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Can being successful at an early age result in quick burnout?

Reaching the top early can result in heightened expectations from one's self and from others at early stages of one's career. As MS Dhoni quits Test cricket at age 33, we ask experts if reaching the top at an early age can result in a quick burnout.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 13, 2015 13:39 IST
Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari
Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari
Hindustan Times
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Even before MS Dhoni won India the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011, he was already hailed as one of the finest captains we've ever had. Yet, now, post his unexpected decision to retire from Test cricket, there has been a fair bit of scrutiny about his recent record, both as a Test player and a captain.

Many have even questioned what this means for his ODI career. The man, who made his ODI debut (against Bangladesh) in 2004, has actually played Tests for less than a decade. And in the last year or so, he's started looking visibly older, with his hair and beard having greyed remarkably quickly.

At 33, as the man played his last game in cricketing whites for the nation, we ask if reaching the top early results in a burnout - across various professions.

Great expectations
Reaching the top early can result in heightened expectations from one's self and from others at early stages of one's career. This can have detrimental effects, says Dr Amrapali Patil, psychology counsellor: "Too early to the top means setting too many high standards and expectations early in life. This can strain anybody."

Dr Usha Talvadkar, psychologist, Cumballa Hill Hospital and Heart Institute, Kemps Corner, adds, "The anxiety and stress that comes with success can be unnerving at times. The pressure to perform well pushes us all to do our best to an extent, but after a point, it can lead to a faster burnout."

Emotional factors
While excessive pressure is one aspect, experts feel that there are other psychological and emotional factors as well. A burnout is essentially emotional fatigue. Symptoms of it also include not being able to find motivation to do the same thing, or follow a pattern.

"Stress can lead to cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioural problems. It can make a person moody or agitated. Temper problems, irritability, feelings of unhappiness, depression and loneliness are also some of the signs of a burnout," adds Dr Talvadkar.

Physical repercussions
Since performing well demands a lot of effort, we often end up exhausting our body, and in turn, feeling weary and tired. Too much workload, taking on too many responsibilities, long work hours, lack of dietary control and lack of proper sleep affects both physical and mental health.

Spend time with family and friends, meditate and listen to music to avoid burnout (Photo: Shutterstock)

The pressure to remain at the top can lead to hypertension, ischemic (a restriction in blood supply to tissues, which causes a shortage of oxygen and glucose in the cells), heart diseases, diabetes mellitus, gastritis, high blood pressure, chronic headaches and other psychosomatic disorders.

Handle with care
Handling stress and anxiety with a calm mind is a requisite for emotional and physical equilibrium. For that, one needs to stay grounded, and find ways to recuperate. "Ensuring that you keep taking breaks between work, and take vacations, can be a good way to avert a burnout," says Dr Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

On the captain
We can't say that MS Dhoni's is a premature retirement, as the individual alone can be a judge of that. More so, he continues to play all other forms of cricket. It's a player's choice. So being judgemental would be incorrect. - Dr Samir Parikh

Things that help avert burnout
* A healthy diet, proper sleep and relaxation, with regular exercise are good for physical and mental well-being.
* Spending time with family and friends can keep you relaxed and motivated at work.
* Meditation, yoga and listening to music are relaxation techniques that decrease muscle tension and help avoid psychosomatic illnesses.
* Avoid nicotine and excessive indulgence in alcohol or caffeine.

First Published: Jan 13, 2015 12:53 IST