One small thing: Gaming for stress relief

One Small Thing is a series where we write stuff we need to hear right now about small wins, and which you might find useful too. You can find the rest of the series here.

(Also, none of the links here are affiliate. We just like stuff.)

Some weeks are good. Some weeks are bad. I’ve found that the weeks I begin preparing for ‘the big shop’ are the worst. If it weren’t for lists and planners I would be terribly unproductive, and some weeks I still am.

It’s not always enough to soldier on with a list or a schedule. There is an undercurrent of anxiety that runs beneath my everyday surface calm. It has stealthily eroded that layer of calm so that I have been completely unware of the undercurrent until I found my head pounding, my heart racing and found myself gasping for air whilst lying on the floor in the fetal position one Sunday evening.

It was like the pressure that builds up in the vent of a volcano. I was blowing my top and I honestly never saw it coming.

Anecdotal ‘proof’ video games relieve anxiety and depression

Katie and I have publicly geeked out about The Legend of Zelda on more than one occasion. Breath of the Wild is my current go-to video game for winter depression relief. Something about those dark cold days finds me in a rut of negative thought and rumination. I’ve found video games to be an excellent distraction from the rut. It’s a passive form of entertainment that is easy to pick up any time I need it, but it’s engaging enough that I can’t ‘multitask’ my ruminating whilst taking part (unlike watching television).

Usually, this late in Spring, I’ve no need for video games and put them away until the next season. It didn’t occur to me, until the fetal position of course, that the current state of the world meant I would need this outlet for far more of the year than usual. I’m not currenly depressed or in a rut of negativity, despite everything. I’m just constantly a little on edge. And I don’t smoke. So I have to find some other little outlet for the mounting pressure. I have to escape from time to time, refocus my mind on something that makes more sense than the state of the world, and breath a little easier. Yes…monsters on horseback and ancient technology more advanced than our modern technology make more sense to me than the world right now…

Maybe you’re shaking your head right now, like what is this chick on about? But hear me out. Video games make sense because they are a series of puzzles to solve, obstacles to overcome or quests to undertake. There is a goal – a light at the end of the tunnel – and your job in the moment is to solve the puzzle, oversome the obstacle, struggle through the trial but ultimately to win out. It’s satisfying in a way the world is not right now. We are still solving problems and overcoming obstacles and struggling through and sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re ever going to win.

So, my advice to you, if you too are struggling with the thought ‘But what if after all of this there still isn’t a light around the next bend?! I can’t take anymore of this!’ then pick up a video game and give yourself a quick win.

The most promising video game options for stress relief

Do NOT pick up games that frustrate you!

Pick up simple puzzle games like Bejeweled or any other Match 3 game. You can play these while drinking a cup of tea and then get on with your day.

Sim or farming games like Township provide easy breezy goals you can complete almost as soon as you open up the game. Different elements of the game take time, so you can close the program and let it progress without you while you get on with your day. It limits your time on the game for you!

Open-world games like Breath of the Wild are cathartic because you can choose how involved you want to be/ what kind of problem you want to solve at any given time. You don’t have to pick up an epic quest. Sometimes I just forage and attemp to puzzle out a new recipe I haven’t made before.

Also, look for games where the aim is to beat your personal best, race the clock, or better yet cooperate with other players to win! Competitive games do not tend to work as escapism (racing, sports, etc), but if that works for you, then you do you.

If you too have an undercurrent of anxiety throughout your day, I hope you find some escape, some regular release. Hang in there x

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