,” in which the snake, known for its agility and aggressiveness, was used as a code name for a deadly assassin. At a time when people were chanting “Kobe sucks,” while he was playing, Bryant said that using an alter ego gave him emotional distance from his real self.

“Kobe and the Black Mamba – both of them were him,” Johnson said. “But there was a time in competition when he could turn it on and use [the identity] that was appropriate for the situation.”

Remember that life only moves forward: To Bryant, the antidote to listlessness and defeat was drive and relentlessness. He never believed in “go with the flow.” Rather, he believed in moving forward with intent. Instead of shying away from adversity, bring this Bryant quote to the forefront of your mind: “I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward…I reflect with a purpose.”

That’s because he knew that action is the only thing that leads to confidence and improvement. “Kobe would gain an understanding around the unknown,” Johnson said. “When we can prepare for something and gain competence, we actually gain confidence.”

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An AI-powered version of Albert Einstein has joined UneeQ’s growing lineup of ‘digital humans’

Digital Einstein image 7
UneeQ’s virtual version of Albert Einstein.

  • UneeQ’s virtual version of Albert Einstein is among its latest batch of ‘digital humans.’
  • A digital COVID-19 health advisor and doppelgänger of a famed banker are also available.
  • Virtual companions could solve feelings of isolation and loneliness, the company says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The latest virtual companions created by UneeQ, a New Zealand and Austin-based company specializing in “digital humans,” include an Albert Einstein chatbot.

The launch was timed to mark the 100th anniversary of his Nobel Prize in Physics. You can talk to Einstein via UneeQ’s website and he will answer back in his own special way.

According to its website, UneeQ’s mission is to revolutionize customer experiences with AI-powered ambassadors.

The German mastermind is not the only personality users can engage with on the firm’s website. UneeQ’s range companions also include a COVID-19 health advisor named Sophie and a version of Daniel Kalt, UBS’ chief economist.

Danny Tomsett, UneeQ’s CEO, said in a statement: “As part of our new Companions series, Digital Einstein, among other digital humans, can communicate with people in a way that comes most naturally – using conversation, human expressions, and emotional responses to best provide daily interactions that we hope make a difference in people’s lives.”

Here’s how some of its companions stack up.

Digital Einstein

The AI experience was created in conjunction with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Greenlight, who provided Einstein’s likeness including, his voice, image, and mannerisms, the company stated in a press release.

You can talk to Einstein about a variety of topics through his daily quiz, or chat about his life’s work and research. Insider asked him a bunch of questions, including whether the Earth was flat. “Of course the Earth is not flat. Don’t be ridiculous,” he answered.

We were also curious to know his views on COVID-19 vaccines but his response was evasive: “Let’s hope sooner rather than later we will have some form of resolution and normal life. Please be safe, stay healthy, and give your loved ones a hug as much as possible,” he said.

He, naturally, spoke with authority on the theory of relativity but was not able to answer more ponderous questions on how he thinks history has judged him. He simply replied: “Sorry, I didn’t understand what you said.”

Sophie

Launched in April 2020, Sophie is very much a product of our times. The digital companion was created to converse with users about the most common questions surrounding COVID-19.

The company said it used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organisation to launch Sophie as a public health advisor.

She is able to update users on the latest news and guidance around the pandemic, while also providing real-time advice on ways to stay safe based on credible sources of information.

Users of many dialects can converse with Sophie, since she is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Japanese, and more.

In terms of her personality, Sophie was designed to be empathetic, friendly, and non-judgemental.

Daniel Kalt

Uneeq’s website shows a range of companions it has created for large companies. Among these is the digital doppelganger of UBS’s chief economist, Daniel Kalt.

Kalt’s chatbot was developed for the bank’s Swiss arm to help people find the crucial banking and finance information they need.

According to the company, Kalt is able to draw on a deep trove of UBS’s financial forecast data and present insights to high-wealth clients “face to face.” Like Sophie, he is available at any time of day to have a personalized conversation with users.

Helpful heroes or fairweather friends?

There is clearly potential for this type of technology but it’s unclear at this stage whether “digital humans” can fully live up to expectations.

The world is facing an undeniable mental-health crisis, including a significant rise in anxiety and depressive conditions.

On the one hand, AI-powered pals are unlikely to be any kind of substitute for the appropriate treatment of serious mental-health conditions. But on the other hand, they could at least provide a bit of cheer and lightness for those facing prolonged isolation during the daily gloom of an ongoing pandemic.

