I woke up today feeling unusually stressed. Unable to shake the feeling and needing a distraction, I pulled out "Lore of Running" by Tim Noakes. But instead of merely a distraction I found wisdom that spoke to exactly what was eating away at me.
The chapter on overtraining ends with a description of Alberto Salazar. He notoriously flamed out early in his career, and when he announced his retirement Salazar said:
"The biggest thing I've leared isn't simply that I trained too hard all those years. Everyone says, 'Alberto trained way too hard and burned out." To be a world-class runner, you have to train hard. But what I did learn is that you can't do those hard workouts increasingly. In order to be good, you have to train at a high level, but you must allow your body time to recover. You need to take time off. You need to run easy on some days, and you need to take at least a month off at the end of the season. I never did either."
This quotation along with the overall message of the chapter is that the body and mind are intricately connected, and there is a limit to the stresses they can handle. If you exceed that limit, you can do irreparable damage, and miss out on some of the things in life that really matter. Running wasn't what was causing me stress, but as Joe Friel as pointed out all stresses are the same. As I feel myself approaching burnout I need to take a break, step back, and relax. As long as I do that my body and mind will auto-correct and everything will be alright.