Burnout is a real thing. It’s real in work, in relationships, and in gaming! When we’re striving for our goals, it can be all too easy to go, go, go—to take every opportunity to work and try to improve, and always say yes. As gamers, we want to be gaming every second we can – but some of that comes at a cost.
To really be our best, and perform at the highest level, we need to have downtime. We need to give our minds and bodies a break from firing on all cylinders so they have time to recoup. When we do properly relax and unwind, we actually can think more clearly and make better decisions. We have lower blood pressures, more relaxed muscles, and lower risk of long-term health concerns. We end up feeling more positive and having a better outlook, which then positively impacts every other element of our life.
When we use our downtime well, it allows our minds and bodies to get fully refreshed and ready to dive in—and win. Who doesn’t want that?
Relax your mind
Breathe. That’s right: inhale, exhale. It’s the simplest way to bring about calm and has been tested and proved effective for decades. When you engage in deep breathing, you actually send a message to your brain to calm down. And there are so many different effective breathing techniques: belly breathing, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, roll breathing, and morning breathing. Test out a few to find whichever one feels the best for you.
Turn on some calming tunes. Music affects our mood, so what we listen to can change how we feel—according to some Stanford researchers, just as much as medication. Just like when people pick upbeat songs to amp them up while exercising, picking slower, more subdued songs will help relax you and relieve any stressors.
Practice meditation. We’ve written about meditation before because it works so well, but having a regular mindfulness practice, and making it a consistent part of your downtime has measurable effects. Research has found meditation and mindfulness to decrease stress and anxiety and help us react better in high-stress circumstances. It also helps clarify your thoughts, improve focus and memory, and increase your cognition. Sounds like a good use of your downtime, doesn’t it?
Relax your body
Take a hot bath. Jacuzzis aren’t just for luxury—they’re for your health, too! (Or at least that can justify your purchasing one, right?) Warm water is scientifically proven to have a soothing effect on us. Similar to the effect of feeling the warm sun on our skin, when we’re submerged in warm water our body releases endorphins which inherently help us feel better. Warm baths can also help us breathe better because our oxygen transport increases when our body heats up. Add some box breathing to your warm bath and you’ve hit the relaxation jackpot.
Get some laughs in. They always say “laughter is the best medicine”. Whether that means watching your favorite comedy special or hanging out with a particularly funny friend, laughing does wonders to relieve stress and tension. It does this by activating and then slowing down your body’s stress response, as well as stimulating circulation and inducing muscle relaxation.
Stretch. We’re supposed to stretch after we work out every time. Most of us know that—and still, most of us don’t do that. But stretching is important even when you haven’t just worked out because it releases tension and toxins in your muscles. And when you’re gaming for hours, we know there’s plenty of built-up tension to release. Taking the time to stretch will let out that tension so you don’t carry it with you and ultimately increase stress over time.
Do something creative. Play an instrument, draw, write, do some pottery, paint, dance—doesn’t matter what you do, but do something creative that you enjoy and can get wrapped up in. It soothes our brain to get to do something engaging unrelated to anything we normally do. (And bonus! It also helps us think more creatively when we’re making decisions while gaming!)
Get outdoors. Being in nature, surrounded by greenery, is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and well-being. The science proves it and recommends getting at least 120 minutes each week. But there’s certainly no cap on that—if you want to and can get more time among the trees, please do! It only helps in the long run.
Go on and enjoy your downtime!
When all is said and done, you will not only be a better gamer for getting enough proper downtime, you’ll be a healthier person on the whole. (Which will continue to make you a better gamer.) So, do one or do them all, but definitely make sure you take time to unwind.
Relax, refresh, and Win Well.