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Founder of Psious predicts VR will play a major role in addressing the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic

Xavier Palomer_foto_Angela Silva_2 min min
Xavier Palomer

The last year has been busy for Xavier Palomer, the founder of Spanish virtual reality mental health startup Psious. The platform, which is a tool for mental health professionals to place their patients in a variety of different situations to try treatments such as exposure therapy or cognitive restructuring, doubled in the number of patients from 2019 to 2020. In all, 20,000 people have been treated using Psious’s platform.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic has strained many healthcare systems, it has shown the need for Psious’s tech and demonstrated the use case, too. Telehealth – where people are treated remotely from their medical professionals – has long been tomorrow’s technology. The promise has long been acknowledged, but the reality has always been that face-to-face meetings were preferred. The pandemic has challenged that notion.

“The adoption rate and interest from both healthcare professionals and patients is growing,” Palomer said. “If people are suffering, they want to use VR.” The normalization of technology in health treatment has been one beneficiary of the long stretches spent at home. “If you do something for a week, you’ll forget it,” Palomer said. “If you do it for a year or more, you get used to it. We’ve normalized this remote use.”

It’s not before time, either. While the pandemic has helped improve uptake of telehealth solutions, time spent away from loved ones, and away from physicians and psychiatrists is generating an enormous backlog of cases that Psious and Palomer hope to be able to help with.

“We’ve been locked down and isolated, with social distancing and a lot of things that make us anxious,” Palomer said. “We’re way more alone now. I used to go every day to the office; I can’t remember when I was last in the office. I don’t interact with my co-workers. When I interact with someone it’s often through a virtual connection. We don’t just talk anymore.”

Palomer thinks the increase in mental health issues is excacerbated by social distancing restrictions, increasingly negative news coverage, and general economic uncertainty for many people. “It’s like the worst mix ever,” Palomer said. “Being alone so you can’t exchange concerns or share problems. A lot of new stuff like face masks – inputs telling you something is wrong – and then bad news in everything you see or watch. It’s very easy to understand that at some point that will blow our minds.”

A mental health crisis on the horizon

Healthcare experts are already seeing the first wave of mental health issues starting to break on the horizon. “Most of us will be able to deal with it and get through it very easily, but a huge part of us won’t go through it very easily, which leads us to a growth in the number of mental health issues like anxiety and depression,” Palomer said. More than just sheer numbers, Palomer thinks physicians are also likely to see the severity of cases increase when the pandemic begins to subside. People will have lost family members; they’ll have spent a year or more locked indoors; they’ll have spent most of it worrying about what the future holds; and they may not have jobs to return to.

Palomer spoke to the head of psychiatry treatment at one of Spain’s largest hospitals. There, the department chief reported a 60% increase in caseload between January 2020 and January 2021. “For a hospital of that size, having that kind of growth in 12 months is just mindblowing,” Palomer said.

He’s concerned that we’re unsuited for what’s about to happen. “Are the systems ready, meaning healthcare providers, public and private systems? Are we ready to answer this demand?” he asks. “The answer is no. We’ll need to find, in the startup language, scalable solutions, and for me one of the best candidates is technology. Virtual reality has a very good clinical background and good validation. The scalability is there. We believe a solution like ours is needed more than ever before.”

Palomer believes Psious is a complement to, rather than a replacement for, face-to-face mental health treatment. But he thinks it’s better suited than most kinds of treatment, citing the way his back pain – the result of caring for three children and a life spent sitting at a computer – is being treated mostly through phone- and app-based physical therapy.

In 12 months’ time Palomer expects to see an even more meaningful increase in patient numbers being treated using Psious’s virtual reality systems. “We want to keep this pace in 2021,” he said. The mental health of us all may depend on it.

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3 founders share the self-care practices that strengthen their mental health and help them stay mindful

woman writing at home
Writing in a journal is one way founders can practice mindfulness.

  • When COVID cost him business, Isaac Rudansky looked back at his career successes to think more positively.
  • Altering your mindset can give you the confidence to push forward through difficult times.
  • Founders should also try identifying their emotions, seeking support, and taking time for themselves.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After only six weeks of working in his company’s newly purchased office space, Isaac Rudansky, founder and CEO of AdVenture Media Group, sent his employees home to avoid the spread of COVID-19. He lost 35% of his clients in the first three weeks of the pandemic. “I’m actually an optimistic person, but this was a really dark period,” he said. “Oftentimes, when you’re dealing with feelings of depression and stress, it’s impossible to look at a longer horizon.”

