MJ Bezzant on swimming burnout

What’s burnout look like for you? What are the symptoms?

I get really anxious. I tend to zone out more and not talk to people as much. I center on myself a little bit more to try to recover.


How would you describe yourself during the recovery stage?

I would say definitely pretty emotional. I tend to cry a little bit more or get more frustrated because nobody wants to be burnt out. Nobody wants to, like for me specifically, stop swimming when I’m burnt out.

I would say my safe place is a pool. Like today I took practice a little easier to make sure my muscles were feeling okay because we have another invitational this weekend and I’m gonna try to perform my best for my team. When I’m in this recovery period, I try not to blame myself because I know it’s not always my fault.


How would you rate your stress level from 1-10?

I would say the past week, my stress level was probably like seven or eight. I’m pretty stressed. I missed a lot of school and I had  a lot of work. The high school season just started and there’s a little bit of pressure on me. I was supposed to break a record last night but I added four and a half seconds. It’s okay though since it’s the beginning of the season.


What normally occupies your day (classes, sports, extracurriculars or any other responsibilities)?

School literally takes up all my time. My French class, specifically, killing me. Swimming also occupies my mind 90% of the time. In the beginning of the year, I had double practices. So I would get up at 4:15 a.m. and get ready to go some practices for an hour and a half before I came to school. Then after school, I would go to another club practice. And now that high school season started, I have put a pause on club so that I could focus on high school season where I’m more focused on the mental side of the sport versus the physical. So swimming is definitely where a lot of my stress comes from but it’s also the place where I can like relieve all my anger and emotion towards the world.


When you’re in class, are you often distracted by sports?

Yeah, I am. I want to swim in college obviously. I think I base a lot of my life around it. Like I focus on school so that I can get good grades and good GPA. Since that’s what they [colleges] look at. Like, not only is she a good athlete, but she’s good at academics. So we want her at our school. And that’s pretty much it.


What sports do you play?

I swim and I play water polo.


How is the stress from water polo and swimming different?

I would say that water polo is like a place where I can learn to love the pool again. So I swim all year round. And after water polo season ends, I go back to swimming during the summer and then do it for the rest of the year. And so it becomes a period of time where I’m like, Oh, the pool isn’t such a negative place and it helps me build better leadership ability with coaches and the people that I’m with because it’s just a little bit more friendly, a little less competitive.

But they’re definitely stressful. I had a pretty good season last year and I’m already nervous about how it’s going to be this year because I haven’t been playing waterpolo like I was.


What would you do to prevent the anxiety or stress for sports?

Before races, I like to plan out everything I’m going to do in my race which can either stress me out more or calm me down, depending on the specific thing I’m doing. There’s one specific race where I will walk it through in my head or I’ll explain to somebody next to me. It helps me stay very calm during my race, which is pretty necessary to have a good race. Other than that, I try to breathe. I go outside and get some fresh air before I races or listen to music because it’s a very calming outlet. They’re also other good ways to calm you down before you’re about to like jump into the water. And just to stay warm, I always have sweatshirts and sweatpants on or my swimsuit before races.


How much free time do you have not being stressed out by other work?

I stay up pretty late so I’ll spend a lot of time laying in bed like watching TikTok or listening to music. When I get home from high school swim practice, I normally get right to my homework. Sometimes I have family things going on. I think I’m pretty busy. I’m not always stressed out. But I never really do have some pure free time.


How was coming back to school after COVID?

Sophomore year has definitely been a little bit more work, but it’s pretty manageable. I would say the teachers are definitely understand that we’re coming back from a harder year. But they still have high expectations for us, which I think is necessary for us to be successful. I would say that the classes haven’t necessarily been as easy. AP World is a little bit more workload than I think most of us are used to and chemistry is pretty difficult. And especially coming off of having a lot of open note tests there definitely has been adjustments.


How does burning out academically affect your sports?

When I burn out academically it makes it difficult for me to focus on my sports. When I’m not doing as well academically, I know that I have to get back on track with it and so I kind of forget about everything else. I’m like, after this and this and this and this and this you’ll get on track and I just like power through and so I can continue to live my life like before


How does the physical environment of your learning affect your stress levels? Did you feel more stressed out academically online or in person?

I’m a very social person and when I’m talking to people, I’m a lot less stressed. I like to be able to talk people in my classes so the virtual experience was not necessarily very easy for me because I wasn’t able to like talk to people. So like, I didn’t love it and it definitely was more stressful.


Long term, how do you think burnout affects you?

I think it definitely affects how I view myself more than anything. I would say that in school and in sports, I don’t necessarily think I’m best at them. And I put work in and I am trying my best when I can but I think it definitely like lowers my self esteem. And that can end up being more detrimental than the burnout itself in my opinion.


Do you feel pressure from your family to perform well in sports?

My family’s like, you’re doing really well. We’re really proud of you for doing this. But I know that they really want me to succeed and they want and they know what I can do. And that can be stressful. But I know that they always want the best for me and if taking a break is the best way to learn and understand, they’re super supportive.


What would you like to see changed within school to help accommodate burnout and stress?

There is a psychology class but I think having a class dedicated to mental health could be pretty cool and interesting. Maybe we could have a day in seminar where we discuss how to handle stress because talking to a counselor isn’t always the easiest thing. But if we just talked about it more, I think it would be easier for kids to be like, I’m really stressed about this how can I like get help.


Final question — what feelings that come to mind when you think of school?

I would definitely say that I don’t necessarily dislike school. I like to talk to my friends and I do get to do what I love. I get to swim with a school. I would more say it’s a place where I can grow and learn. So it’s a pretty positive reaction most of the time.