Going for the Gold: Dealing with Burnout
Welcome back to Going for the Gold!
This week we're going to talk about something more real than just another PPTQ win: How do you deal with burning out?
Burnout is defined as the physical or mental collapse that is caused by overwork or stress.
But wait! I'm a Magic player... why would I suffer from burnout?
Most of us have a full-time job, unless Magic has been able to support our lifestyle in some shape or form. And just like every other person who has a 9-5 job, we live for the weekends. But unlike them, the weekends are usually the only times that we can play worthwhile Magic tournaments. This means that we don't really give ourselves a break, and for the hardcore grinders? This means working seven days a week. It's inevitable that we're all going to crash and burn, right?
Of course the answer is 'not if you take care of yourself appropriately'!
If you play like how I played in the 2016-2017 season, then most of your weekend will be spent playing Magic. Not only did I play all four Pro Tours, but I also played 15 Grand Prix and a Super Sunday Series adding up to a total of 20 weekends that I was away from home battling. What's worse is that sometimes I would have to play four events back-to-back due to the nature of the Premier Event schedule, and most of my opponents would also be on the same 3-4 week run. I remember playing against Corey Baumeister at Grand Prix New Jersey 2017 and we were both so excited that we would be able to sleep in on the next Saturday.
Even if you don't battle at all the "continental" Grand Prix, you are constantly travelling to play in PPTQs and playing FNMs, which gives you very little downtime for yourself. Here are some suggestions that I have that will improve your experience and prevent you from burning out for longer.
- Play Fewer Tournaments
Imagine this scenario: You're so excited! You have three Grand Prix coming up on back-to-back weekends in January. You believe that this is probably the best way for you to finally get on the Pro Tour. In preparation, you decide to practice a few hours every day on Limited and Standard so that you're ready in a month. Your friend tells you that there are also PPTQs that are happening on both Saturday and Sunday for the next two weekends. You start to pack your bag for the weekend and preregister for these events.
Do you see the problem here?
By the time the Grand Prix rolls around, you'll have played so much Magic that you wouldn't have any downtime. We are all easily guilty of this, which is why I highly recommend trying to prioritize which tournaments mean the most to you, and to avoid immersing yourself in too much Magic around that time. It's one thing to prepare for events, but it's another to just continuously jam Magic day in and day out.
Also, if you have a local Grand Prix on a weekend, why not just skip FNM the night before? What would winning that FNM accomplish?
Or if you want to play in two PPTQs on one weekend, take the next weekend off. Of course, this is much easier if you win said PPTQ. Unfortunately, most of us aren't lucky enough to ship a tournament on our first try.
2. Get Adequate Rest & Nutrition
If you can't commit to playing less tournaments, or you want to bolster your mental capability even further, then you should be focusing on getting at least eight hours of sleep a night. Take that pesky cell phone and put it in another room. Turn off all of your electronics at least an hour before you want to go to bed. The LED lights from your phone, laptop or TV will prevent you from falling asleep.
Personally, I used to struggle with falling asleep until the wee hours of the night, but ever since I started taking melatonin pills before bed I've been able to sleep like a baby. Ensuring you have the full eight hours of sleep will also do wonders for your health and fitness. Human Growth Hormone is only released during your deepest sleep and maximizing this will make you feel like a million bucks. You will be more alert and ready to take on the upcoming day's challenges, including Magic tournaments.
It's a wonderful feeling to not have to rely on that early morning caffeine jolt, isn't it?
When you are at Magic tournaments, make sure that you hydrate yourself constantly. This is as simple as getting yourself your own capped water bottle that you sip on between turns, games, or matches. Also, make sure that you eat at regular time intervals. We've all gone to those tournaments where we have had nothing but sugar filled foods and soda. All this does is give us a temporary reprieve, but causes a larger crash a few hours later. I like to pack or purchase snacks before the tournament. That way I'm never at risk of going hungry or making a bad decision due to my diet. After all, you are what you eat!
Make the right choices, and your tournaments won't feel as long as they have in the past!
3. Travel Less to Remote Events
We all know someone who we would call a road warrior. They travel every weekend to any Magic tournament that they can find a ride to. It doesn't matter if it's a 10 hour bus ride, or a 15 hour car ride. They're so dedicated to getting on the Pro Tour that they will do whatever it takes.
The year that BBD won the World Championship, he went to every tournament on every weekend. He was driving 16 hours for Grand Prix and sleeping in parking lots on the way. This eventually takes its toll on you, in a similar way to the first point above.
If you travel long distances for two weekends or more in a row, then take at least 3-4 weeks off before you do it again. Alternatively you can try to split up the drive so that you drive half way on Friday afternoon and the other half on Saturday morning. Also it helps to prioritize tournaments that are happening that require less travel time over those that require more travel time.
This was me when I was chasing Gold pro level status in May of 2016. I remember travelling on back to back weekends for Grand Prix in the US. By the end of the month, I didn't even want to touch a Magic card for at least a few months.
As with all things, there is a delicate balance. Make sure you find what works for you.
If you took anything away from this article, I hope it's that taking some time off Magic could improve your resolve at your future tournaments.
Post in the comments below or tweet at me (@SammyTMTG). And, if you want to keep up with my articles and happenings, please make sure you hit the follow button for Twitter @ SammyTMTG. I’ll see you next week for another article on improving your magical skills! Until then, have a great weekend!