So rather than look forward, Rudansky looked back at the past five years. Even through the peaks and valleys, he saw that his life and career had trended in a positive direction. That perspective gave him the confidence to move forward.

As Eve Lewis Prieto, the director of meditation and a mindfulness teacher at Headspace, said, “one of the best things about mindfulness is that it can be applied to every area of your life. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully engaged and present with a soft and open mind, also known as paying attention on purpose.”

As we pass the one-year anniversary of the country entering lockdown, founders shared with Inc. some of the practices that strengthen their mental health and help them stay mindful.

1. Identify what you’re feeling

When she looked at the options to confront her anxiety and burnout as a software engineer, Meha Agrawal, CEO and founder of Silk and Sonder, felt intimidated by therapy and was bored by meditation. Instead, she found that writing was the outlet she needed.

“There are a ton of benefits of bringing pen to paper,” she said. “It alleviates anxiety and stress, and it helps increase IQ and memory. It’s proven to heal trauma.” Agrawal created a journaling routine back in 2017, and soon after, she began developing her subscription-based journal company to help customers emulate her experience with journaling.

Aaron Sternlicht, a therapist and cofounder of New York City-based Family Addiction Specialist, endorses writing as a way of tracking your emotional mood throughout the day. This practice can help you understand which activities and times of day spark more anxiety, he said. Once you can identify the trigger moments, you can better prepare yourself to respond.

2. Lean on other people

Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist based in Boston, notes that maintaining personal relationships is a constant challenge in a founder’s life. The pandemic has only worsened this, she said, spurring more mental health challenges for founders. In recognizing the importance of community, Agrawal created the Sonder club, an online community where Silk and Sonder users can connect on their wellness journey.

Talking with people can be the best outlet for maintaining your mental well-being, Rudansky said: “It allows a person to express sympathy and empathy for what you’re going through.”

A couple of months ago, he said, one of his executives reached out to him to express that he felt overwhelmed at work. Rather than showing weakness, it showed strength and character, Rudansky said. The two ended up on an hourlong phone call together where they both opened up about their feelings and current struggles.

3. Make time for yourself – and start small

Last month, Tori Farley, cofounder of Better Than Belts, a unisex suspender company, joined a book club and read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown, which teaches readers how to reorient their mindsets and explores the psychology of authentic living. Farley was hesitant about reading a “quasi-self-help book,” but “When I read it, it just clicked,” she said. “If I want to spend two hours in the morning doing watercolor painting because that is going to make me feel happy for the rest of the day, then that’s what I should do, and I don’t have to start my day by checking my email.”

Even if it’s just a short moment in time, doing something for yourself can help you get out of a workday slump, Farley said. And Ficken adds that the all-or-nothing mentality can be extremely harmful to mental health. If you can’t get in your full workout that day, she said, don’t give up on physical activity. Instead, walk around the perimeter of your house for a little while or even take a few minutes to walk to your kitchen to get some cold water.

Headspace encourages users to start with just three to five minutes a day, Prieto said. “Some days the mind is going to feel really busy and on other days much quieter, so you are not doing anything wrong if you find that it’s taking longer for the mind to settle,” she said. The goal is not to empty the mind, but to be at ease with where you are.

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OBGYNs say pregnant people should feel safe getting the coronavirus vaccine

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  • Two physicians said they recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for all pregnant and breastfeeding people.
  • The only exception is that people who’ve had a serious reaction to a vaccine or part of the COVID-19 vaccine should consult their doctor first.
  • If you’re “super fearful,” don’t feel forced: “There’s so many things to worry about when you’re pregnant.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

OB-GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd cannot think of a single pregnant person whom she’d tell to not get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As an OB-GYN, as a physician, as a mom, I would definitely recommend for people who are hesitant about the vaccine to strongly consider it,” she said during a March webinar with Insider discussing COVID-19 shots in pregnancy.

Fellow panelist Dr. Jessica Madden, a pediatrician and neonatologist, agreed.

While there’s not yet have clinical trial data demonstrating the vaccines’ safety and efficacy in the pregnant and breastfeeding population, increasing evidence suggests they’re not only safe, but also beneficial for moms and their children.

