Ashton aiming to get back on track
England wing Chris Ashton admits his all-consuming efforts to reverse last season's deteriorating form took a psychological toll that has now been lifted.
Ashton was selected on reputation alone for the second half of the 2013 RBS 6 Nations with his previous exploits earning the ongoing loyalty of head coach Stuart Lancaster at a time when others were calling for him to be axed from the team.
The 26-year-old was locked in a demoralising cycle and even questioned the England management when they sought to address his slump, although now he realises he was lucky to have Lancaster's support.
"You are trying so hard to do well and it just sends you into a downward spiral, thinking about everything way too much," the Saracens three-quarter said.
"Rugby is my life so if it doesn't go well, you take it away from this environment and it kind of gets you down a little bit.
"You end up feeling down because you're thinking about it all the time.
"What the coaches said at the time, I wasn't really sure if they were right.
"Now looking back at it I know they were right, but it's hard to take sometimes.
"It's hard to get out of that, but now I've come out of it, you can understand where they (the coaches) were coming from and that they were trying to help.
"I was very lucky to stay in the team throughout."
Ashton insists concentrating on the basics of the game rather than continuing with his usual drive to cross the whitewash enabled him to make a dynamic start to the season with Sarries.
"I'm enjoying my rugby again. There was a point where maybe I wasn't enjoying it as much last year," Ashton said.
"When I was playing I was trying so hard and it became a bit frustrating for me.
"I had the summer off, got away and relaxed. I looked at what I needed to work on and just worked at it.
"I tried to make the basics of my game better - kick-chase, defence and positioning.
"Sometimes I was just chasing absolutely everything, trying harder and harder and it was having a negative effect."
Ashton's decline scuppered hopes of touring with the British and Irish Lions and when a replacement wing was needed, it was England team-mate Christian Wade who was summoned to Australia.
Overlooked by the Lions and given the summer off by England, Ashton's summer holiday was spent coming to terms with what he was missing.
"It was horrible. I pretty much knew I wouldn't be anywhere near the Lions squad throughout the Six Nations," he said.
"But to go through that day when the Lions squad was announced, it was horrible to watch.
"It did take time for me to say 'look, just let it go' because lads were getting called up when I was on holiday.
"You've just got to let it go, forget about it, and make sure this year's different to what it was last year.
"I knew my phone wouldn't ring when I was on holiday. I turned it off I think in the end. I'd pretty much given up."