SHANGHAI, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of team MAD Lions meditate together prior to a game against team INTZ during the League of Legends 2020 Worlds Play-ins on September 25, 2020 at SMT studio in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Written by Contributing Intern Matthew Carrico

The world of competitive collegiate esports may seem like an action-packed thrill ride to audiences and regular onlookers. The truth of the matter is that collegiate esports is stressful, mentally draining and serves as a true test of skill to the players. Practices, time management, the weight of a crowd, coordinating with teammates, all while trying to stay focused is mentally and physically draining. This is another similarity that professional esports has in common with traditional sports and many esports teams are finding ways to practice mindfulness and maintain focus.

What is ‘mindfulness’?

To start off what does mindfulness mean in this context? Simply put, mindfulness is a series of exercises for the mind that offer a wide range of benefits for competitive gamers and esports athletes. There are various ways for gamers to practice mindfulness after a period of definite stress and can differentiate between everyone. These come in the form of different types of exercises whose purpose is to provide your body and mind with the proper refresh. Some of these exercises include meditation, therapy and yoga.

There will come a point when a gamer starts to question their health. These concerns stem from physical signs such as hand or wrist pain. Concerns also arise from emotional signs such as anxiety and depression. There are a variety of ways to start helpful regimens for gamers to get back on track and one of the best ways to start is with meditation. Some people may be put off by this, but the fact of the matter is that it does not require much time to practice. The benefits are experienced quickly and everyone has what it takes to get started.

Some of the many benefits of meditation include:

1. Reducing Stress

Esports is a practice that requires nonstop focus and mental alertness. For example, if you fall short in games like Rocket League or die in Call of Duty, that’s stress on you and your teammates which can lead to making mistakes. Competitive matches are stressful and the longer they go on, the bigger the strain. Stress can have many effects on the body and hinder one’s ability to heal and feel more fatigued than one would normally. 

2. Reduce Anxiety

In the competitive world of esports, it’s no surprise that some players experience nervousness and even panic attacks. Just the thought of the competition and pleasing your audience takes a heavy mental strain. Meditation can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, no matter if you’re stressed about that last round you almost clutched, or because you forgot to get that thing to your boss on time, meditation can help. However, it is important to note that the importance of physical and mental health studies in esports is still in its infancy.

3. Increase Focus

Meditation can help make you more aware of your surroundings which is one of the most important parts of competitive gaming. Long periods of focus are required on the competitive scene. The more you strengthen your attention span, the more endurance you will have in these situations.

4. Improve Sleep

Sleep is one of the most fundamental parts of a healthy lifestyle no matter who you are. A lack of sleep can affect various things including peak performance, motor control and impact your state of mind. Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes due to lack of proper focus and is comparable to DUIs. Meditation can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep for longer and wake up feeling more rested.

5. Relieve Pain

There are risks of injury even in competitive esports. Some players may experience stiff shoulders, neck stiffness, achy hands/wrists and even vision problems. This should come as no surprise since every sport has its own form of risk of injury. Meditation can help the brain in controlling the flow of pain and become more tolerant to the sensitivity of the pain experienced.

Is meditation the only way?

Meditation is one of the more common ways that gamers can practice mindfulness but other methods do exist. In a recent article, it was brought up that yoga can have positive effects on esports players. While this may confuse some gamers, there are plenty of benefits yoga can provide. When it comes to esports, players spend most of their time sitting down which can impact posture, your spine and your hips. Basic stretches can help improve health in these areas. Breathing exercises can help in dealing with stress as it helps keep the mind and body relaxed which is crucial when staying focused. Yoga improves physical alignment, helps the body recover and boosts cognitive function.

As previously mentioned, a select group of gamers resorts to stimulants, the most common of which is caffeine. Caffeine is probably the most well-known performance enhancer for gamers as it can create heightened awareness and extra energy. Other gamers take Adderall which has similar effects, but harsher consequences. Gamers that take Adderall are susceptible to insomnia, lack of appetite, stomach pain and even headaches. So unless you have a real prescription from a medical professional that has advised you to take something like Adderall, we highly recommend staying away from it entirely.

Mind… games?

When it comes to getting started on your mindfulness practice, there are various ways to do so. There is a mindfulness training program for esports athletes called Mind Games that offers a variety of resources and even has its own app for those looking to get started on mindfulness training. There are a good amount of reasons why mindfulness can help esports players and the average gamer reach peak levels of efficiency.

In the world of competitive esports, and gaming in general, stress is always prevalent. Mindfulness is currently the most effective way to counteract the negatives that come with this medium. For players, it is important to keep a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, as your ability to play depends greatly on this. There are various ways to practice mindfulness and some are still unknown. It is important to always be active, physically and mentally. That includes you, gamers.

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images