The alternative – potentially contracting COVID-19 while pregnant – is more dangerous than the unknown risks of the vaccine.

“I feel more and more comfortable with the information that we’re gaining in terms of being a stronger advocate and a recommender of this vaccine for both pregnant moms and for breastfeeding moms,” Madden, who serves as medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps, said.

But there are two exceptions.

First: If you’ve had a serious adverse reaction like anaphylaxis to a vaccine in the past, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this one – whether or not you’re pregnant. People who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t receive it, period.

The other exception, Madden said, is “if you’re super fearful about this vaccine, then you should never feel like you are being forced into making the decision to get the vaccine.”

“If you really are feeling like, ‘I don’t want to do this. I’m just so scared about what might come,’ then please don’t get the vaccine,” she added. “There’s so many things to worry about when you’re pregnant or have a newborn baby and breastfeeding … you don’t want to add that to the mix.”

“I’m a proponent of the vaccine,” Madden said. “Obviously, I’m not a proponent of anybody feeling like they have to get this right now.”

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Employers claim they want to improve workers’ wellbeing, but refuse to do the one thing that will actually help: pay them more

Woman meditating work
HR departments love spending money on wellness programs and meditation apps.

  • Like sexual harassment training and gender equity initiatives, there isn’t much evidence that employee wellness programs work.
  • Yet HR departments seem intent on pouring money into health-tracking and meditation apps.
  • The best thing employers can do is pay their employees more and reduce their economic stressors.
  • Catherine Liu is professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California Irvine. She is the author of the book Virtue Hoarders: the Case Against the Professional Managerial Class.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I take the University of California online anti-sexual harassment training course regularly, and when I do, I believe I’m helping the world become a better place. Like most working women, I’ve suffered harassment at work, and despite evidence from empirical studies and from my own experience that the training doesn’t work and that I take it to limit the liability of my employer in a sexual harassment lawsuit, I will myself to believe in it.

Staff and faculty who have been harassed simply suck it up and move on, changing positions if possible or just avoiding the offender. Occasionally, a scandal breaks through and a harassment case leads to the dismissal of a famous professor or administrator; yet, the victims who brought the suit forward usually live forever with the reputation of being a “troublemaker.”

Despite countless initiatives, corporate and university gender equity programs failed to mitigate damage done to the lives of working women wrought by COVID lockdowns as work moved home and online, and schools and daycares closed. Women’s participation in the workforce has dropped to 1988 levels, with women bearing the brunt of COVID unemployment figures at every level of income and education: four decades of progress for women at work has been undone in one year.

Like sexual harassment and gender equity initiatives, employee wellness programs are another managerial innovation that large organizations love, despite mounting evidence that such programs do not significantly improve employee health or save employers money.

Employee wellness programs don’t work

The University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and Rand Corporation studies have shown that employee participation in employee wellness programs were low and that those who used them tended to be healthier and better paid – essentially resulting in a covert shift of organizational resources away from the lowest paid and unhealthiest employees to the best paid and healthiest ones. The Rand Corporation findings focused on maximizing employer return on investment, and recommended that employers focus their wellness programs on employees with the most severe health issues.

And yet, if your boss is paying attention to your muscle mass, poor sleep, lack of exercise or bad eating habits, I can guarantee that they are not interested in your wellbeing. They are, instead, very worried about having to pay higher health insurance premiums if their workforce is plagued with chronic ill health. Wellness programs neither save employers money nor increase employee wellbeing, but they continue to proliferate. Human Resources wellness centers cannot stop spending money on health tracking, meditation, and exercise apps that are “free to download” onto employee smartphones.

Through my workplace, I can download MyStrength, an app that helps me cope with stress in real time, or I can try the Headspace app, which will also help me “weather the storm” through meditation and exercise. If these two apps do not get me to optimal wellness, there is an app that reminds me to step away occasionally from my desk to do downward-facing dog.

As retired Harvard Business School Professor, Shoshana Zuboff shows in her book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, once data gathering reaches a certain scale, it becomes enormously valuable and exploitable. What is to prevent employers from monetizing the data gathered by all those “free” wellness apps? Very little, according to Zuboff, because privacy regulations lag behind tech innovations.

Poor economic conditions drive wellness

Wellness initiatives are designed to disguise the role that a solid paycheck plays in people’s overall wellbeing – in fact, low pay is one of the greatest stressors for workers of all races and sexes. Low socioeconomic status and poor working conditions lead to higher levels of cortisol in the bloodstream. Other indicators of stress, like diabetes and obesity, increase across populations with lower job status and lower pay.

