Stress… analyzing work, training, & competition

After my previous post “Crisis management, between real life and running”, a friend asked me if can find a difference in my mental and physical state when I compare between endurance sport events and crisis management at work. The answer was obvious to me, but I choose to look at the data and examine this aspect – as suggested in the previous post. So I used the data collected by my Garmin ENDURO watch, and the reports from my Garmin Connect app. This post looks at the analysis shown in the figure below along the year between October 2021 and October 2022.

The data I found most interesting was the stress level. It clearly shows increased levels of stress during crisis as well as competition. Having said that, while a 6 day race and short crisis show mild increase in average stress levels to ~35, a long and extended crisis management period turned out in a massive build up of average stress levels tp ~55.

From here I started looking into my sleep. For this I used both sleep duration as well as its quality grades given by the Garmin app. All and all, there are insignificant changes in my sleeping hours (roughly 6-7.5 Hrs), although some decline can be seen in the first crisis – probably due to multiple flights. This is however not the case for the 2nd and extended crisis period. The interesting part is sleep quality. Here one can see a clear decline during both the race and the crises. In the race it declined to a score of ~50 compared to over 70 in normal times, while in crises it dropped well below 40. Having said that, keep in mind there was a difference in circumstances. During the race I was sleeping in a tent in a sleeping bag, no shower, no change of clothes for 6 days; In the 1st crisis I spent many nights flying between two continents sleeping many time on the plane and in hotels; and in the 2nd and extended crisis I slept at home in my bed. My main observations are that despite the worst sleeping conditions in the race, it showed the least decline in sleep quality. During the crisis management at work, clearly the decline was similar, and its extent was correlated to the crisis length.

One obvious thought would be that my stress levels may be related to my level of activity – training or racing. Here I used the “intensity minutes” tracking to look into this question. For the race, it is obvious that there was an intensity peak. As for the crisis management the picture is different… Due to many flights and travels during the first crisis I did not train much and there was very low level of high intensity minutes, while in the second crisis my training level was going up. To my opinion it clearly indicates that in this case the sleep quality drop and stress levels are not related to the training regime.

Now for some insights and thoughts. It is not surprising that both in endurance run and crisis management the stress goes up. It should be noted that while during the race it is well correlated with peak of physical load, this is completely not the case for crisis management. Here, both crisis show similar impact of stress sleep quality, however, the longer the crisis is the higher is the increase in stress. Which one do I prefer? Clearly the race.

(Photo by Thiago Diz/4 RacingThePlanet/Gobi March

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