UCAM investigates the causes of athletes’ mental exhaustion

María Isabel Jiménez, PhD student of Psychology at Universidad Católica de Murcia, wants to offer key tips to avoid the infamous athletes' “burnout”.

15 July 2015

María Isabel Jiménez Morales, PhD student of Psychology at UCAM and main researcher of the group "Emotions, Behaviour and Health", began an investigation to analyze the link between athletes’ emotional intelligence and their predispositions to suffer from the so-called ‘burnout’ (emotional exhaustion and lack of personal fulfillment), by taking into account the moderator role of personality. She has already completed a previous study with 201 athletes, which is to be followed by an experimental phase which aims to deepen the possible solutions to this problem.

This study is based on two points: on the one hand, the daily requirement of training and competition which results in enormous ‘psychological pressure’ on the high-level athlete; on the other hand, the role of emotional intelligence, understood as the ensemble of the abilities we have to comprehend, grasp and regulate our emotions, which acts as a fundamental tool to adequately deal with daily stress and psychological pressure.

In the preliminary investigation, a sample of 201 athletes was evaluated. One of the previous conclusions was that the link between athletes’ emotional intelligence and their personality can determin their level of vulnerability or their predisposition to ‘burnout’. The study also demonstrated that a low level of perseverance or self-commitment, associated with a high level of emotional lucidity, can favor the emergence of symptoms of mental exhaustion. Moreover, it was observed that an athlete with good emotional stability and low attention level also presents a clear tendency to ‘burnout’.

Researcher María Isabel Jiménez considers that, with an appropriate specific accompaniement based on proper characteristics of personality and levels of emotional intelligence, an athlete could learn to deal with psychological pressure and improve his/her performances: “By analyzing the athletes’ profile, we can work on specific counselling directed to self-regulate their emotions and by doing so, improve their performances while decreasing their tendency to ‘burnout’. One has to work on motivation and emotional intelligence in order to improve well-being and sport performances.”

The next step in this research is the experimental phase which could lead to important progresses in the field of Sports Psychology