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Fit for esports – Strengthening the mental health

In our last blog article, we explained what mental health is and how it relates to esports. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. But how exactly can mental health be strengthened?

We learned from our last survey that most people don’t have an answer to this question. For this reason, we wanted to show you a range of exercises that can help you improve your mental health. The first part deals with exercises that can be done during a short break between games. With the exercises in the second part, you can strengthen your mental health away from the computer.

In general, regular exercise, a healthy diet, a regular daily routine, and enough rest and sleep can promote mental health. You should also consciously take enough time for your social contacts.

Give the exercises a chance. Not every exercise is necessarily for everyone, and not all exercises need to be done. Some prefer one exercise and some prefer another. Try them out and find the exercises that fit to you and that you feel comfortable with. You can also download and save the exercises.

Exercises you can do between games

Breathing exerciseto relax: 4-7-11 breathing

By using this exercise, the body can be put into a state of relaxation by giving it the signal as if it were sleeping when you breathe.

1. Inhale through the nose, slowly counting to four internally.
2. Exhale through the mouth, again counting slowly to four.
3. When the body has become accustomed to this, continue to increase the count: when inhaling and exhaling first count to five, then to six.
4. If it feels natural, then it becomes even more intense: count to four on the inhale, then to seven on the exhale.
5. If it feels good, hold this breathing technique for 11 minutes.

Breathing exercise for  more concentration

This breathing exercise calms the heart as well as circulation and enables the body to work very efficiently – it wakes up the body.

1. Sit up straight, relax shoulders and abdomen, exhale.
2. Inhale through the nose for five to six seconds, stretch the abdomen, filling the lower part of the lungs.
3. Without pause, exhale through the nose for the same length of time, drawing in the abdomen, emptying the lungs.
4. Repeat at least ten times, ideally more often. Breathing should be a constant flow, think of it as a cycle.

Exercises you can do in your free time

Experience nature

Time in nature can have a stress-reducing, attention-boosting, concentration-increasing, blood pressure-lowering and restorative effect on the body.

1. take your time and go into nature (without anything that could distract you like your smartphone)
2. be aware of the nature
3. sit or lie down
4. breathe in and out in a relaxed and conscious way
5. focus on your senses, like smelling, hearing, seeing (take 3-5min for each sense)
What do you see?
What do you hear? (close your eyes while doing this)
What do you smell? (close your eyes)

6. keep your eyes closed for a short time before you go on

Meditation

Meditation can have a positive effect on mental health, especially stress levels, sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. It can also increase cognitive abilities, which in turn have a positive effect on performance in the game.

1. Find a quiet place.
2. Wear comfortable clothes that keep you warm.
3. Find a comfortable sitting position (chair, cushion, floor…)
4. Make sure you have an upright posture
5. Set an alarm clock (suggestion: start at five minutes and increase slowly)
6. Now the meditation can start
7. Pay attention to your breathing
8. Let thoughts go (accept all arising thoughts, but don’t stick to them, but let them pass by like a cloud in the sky)
9. Finish meditation – slowly return

Progressive muscle relaxation

In progressive muscle relaxation one tries to get the muscle tension below the normal level of muscle tension. In this process the muscle is first tensed and then relaxed. The whole body is worked through either from top to bottom or from bottom to top.

This is an example description of muscle relaxation in the hand and arm:

1. Get comfortable, either on a chair or on the floor.
2. Close your eyes
3. Place your hands loosely on your thighs or on the floor.
4. Breathe in and out deeply and watch your abdominal wall rise and fall.
5. Clench your right hand into a fist and tense it. Keep breathing calmly during the tension and try not to tense up.
6. Hold the tension for five to ten seconds.
7. Release the tension in your hand as you exhale.
8. Keep the hand and arm still for about 30 seconds.
9. Notice the difference in the muscles between the tension before and the relaxation after. Keep your attention on the muscles.
10. Now do the same for your other side.

Breathing exercise to fall asleep faster: 4-7-8 breathing

This breathing technique puts the body in a deep state of relaxation and helps to fall asleep faster.

1. Close your mouth and breathe in calmly through your nose, while counting to four internally.
2. Hold your breath and ideally count to seven. If this is not (yet) possible, first practice with fewer counts and increase over time.
3. Breathe out completely with an open mouth and an audible sound, counting to eight.
4. Repeat four times. After a few weeks of regular practice, you may do more counts. The decisive factor is not the length of the breaths, but the temporal relationship on which they are based.

General tips for breathing in everyday life

1. Make sure your posture is upright: if you sit slouched, deep, proper breathing is no longer possible because the diaphragm and abdominal muscles are blocked.
2. Choose comfortable clothing and avoid constricting pants.
3. Ventilate regularly at home and in the office and move a lot in the fresh air.
4. Count your breaths to be more aware of them.
5. Inhale, pause for breath, exhale for a long time: for healthy breathing, it is important to take into account this triple rhythm of breathing.
6. Sports help to learn to breathe properly: weight training strengthens the abdominal muscles, while endurance sports, such as jogging and cycling, train breathing, making it more economical.

Why exhale for a long time?

By slowing down, often hectic and shallow breathing can lower blood pressure and positively affect heart activity. In addition, the long exhalation helps in the optimal oxygen supply of the body.

Literatur

AOK (2020). Richtig atmen: Atemübungen für mehr Ruhe und Entspannung. Abrufbar unter https://www.aok.de/pk/magazin/wohlbefinden/stress/richtig-atmen-atemuebungen-fuer-mehr-ruhe-und-entspannung/ [12.07.2023]

Bratman, G. N., Anderson, C. B., Berman, M. G., Cochran, B., de Vries, S., Flanders, J., Folke, C., Frumkin, H., Gross, J. J., Hartig, T., Kahn, P. H., Jr, Kuo, M., Lawler, J. J., Levin, P. S., Lindahl, T., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Mitchell, R., Ouyang, Z., Roe, J., Scarlett, L., … Daily, G. C. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Science advances, 5(7), eaax0903. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aax0903

Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., Berger, Z., Sleicher, D., Maron, D. D., Shihab, H. M., Ranasinghe, P. D., Linn, S., Saha, S., Bass, E. B., & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA internal medicine, 174(3), 357–368. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018

Laborde, S., Allen, M. S., Borges, U., Dosseville, F., Hosang, T. J., Iskra, M., Mosley, E., Salvotti, C., Spolverato, L., Zammit, N., & Javelle, F. (2022). Effects of voluntary slow breathing on heart rate and heart rate variability: A systematic review and a meta-analysis. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 138, 104711. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104711

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