For National Mental Health Day 2016 I was asked to write a piece by Stevie Ward. Because this area is so vast I decided to discuss a topic that is close to me, one in which I have done some research in, Stress-Recovery balance. I will discuss a little about how this idea was created, how it all relates to Mental Health and then finally my story.

So, what exactly is Stress-Recovery balance?

It is described as the equal amount of recovery to the amount of stress a person may undertake. For example, if I was to go the gym for a certain period of time, I would be expected to balance this with the same amount of rest period. So what would happen if a person did not accomplish this?  There are many of things. We have all been in a situation where we question whether we want to carry on. Whether it be employment, sports or relationships. This could be done by overtraining, either physically or mentally, dependant on the task. This could lead to a disorder called Burnout, which is frequently linked to Mental Health.

Stress-Recovery balance was a term first created by a man named Michael Kellmann in the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s. Being so influential in the field Kellmann has published a substantial amount of research giving him and this theory high credibility. 

Burnout

This has been described as a form of a Mental Health disorder and I myself have been on the receiving end of it. Burnout is described as a withdrawal from sport (or an activity) which in my case was Rugby League. Just to point out so we are still on topic, one of the signs of depression is loss of interest in activities.

Burnout consists of three dimensions:

  1. Emotional Exhaustion
  2. Depersonalisation
  3. Reduced Performance Accomplishment

My Story

With this also comes staleness. In my case, I started to hate all of my teammates. From my amateur club as a teenager I have only kept in regular contact with about 2 teammates. In hindsight it can be a dark place to be in, because when you isolate yourself from others they may not take in to account how you feel. Because after all, in the eyes of others you are the one in the wrong.

As a young player, competing at my amateur rugby league club made me very happy and I felt such a big part of the team. I moved on to the Widnes Vikings scholarship but after not being signed professionally, I soon pursued a pathway in to college. This was through the help of my previous coach at Widnes whom provided me with the information about a diploma in sport for Rugby League at the time. Once I was accepted on the course my life drastically changed. Most of the other lads on the course were slightly older than me and we had differently personalities. In my opinion I believe it was because I played for Crosfields in Warrington and studied at a college in Widnes, so we did not have much in common. I believe at times, I was bullied on this course and because I was quite younger than some of them and a lot smaller than pretty much everyone. It developed me in to a reserved individual, someone that I had never been before. Whilst competing for the College Rugby team and not being a part of the social circle outside of the course and team, I was on the receiving end of some ‘banter’ , being frequently told I was “shit” and  that “the only reason you’re in the squad is because there is no one else to replace you”.  This changed my opinion of many of my peers in the sport and the very sport itself. Gradually, I powered through college and applied for University and I was accepted in to Chester and Edge Hill. However, I decided not to pursue this pathway because I was worried that I would not make friends with any of my peers on any of these new courses. Soon after, a similar situation happened in my amateur club. My teammates started getting involved with drugs and drinking every weekend and would therefore miss games, leaving some of the lads to suffer as a result.  So, after a while of putting up with that and withstanding countless injuries I decided to have an early retirement! It was clear to me at the time that my heart was not in it anymore, yet it still took me a long time to accept and adjust to not playing rugby anymore and even longer to figure out what to do next.

To evident the points I have tried to provide are examples such as Jarryd Hayne, the current Gold Coast Titans NRL player. A few years ago he decided to transfer sports from rugby league to American Football. This very well could have been staleness, which is a pre-disposing stage of burnout. Research suggests if you are overtraining in a sport or you are ‘burnout’ that the best action to take is to take a break from the sport. Hayne did this before returning to the NRL this year. Even though this is just speculation, it is proven that most coaches use a term called periodised training for athletes to help prevent overtraining and burnout. The best way to explain this, is that after working a shift wherever the legal requirement has to be abided by, employees have to have a minimum of 11 hours between shifts, to ensure they do not burn themselves out, ergo explaining Stress-Recovery balance. In addition to this is another athlete with a large fan base and a very common face of social media; CM Punk. CM Punk was a previous pro wrestler for WWE. In a podcast with a man named Colt Cobana, Punk reveals all of the shit he had to put up with in relation to working for the company, such as: performing on injuries, not being used to his full potential and being fired on his wedding. These kinds of ‘Stresses’ can send any individual in to depressive states.

The best actions for preventing burnout are some that have previously been mentioned. Usually, individuals should be given breaks before they reach any sort of stages of burnout. In terms of sports, if athletes are not provided with significant rest periods then they only have themselves to blame as professional athletes should know how to manage their own recovery, in my opinion. However, younger athletes or individuals who have no knowledge or experience should be guided by their coaches or in an occupational scenario, their boss. Research suggests that when a person is overtraining, their performance decreases, so if you are feeling negative about your performance and feel you are putting an increased amount of work in to receive a deprived outcome, then definitely speak to a coach, boss or peer and develop a strategy. Or even better, take a break.