People who make good money and have a high degree of control over their work lives also enjoy dramatically greater degrees of mental and physical wellbeing. A recent study on Universal Basic Income (UBI) from Stockton, California, a small, economically struggling city in California’s Central Valley, confirmed the connection between money and wellbeing. For two years, the program gave $500 a month to 125 randomly selected residents living at or below the city’s median income.

Initial results of the study show that the monthly cash infusion led to dramatic decreases in depression and anxiety in recipients of the no-strings-attached cash. Improved mental wellbeing allowed recipients to pay debts, find work, and deepen relationships with friends and family. The findings from Stockton disprove the fantasy that working class and poor Americans would be profligate with cash infusions. UBI is a controversial issue, but the Stockton study offers important lessons about the power of money in relationship to mental health and overall well-being.

No boundaries at work

If the pre-woke workplace was filled with sexism, racism, and overtly punitive evaluation protocols that encouraged the promotion of networked, white, male employees, the contemporary workplace has evolved into experimental sites of surveillance and data-gathering, all in the name of “caring.”

Covertly coercive, wellness initiatives serve as excuses for upper management to push aside questions of pay and pay equity for superficial engagement with our most private experiences. But, the last place I want to talk about my experiences of trauma is at work; I do not want my workplace to be involved with my daily practice of healing my wounds.

Just as school was my refuge from the unpredictability of home life when I was a child, I looked to work as a place where I could put aside, if only temporarily, my hair-trigger adrenaline-fueled over-reactions to setbacks and obstacles in order to better engage in the meaningful, joyful exercise of collectively exercised reason and argument. As a professor, I have come to believe that the best thing I could do for my students, traumatized and not, is to provide a space where the use of one’s intellect and powers of reason are respected, rewarded, and recognized.

In the view of my employer though, my approach to trauma is both too old-fashioned and too commonsensical. In the past month, I have been asked to participate in training courses in trauma-sensitive pedagogy, whatever that could mean. The way in which COVID has impacted working mothers and the lowest paid employees at the university has hardened my cynicism about pseudo-progressive managerial initiatives to care for employee wellbeing and promote workplace equity.

It is not social media addiction or millennials who are to blame for the deterioration of personal boundaries and the demise of critical thinking in our age: it is the pseudo-therapeutic initiatives of our over-managed world that have made it dangerous for us to insist on maintaining boundaries anywhere, but especially at work. Managerial initiatives infantilize workers while undermining our autonomy as private, suffering subjects.

For those on the bottom of the pay scale in any organization, a bigger paycheck would improve their mental health far more than any wellness or trauma initiative imposed upon us by HR. For those at the top of the payscale who are rewarded for finding ways to pay their employees less, this is a hard, if not impossible lesson to learn.

Catherine Liu is professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California Irvine. She is the author of the book Virtue Hoarders: the Case Against the Professional Managerial Class (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). She lives in Southern California and writes for Jacobin and has appeared on Chapo Trap House and Bungacast talking about her book and the class formation of credentialed elites in the 2021 global economy.

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Goldman Sachs bosses reportedly sent snack hampers to junior staff after a survey revealed brutal 100-hour weeks. Rival banks sent their staff bonuses or Peloton bikes.

David Solomon
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon.

  • Directors at Goldman Sachs sent one-off fruit and snack hampers to overworked junior bankers, the Guardian reported.
  • It follows a survey in which junior staff described “inhumane” 100-hour work weeks.
  • Other banks have offered much larger gifts, including Peloton machines and Apple devices.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bosses at Goldman Sachs have sent snack hampers to London bankers in response to a survey that revealed the “inhumane” working conditions junior staff faced at the bank in the US, according to a report by the Guardian on Tuesday.

Managing directors, not the company, were paying for the one-off fruit and snacks hampers, the report said, adding that Goldman Sachs hadn’t directly offered any gifts or bonuses to junior bankers following the survey.

In the survey, leaked on March 18, 13 first-year analysts in the US described their declining mental and physical health, 100-hour work weeks, and a lack of sleep. UK staff told the Guardian they too faced burnout.

Some junior bankers told the Guardian they appreciated the gesture of the hampers. But staff at other banks have received much larger gifts.

