The Fatigue Phenomenon

March, 24 2021

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There are several sport specific stressors we focus on when considering athlete mental health and performance. One of which, fatigue, has reared its head repeatedly for the past year. Much to our surprise, in a year where time has been in abundance for athletes who typically find themselves moving from one thing to the next with little time for rest and relaxation, fatigue has consistently shown up as an area of struggle for athletes.

Generally, fatigue is a feeling of consistent tiredness or weakness that can be physical or mental or a combination of both but has typically been considered as something associated with physicality, particularly when thinking about athletes. However, we have been encouraged to consider all facets of fatigue in an effort to understand what is happening for our athletes as they continue to report challenges in this area.

What fatigue may look like:

  • Mood is increasingly down, pessimistic or irritable
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Isolation
  • Relationships are suffering

We came across a great article written by Mark Lebedew that outlines various types of fatigue and would encourage you to take a look to get clearer. In addition, we want to highlight a few that live outside of the physicality.

Emotional Fatigue

Emotional fatigue is something that may be quite familiar to many. It appears with feelings of being warn-out or drained as a result of accumulated stress.

What you may notice:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cynicism
  • Pessimism

Mental Fatigue

Mental fatigue can affect anyone who has experienced long term stress. It can occur gradually, often creeping up on unsuspecting beings. Its unwelcome visit can make you feel trapped and powerless, overwhelmed and emotionally drained and forget about responsibilities - those seem to become impossible to manage.

What you may notice:

  • Detachment
  • Anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Dread
  • Lack of motivation
  • Decline in productivity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Inability to keep commitments

So…what can we do about it? There are several options to consider when you are dealing with fatigue yourself or seeing it in your athletes.

  1. Remove the stress. We realize this is quite a challenge at this time, particularly if the stress if connected to how drastically COVID has impacted our lives. However, we can still ask for help or reach out to professionals.
  2. Take a break. Allow yourself a moment to take a little time for yourself to rest and recharge.
  3. Exercise. This does not have to be extensive. Even taking a walk can allow for that much needed mental break.

While so much seems to be out of our control lately, taking the time to care for your mental health and to support those closest to you is one way to take back the power!

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