By Amy Gross, Peak Performance & Mental Coach
We live in a world that requires long hours of work without much time to unwind. Overscheduling, overtraining, overstimulation and chronic stress are commonplace. Finding opportunities for recovery can be difficult. Luckily, there are ways to stay healthy and fresh throughout the season:
Notice warning signs
The earlier athletes recognize signs of burnout, the more proactive they can be to do something about it. Be on the lookout for physical, emotional and behavioral changes. Symptoms may include:
- Increased exhaustion
- Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Depleted energy levels
- Loss of motivation
- Fluctuation of attitude
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Irritability, cynicism and negative outlook
- Poor concentration and deteriorated performance
- Change in sleep and eating habits
- Headaches and tension
- Disengagement and detachment
- Feeling helpless
Manage energy levels.
A lot of the mind’s resources are used during training and competition—especially after major tournaments where more energy is exerted. If time isn’t allotted for rest, the body will not repair itself and will eventually breakdown. Instead of pushing through fatigue, work on restoring energy to prevent burnout.
- Participate in energy boosting activities. Ask yourself, “what saps my energy and what increases my energy?” If getting into a debate about politics or talking too much about squash is draining, do things that are rejuvenating instead.
- Pay attention to wasted energy. Worrying about past or upcoming tournaments or the amount of work you need to put in to get to the next level doesn’t give your brain a break to revitalize and renew.
- A great way to recharge is to regularly schedule downtime. It can be anything from a walk, meditation, music, breathing exercises, a stress reliever of your choice, or a “no cell phone zone.”
- Mix it up. If your performance is stale, don’t be afraid to change up your routine. Adding different drills or workouts to your training program helps maintain engagement.
- Listen to your body. “No pain, no gain” is a misleading motto. “No pain, no pain” might be better. Sometimes throwing in the towel or cutting a training session short is just what the doctor ordered.
- Let it happen. We often get ourselves in a tizzy when we’re negative rather than meeting ourselves where we’re at in the moment. Instead of clinging onto thoughts, accept your current mood to allow the negativity to dissipate.
Develop a roadmap for success.
Figuring out what needs to be done to achieve your goals and creating milestones will help you celebrate the small victories and stay on track. Reassessing your state periodically and being open to refining goals builds focus and consistency.
- Plan and prepare. Map out your tournament schedule and learn from past experiences. For example, perhaps you played too many back-to-back tournaments last year. Your schedule isn’t set in stone, so adjust and be mindful as the season progresses.
- Rethink goals. Burnout can occur when you’re overwhelmed (goals are out of reach), you’re bored (no new goals to pursue) or you place too much emphasis on external factors (pressure, what people think, disappointing others, etc.). Check in with yourself and continually identify goals that matter to you (e.g. mastering a shot, learning new skills, improving, having fun, etc.).