Investment bankers at Credit Suisse are getting a one-time $20,000 bonus for dealing with an “unprecedented” workload during the pandemic, while Jefferies is offering 1,124 of its junior workers Apple products and workout equipment including Peloton bikes worth nearly £2,000 ($2,750), per the Guardian.

Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser banned internal video calls on Fridays and introduced a company-wide holiday on March 28 called “Citi Reset Day.”

Read more: Confessions of Wall Street’s burned-out junior bankers: 5 current and former analysts from firms like Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse explain their daily schedules

One Goldman Sachs employee told the Guardian that the bank should be doing more for the junior bankers who have to work gruelling hours.

“What we need is not a gesture from [managers], but from the firm,” one London banker told the Guardian.

Insider reached out to Goldman Sachs for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. Goldman declined to comment on the snack boxes to the Guardian.

Four days after the survey came out, CEO David Solomon said that the bank would work harder to give junior bankers Saturdays off.

He added the long and busy work hours were down to working from home and a boom in business during the pandemic.

One unnamed analyst said in the survey that “there was a point where I was not eating, showering, or doing anything else other than working from morning until after midnight.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘Pandemic anger’ was getting in the way of my career. Here are 5 tips that have helped me refocus while working from home

baskets. Melissa Petro
Author Melissa Petro with one of her kids.

  • Melissa Petro is a freelance writer based in New York where she lives with her husband and two small children.
  • During the pandemic, she says she’s had to find new ways to manage her anger and negativity.
  • Petro says she’s learned to take a step back, try to empathize, and lean into her “softer feelings.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2018, a Gallup poll found that more Americans were stressed, worried, and angered compared to the previous year. Considering all we’ve dealt with in the past three years, it’s reasonable to speculate that this statistic has skyrocketed.

In the last year alone, political divisions and “panger” – an actual term coined for “pandemic anger”- have put many Americans in a constant state of fight or flight.

I’m as angry as most people – and I’d say justifiably so. But as a mom of two toddlers struggling to keep my family safe and maintain a freelance writing career without the luxury of childcare, I don’t have time to argue endlessly on Twitter or bicker with my husband over whose turn it is to walk the dogs. I know that if I blow up at my toddler, the situation will only escalate. Although we may disagree on some issues or choose to behave differently (particularly when it comes to COVID protocols), I can’t afford to make an enemy of my neighbor or lose a valued friend. And so when my anger begins to feel unhealthy and unproductive, I make a concerted effort to let it go.

Below are the steps I take to let go of my anger so that I can focus on my family and be more productive at work.

1. I feel my feelings

Anger is a natural emotion, and there can be upsides to feeling it. Justifiable anger, for example, incited Black Americans and their allies to act on their beliefs and form what may be the largest political movement in US history. But even righteous anger can overwhelm and make a person behave irrationally when they don’t regulate their emotions. Anger can even make you sick, exhausting our bodies and weakening the immune system.

That’s why, when I feel my temperature begin to rise, I’ve learned to do the opposite of the urgency my body seems to be demanding. Instead of rushing headfirst into conflict, I consciously slow down, stop, and return to my emotions. Experts say that acknowledging and experiencing our emotions may prevent them from spiraling out of control. To be sure, in my experience, simply noticing my physical response and identifying the feeling can diffuse the situation enough and allow me to refocus on my work.

2. I seek out emotional validation

Of course, noticing a frustration doesn’t always make it go away – especially in the era of the coronavirus. With so many of us working from home under lockdown and deprived of many of the usual sources of pleasure and release, experts say it’s easy to get stuck in a negative mood.

To prevent minor annoyances from adding up and compounding into major resentments, I pick up the phone and call or text a friend. Licensed psychologist Guy Winch explained on Psychology Today why seeking out people who will understand, relate, and take your side is a good coping tactic.

“When we tell someone why we are extremely angry or upset and they totally get it truly,” Winch said, “it effectively validates our feelings. As a result, we experience tremendous relief and catharsis.”

3. I log off social media

I can tell my anger is misdirected when it seemingly arises out of nowhere, or when it’s disproportionate to its trigger. My husband catches a lot of undue flak, but my favorite place to misdirect my anger is online.

Whenever I feel a strong urge to lash out on social media, I try and pause first to consider whether or not my reaction is rational. Am I really angry at my cousin’s husband’s work colleague for posting a photo of themselves enjoying a round of drinks at a bar with their friends? Or is it more that I am mad at the fact that I, too, long to return to indoor dining, but we’ve made the personal choice to stay home until we’ve gotten our vaccines?

