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Mental Tips

Relax into Gaming

Feeling stressed is a common facet of daily life. Some stress is good, it keeps our body alert and focussed but unfortunately for us humans, too much stress is not a good thing and can manifest itself in ways that are detrimental to our performance and overall health.

In a previous article, we discussed what stress is and how it can impact both our psychological and physical health.Luckily for us, science has explored different mechanisms to aid us in managing our stress effectively so that we can maintain optimal performance. In this post, we want to make you aware of the different steps you can take to manage stress.

The first step is becoming aware of your stress.

You can do this by acknowledging the symptoms. Stress can manifest itself in psychological symptoms such as worry, lack of confidence, panic, frustration, sadness and irritability. Physiological symptoms of stress include increased sweating, blushing, increased heart rate, rash and even worse can facilitate the development of some illnesses if not managed. 

As an amateur gamer wanting to turn professional you are exposed to stresses such as; worry you won’t succeed, lack of sleep, frustration, unsupportive family/friend networks and others. These all will impact your performance by impacting your brain’s ability to react, make decisions quickly, coordinate movements and focus for prolonged periods. 

As a professional gamer, you are further susceptible to stresses such as; maintaining a winning streak or changing a losing streak, performance anxiety on the big stages, social media, sponsor requirements, adjusting to changes in the game and even unhealthy team environments which all adversely affect your performance. Therefore it is important to recognise these stresses before they prove detrimental to your progression. 

The next step after acknowledging the stresses prevalent in your life is learning how to manage them. Depending on what stresses you face and when you face them there is a myriad of techniques and management tools that you can incorporate into your routines (contact us for more information). But for quick stress relief sometimes all you need to do is just breathe. Just be. Find a time in your day to completely disconnect from what is going on around you. No phone, no computer, nobody but you. 

But how can this help?

Science has shown repeatedly that deep breathing can keep stress symptoms at bay and improve cognitive and physical performance. Deep breathing can regulate the stress response by slowing down the heart rate and calming the nervous system through inhibiting the stress response hormone, cortisol (more on this hormone and others can be found here). Ultimately, deep breathing is a form of relaxation, and one of many different types of relaxation strategies that can be utilized to regulate stress. 

Where do I start?

If you experience any of the following reactions before during or after gaming you should consider implementing a relaxation strategy like deep breathing into your routine. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you get easily frustrated and hot-tempered towards your teammates during a game when a mistake is made?
  2. Before a game do you feel hot, do your cheeks go red, do you feel nervous, worried or shaky?
  3. During crucial game-changing moments, does your mind go into overdrive, are you unable to block out the surrounding distractors?
  4. Do you feel tired a lot, ever experience chest pain, dizziness, headache or feeling of being completely overwhelmed?

Don’t worry. These symptoms are natural to high-pressure performance environments and how we deal with them effectively is what will help us or break us within critical gaming moments.

Just like everything else, when you adopt a relaxation technique to use, you must practice. It requires dedication just like any other skill. It is important that you find the best relaxation technique for you. One that doesn’t under-arouse you by making you fall asleep, but one that calms both your mind and body to help you block out stressors and focus on the present moment.

Okay, so how do I deep breathe?

To introduce you to a simple breathing technique you could use, the 5-5 breathing method. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Sit comfortably.
  2. Place your hand on your stomach 
  3. Breathe in through your stomach, by pushing it outwards, and up through your chest by inhaling deeply for 5 seconds.
  4. Then exhale slowly and controlled for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat for 5-minutes. 

So, Next time you are feeling the onset of a stress response, try to incorporate deep breathing to bring you back into your focused gaming mode. But not only this, start incorporating it into your pre-performance routine and create a consistent breathing ritual. Record the moments throughout your gaming that evoke the most stress and determine a relaxation plan that can counteract the negative responses before they have detrimental consequences on your game. If you want to know more about the different techniques out there that can help you manage your stress, get in touch! 


Kate O’Keeffe

Former performance coach of the professional league of legends team, Fnatic. She has 11 years of experience teaching, coaching and performance consulting to an array of traditional sports at all levels including; swimming, ice hockey, chess, athletics, Gaelic football and hockey.

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