Many gamers are passionate, opinionated, and determined. The intensity they bring to gaming can become all-consuming, and this community can be central to their sense of identity. When this gets to be too much, play can cease to be fun. These tips may help:
- Step Away from the Screen—Whether it is a few hours or a few days, we all can use respite from the non-stop stimulation of gaming and the internet “info-feed.” That means ALL screens – desktop, laptop, tablet, console, handheld and phone. Feeling disconnect from the constant flow of information can feel strange at first, even frightening, but it can give your emotions a much-needed rest.
- Think Before You Click—The rapid pace of idea exchange on the internet can lead to disinhibition. People type things they would never say in person, lacking the non- verbal feedback that might help them reconsider or put it more gently. Take a moment to consider not only whether what you’re typing is what you want to say, but how you want to say it. A comment said in the heat of an in-person argument may be forgotten with time, but text on the internet tends to linger.
- Connect with Close Friends—Spend time off-line with people who really matter to you. Try a new or reliably fun activity that takes your mind off things. Our online connectivity makes it easy to forget that in-person contact is vital to positive mental health. We have many of the benefits of in-person friendship at our fingertips, and with people we’d never get to meet otherwise – but being around living, breathing, emoting people is important, too. Don’t neglect them.
- Give of Yourself—Doing something for someone less fortunate helps makes the world a slightly better place and will make you feel good. Putting positivity and kindness into the world pays dividends. Doesn’t have to be a huge thing, just find a way to help out.
- Get Outside—Exercise of any sort can be healthy and clears the mind, being outdoors can improve mood and decrease crankiness. Physical movement can help regulate your mood; walking for as little as 20 minutes can have a marked effect on your mental well-being and your ability to process emotions. Working out also gives you a chance to get away from those screens for a while, and be aware of your body, as opposed to just your mind.
- Relax the Body—Whether it be a warm bath, a massage, or meditation, deal with emotional stress by calming physical tension. When you’re upset at the screen, do a quick body check – are your shoulders tense? Are you holding your breath? Are you clenching your jaw? You might be doing these things and not even realize it; over an extended period, they wear on you physically and you can experience aches or fatigue.
- Prioritize Sleep—Many gamers skimp on sleep, as night time is often game time. Sleep deprivation increases irritability and many impair judgment. Sleep is your body’s reset button. What seems insurmountable can seem easy to handle after a good night’s sleep.
- Monitor Your Intake—A healthy balanced diet can give you the energy to weather stressful times. Nothing wrong with some pizza every now and then, but pay attention to what you’re putting in your body, especially things like caffeine, sugar, and salt. If you feel bad physically, it can make you feel bad mentally. Balance is vital to sustained positive mental health.
- Moderate Substance Use—While many people use substances to decrease stress and tension, combining use with being on the internet can lead to impulsive behavior. It can also mask what’s really going on with you.
Taking time to take care of yourself can bring the joy back into your game, and your life.
Mark Kline is a licensed psychologist in Wellesley, MA where he has maintained a private practice for 34 years. Mark retired as Executive Director of the Human Relations Service, Inc., in Wellesley after 32 years of service in various roles in 2019. Mark provides psychotherapy to children, adolescents, adults, and families, and consults to school staff and leadership around a range of mental health issues. He learned about video gaming from his clients, and began writing and speaking about gamers and mental health in 2009, with articles in The Escapist, an advice column called Ask Dr. Mark, and workshops and lectures at PAX events and other gaming conventions. Mark was a co-founder of Take This, in 2012, and played a key role in the development of early programs such as the AFK Room. He continues this work as a member of TakeThis’ Board of Directors.
This article is not a substitute for medical advice or professional counseling. While we at Take This want to provide you with resources, we do not recommend or endorse any particular site, treatment, therapy, or resource. We provide these links at our sole discretion but have not necessarily vetted or reviewed any particular resource. We assume no liability for the use of the information or resources on these sites and encourage you to use your own best judgment when reviewing these resources.
If you live in the US and you’re having suicidal thoughts, reach out to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or call/text 988. If you’re outside the US, you can find local crisis lines at Suicide.org. If you’re even debating whether you should call them, you should call them. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline handles all psychological crises, not just suicide.