In these moments, I remind myself that a snide or self righteous remark will only make me feel worse, and that no amount of back and forth is going to make me feel better. At some point – hopefully before I injure a relationship – I log off and turn my attention back to work, or my kids.

If the pandemic has weakened your self discipline, there are also useful apps you can use to block social media.

4. I try to empathize with whoever’s angering me

Don’t get me wrong – whatever the disagreement, I like to think that I’m right. But, according to experts on intellectual humility, it makes us feel better when we accept we could be wrong.

Intellectual humility is an ability to meet opposing views with curiosity. It means setting aside your preconceived notions and being open to learning from the experiences of others.

Even in instances when you’re certain and strong in your conviction, it’s beneficial to recognize and regard another person’s opinion. Empathy – that is, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes – “is one of the great teaching tools in shaping anger and aggression,” said Dr. Hans Steiner, a Stanford professor who’s spent decades studying anger and aggression.

5. I feel my softer feelings

While anger is classified as one of the four primary emotions (along with joy, sadness, and fear), it is often expressed in secondary ways. For example, I felt sad and fearful when I read a third surge of covid is hitting Michigan, and then I got mad to learn that one probably cause for the uptick is the fact that residents are moving about almost on par with pre-pandemic levels, taking far more “non-essential” trips than they did at the depths of the second wave in December.

While aggression may feel safer than the softer, more vulnerable emotions like sorrow or worry, it separates us from others and makes us feel more alone. Softer emotions, on the other hand, are key in building intimacy, coming together around a problem, and preventing polarization. In other words, don’t get mad, get clear – and then carry on with your workday.

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4 practices to help you separate work from home while working remotely, according to a psychotherapist

woman freelance wfh
Having an established work area can help you leave work behind at the end of the day.

Working from home blurs the line between “work time” and “free time.” On the plus side, you can throw some laundry in during the middle of a busy work day. On the flipside, you might struggle to watch TV at night without feeling a twinge of guilt that you don’t at least have your laptop in front of you.

The pandemic has definitely made the division between work and home even more complicated. For many families, home has become the gym, the office, and school. 

And while you don’t need to have a clear delineation between home and work all the time, a little separation between the two can help you feel more present when you’re working and allow you to fully enjoy your leisure time.

1. Establish a work area

Most people don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated home office. If you do, commit to working while you’re in the office and when you’re done, exit the room and leave work behind. 

If you don’t have a separate office, create a work area. This doesn’t have to be the place you physically work from all day (like the dining room table or the couch). Instead, it might be the place where you store your work-related items when you aren’t working.

If you can, put the laptop, piles of papers, and other work-related materials completely out of sight when you’re not working. Tuck them in a drawer or put them in a closet. 

Just tucking those items away can grant you some psychological relief during your off-time by signaling to your brain that you have permission to relax.

2. Change your clothes

While some people say they feel better wearing nice clothes while working from home, dressing up isn’t mandatory.

After all, when you’re at home, you might find wearing nice clothes adds more stress to your day because you have to worry about getting dog hair on your shirt and spilling your soup on your lap.

If you’re into more casual wear in the confines of your home, you can still use your attire to your psychological advantage. Simply change your clothes when you’re done working – even if that means replacing your green joggers with the black ones. 

There’s something about putting on different clothes that can help your brain see that it’s time for something new – even if it’s a lateral switch in outfits (as opposed to the downgrade from the business suit to the sweatpants).

You might even find you dress up more in your off time. If you’ve been trying to pass off your pajamas as business casual on a blurry Zoom call, you might find a trip the grocery store actually warrants a wardrobe upgrade.  Either way, a change of clothes can go a long way to helping you create a distinction between “work time” and “free time.”

3. Create a fake commute

Under normal circumstances, commutes are often the one thing that helps people prepare for the transition between work and home. Whether that commute involves listening to a podcast on a train or it’s a daily call to mom while driving on a country road, physical distance can help us create some psychological distance too.

So you might find it’s helpful to create a fake commute for yourself. Even if it’s just a walk around the block before you start working, a daily activity like this can signal your brain that you’re going from “home” to “work.”

I know one man who walks out his back door as if he’s going to work and then just re-enters through the front. He swears this helps him feel like he’s “going to work” again. So while his “commute” only lasts a minute or two, he finds the strategy helps him feel more effective.

