I’ve got to tell you that I wrote, rewrote, and erased this post probably about a dozen times. I’m not very good about writing about my feelings and getting my point across. I’m more of an over the phone type person. Any who, between my husband asking me to put this up and some of you asking me to elaborate of how board games have helped my anxiety, here I am.
Let me start off by saying that anxiety varies, some people have mini panic attacks or stress induced sweat caused by the tiniest of things and for others it takes a great deal of pressure to evoke a reaction. I’ve had panic attacks that last for seconds and I’ve had some that had long-lasting effects, I’m talking the entire day. These things aren’t jokes or cries for attention. People with anxiety, just like any other mental illness are actually suffering.
I happen to have panic attacks brought on by the smallest of things, sometimes even something as simple as people chewing too loud. I have a great deal of trouble in crowded areas, stores are a nightmare for me, but sometimes even game nights cause issues. I know it’s cheesy and cliché’, but my husband greatly improves my anxiety. Where as my kids make it so much worse… Going to the store with four rowdy kids is very intense.
At game nights I occasionally have an attack, it has nothing to do with who’s there. I can be around people I am 100% comfortable with and still get worked up. A couple of years ago, we just started warning new comers by saying “Hey I have a bit of anxiety please don’t take it personal and please don’t judge me.”. Now, sometimes this worked like a charm and sometimes I’d be stared at all night, like people were waiting for it to happen. So I had to develop techniques to focus on the task at hand and calm my self down before it became a show. As much as I love International Tabletop Day, it takes a great deal of effort to stay focused.
Now on to the helpful board games. I’ve found that really focusing on specific parts of game helps. Games like Five Tribes (intense Mancala) are great for this. It is a game night favorite for me. Staring at the board to calculate and count up my next move and several back up moves in case mine get taken…is hypnotic. I hate to say this, but I think anxiety actually helps me with Five Tribes. I’m certain that if I wasn’t so busy trying not to focus on relieving my attack that I wouldn’t be so engrossed in the game strategy. Then you have games like Castle Panic and Love Letter that for me are so automated that if I need a break from the room I can literally block out everything and play those games in my sleep. I’m not sure if this is because of my love for these games or because I’ve played so many times, but when I say automated… I mean it.
On to the not so helpful games… There are games that I love like Dixit, Codenames, or Concept that just increase pressure if I’m experiencing an attack. In all of these games you are giving hints and such keep the game going . Something fun like giving the table a silly hint towards your Dixit card can become something horrible like: Was my hint good enough? Did I make it too easy? Too hard? Am I going to get any points? What if no one understands my hint? What if I got my Pop Culture reference wrong? It is exhausting, which is why I try my best to never play trivia games. There are also games like Ticket to Ride (love) and Disc Duelers (like) that become so competitive that it turns into an angry situation. We have an intense group of friends, my husband and myself included… and when someone takes the six train route on TTR that you’ve just got the final card for or someone knocks you off the table in Disc Duelers, it becomes a glaring match and sometimes a screaming match. For the most part my game night attendees are close to us, that these angry moments are because we are comfortable enough to say ‘Hey you d!ck! You took my route!”.
I want to clarify that when I say helpful and not so helpful, IT DOES NOT reflect the quality of the game itself. For instance I said I love Dixit, Codenames, and Concept… well I do, and they are party games. They are games that usually mean I’m in a bigger group. That isn’t always a bad thing, in fact, if not for party games I’d probably never be around that many people… so kudos to party games for making me less of a hermit. I absolutely love Ticket to Ride, it’s probably my favorite game, but it gets intense. I do not dislike Disc Duelers, I just have NEVER had a relaxed game of that (my husband refers to it as RPG battle pogs.) It is still a great game for a group… that you are comfortable with. Do not play that with strangers.
Moral of the story is, do not let anxiety hold you back. Although some games are not helpful to my anxiety… I would not trade my gaming experiences for the world. Each time I play it brings me closer to working though my issues, each time I play I feel closer to my friends and family. I try not to avoid games with the exception of a few, and even then, I do try play and enjoy myself. Not every game is going to help you and not every game is going to make things worse, but at the end of the day, you still played games didn’t you? You didn’t let your worries stop you and that itself is worth it. I’m sorry about how long this post was, but I do hope that it helped someone. Please look at board game names as there will be links attached to them. If any of you want to ask me questions please feel free. If you liked this review and want to be kept up to date please follow my page and like me on Facebook. Until next time… Live by the Board.