Helping the best to get better

Yes, probably a strange name for a blog, but it explains my main occupation and interest during a large part of my life and also my current position.
For almost 30 years I had the privilege of working with the world’s elite athletes, clubs and organizations, in many sports.
Apart from everything else an educational experience that has taught me much about the capacities and limitations of the human body and mind.  Not only do I, in my own obsessive way, try to gain as much information as I can in order to do a good a job as possible, but I also explore and test my own frontiers, limitations and new territories.

In this blog I will make an attempt to report from my explorations into the capabilities of human functioning.

Let me start with today’s, October 3, 2012, newspaper, in this case NRC Next, there was a report about: ”Men at the top”, men at the highest international management  level of multinational companies.
It was an article about Mr. Ton Buechner the CEO of AKZO Nobel, presumably diagnosed with a sudden burnout. Another article in that newspaper read: “A burnout before you’re thirty, not even 30 years old and already TO-TAL-LY out.”
So yes, burnout is a hot issue here in the Netherlands these days. More and more people seem to buckle under the load of life they have or they perceive. The Central Bureau of Statistics showed that 1out of 10 young people between 15 and 25 years suffers from burnout-like complaints. The percentage of employees between 25 and  35 years, suffering from burnout was 10-11% in 1997, rising to 13% in 2010 and currently it is 14%. In other words: disturbing numbers, as well as at individual as at social level!
In my company I test and consult with  a lot of burned out clients. And there are some interesting aspects:.
1.    there seems to be a common personality-type that is vulnerable to burnout: perfectionists, who have a high sense of responsibility, have trouble drawing the line and sayi“no”, probably afraid to lose the respect or love of others So basically: nice and good people.
2.    a society that overloads us with the many things we “should”: work hard, doing nice things, be on Facebook, Twitter, buying gadgets and stuff that others already have, be online and  reachable to others 24/7, maintain a social network, always having music or sounds in the background, etc. In short: too many things to do, options we have, choices to make, within a time-frame that seems to get shorter all the time and a brain that never stops working, processing everything that our sensory system catches.
3.    Too little time, one “forgets” the activities that took care of deep relaxation, recharging, and no, browsing the internet and updating your Facebook don’t do that …..
And how did we end up having chronically too little time. We have all kind of tools supposed to make our life more efficient and faster, so we should have more spare time instead of less.
In my opinion these three factors in the long term will create an imbalance between mental and physical load and the ability to handle and process that load. The total load is handled by three important physiological systems:
1.    the central nervous system, in short: our brains
2.    the autonomic nervous system: the fast , electrical system that controls all of our vital functions like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing etc. (substance: adrenalin)
3.    the (stress-)hormonal system: the slower, biochemical system which supports our adaptation to mental and/or physical load (substance: cortisol)
As we all know: what you cannot measure, you cannot improve!
In my concept we start by measuring the activity of each of these three systems; which system is overactive or fatigued and therefore not as active as it should be; the result of chronic overload. Only when the results are there, can an adequate treatment of burnout be started.
Even better is preventing a burnout, stress-related complaints and fatigue by monitoring these parameters on a regular base and show people the results of their choices, decisions and life-style. It is an early warning system, which makes it possible to act proactively.
This works really well in real life and has made sustainable optimal functioning possible in elite sports as well as in demanding work situations.
More information about this concept on our website

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