4. Use a different page for work/home apps

If you have a lot of apps for work – like your work email or Slack channel – put them on a different screen on your smartphone. 

Separating your “fun” apps from your “work” apps can help you resist the temptation to check your work email at all hours of the day.

This can also help you enjoy your fun apps a little more. And signal to your brain that you have permission to have fun right now. 

Distinguishing work time from free time can go a long way toward helping you feel your best when you’re working from home. This can be key to preventing burnout and helping you perform at your best.

Read the original article on Business Insider

5 therapist-recommended tips to stay mentally strong when you’re working from home

Woman doing a craft
Scheduling fun activities can help you stay mentally strong during isolation.

It’s hard to feel like the epitome of mental toughness when you’re sitting on the couch in your pajamas for the 250th day in a row armed with nothing but a laptop and a coffee-stained pile of papers.

amy morin psychotherapist
Amy Morin.

Working from home can feel a bit liberating while also a bit mundane. And over time, every day might blend together when your only coworker is your cat. 

For individuals who live alone, remote work can be quite isolating. No matter how many Zoom meetings you might have, staring at people through a screen might make you feel more disconnected than ever. 

On the other hand, some remote workers would give anything to get a few minutes of silence. Dealing with kids who are trying their hand at remote learning, a partner who speaks loudly on conference calls, and a neighbor’s dog who won’t stop barking can make your work day feel more like a circus than a serene office.

Fortunately, no matter what situation you find yourself in right in, there are a few things you can do to stay mentally strong while you’re working from home.

1. Create opportunities to get away from work

When you’re working from home, you might find that you sit on the couch with the TV on and your laptop in front of you almost all the time. Day blends into night and the line between “work” and “non-work” time gets fuzzy. This can cause you to feel as though you’re working all the time, which isn’t good for your psychological well-being.

Carve time into your schedule that allows you to get away from work. Close your laptop and watch TV or put your work-related items away at a certain time every evening. Create boundaries that allow you to relax without feeling like you have to respond to emails in an instant.

2. Schedule something fun

One of the best ways to feel good is by scheduling something fun. It sounds simplistic on the surface, but it really works.

Pleasant activity scheduling, as it’s often referred to in the therapy world, is a skill that combats depression. Researchers have found it’s a great way to help people feel better.

Scheduling a fun activity a few days into the future boosts your mood because you have something to look forward to. Then, when you actually do that activity, you get another boost in your mood. Your mood will stay elevated after the activity is over because you’ve created a positive memory. 

Of course, during the pandemic a “fun” activity might look a little different than you’re used to. But you might benefit from something as simple as deciding that you’re going to watch a movie on Friday night. Putting that in your schedule might not only increase the likelihood that you’ll actually do it, but it could also improve your psychological well-being.

3. Take care of your body

Your mind won’t stay strong if you’re neglecting your body. So beware of the tendency to stay up watching the late shows or the temptation to snack too much when you’re bored (and working seven steps away from the refrigerator).

Eating too much junk food, indulging in alcohol, skimping on sleep, and forgoing your workouts won’t just take a toll on your physical health – those unhealthy habits will also take a toll on your mental health.

So make sure you’re not neglecting yourself when you’re working from home. It’s easy to do – especially during the pandemic. But creating time to move your body and care for your basic needs is essential to functioning at your best. 

4. Balance social time and alone time

Whether you feel like you can’t get away from your family for five minutes, or the only human being you’ve seen in months is the delivery driver, social distancing has created some bizarre circumstances. 

Everyone needs both social time and solitude but the amount of time in which you need each one is unique to you. It’s important to know how much alone time you need to feel your best and how much time you need with people to thrive.

During the pandemic, you’ll likely need to get a little more creative with getting your needs met. From Zoom dinners with friends to setting aside time to read in a book in your room without the kids interrupting, get proactive about getting your needs met. 

5. Incorporate some mental strength exercises into your day

Just like it’s important to set aside time to work on building a strong, healthy body, it’s also important to work on building a strong mind.

Incorporating a few mental strength exercises into your day can go a long way toward helping you think, feel, and do your best.

There are many different exercises that can help you grow mentally stronger. Practicing gratitude, meditating, and naming your feelings are just a few simple strategies that can help you build mental muscle. 

Set aside time to do them and commit to daily practice. Your mental muscles need ongoing exercise to stay in shape the same way your physical muscles do.

Read the original article on Business Insider