Training for Longer is Key
Those who train for the longest time get better quicker. Many pro players maintain peak mental energy long enough to train for 6-12 hours each day. But it’s much easier said than done. I’m sure you’ve tried this yourself, grinding extremely hard, playing for hours and hours over a few days or weeks, and really pushing your limits. As a result your skills likely improved quickly, but eventually, you lost the motivation to train that hard and burnt out. And this is the greatest barrier to success in esports. If we never lost motivation, confidence, or our mental energy, we’d be able to train for a ridiculous amount of time each day and make much greater progress. So what do you do to prevent physical, mental, and emotional fatigue?
Well as it turns out, it’s less about what we do when we’re in-game and more about what we do outside the game. With the right type of distractions and implementing some new skills, you might just be able to recover faster from long training sessions, improve your confidence and mental resilience and boost your mental performance by 16% or more.
So, you’ve been training for eight hours per day for the past two weeks to boost your rank. You’ve also turned down offers to hang out with friends and attend social events, and the performance benefits are showing. Your increased training time has made you sharper than ever, and you’re starting to be more respected online as you rack up win after win.
But eventually, you wake up not quite feeling like yourself. You feel lonely and physically anxious, but you boot up your PC and get back to playing online matches to pursue your goals. You feel on edge, and the abuse you get from your teammates stings more and more after each mistake. You start to doubt yourself but keep playing, hoping that things turn around. The game you were dominating and loving a week ago starts to feel more and more like punishment as you struggle to shake the thought that you’re just not good at this game anymore.
So what now? Well, the problem is that training and playing too much can cause overthinking anxiety and burnout. It can also hinder your ability to perform at the peak of your skills. Fortunately, the right type of social distraction may be the antidote you need. In fact, social distraction isn’t just a nice-to-have but may be necessary for your success in esports.
Emotional Support and Confidence
Being a high performer means that you’ll inevitably experience confidence dips from time to time. What separates great players from everyone else in terms of confidence is the ability to bounce back from moments of low self-esteem.
You may have had an off day in which you lost a few too many rounds. If moments like these usually shake your confidence levels, you might start to say things like, “why do I suck today?” or “there must be something wrong with me”. And because you’re emotionally on edge, you start to believe and remember these statements more and more, which causes you to play even worse. This causes confidence to dip more, and so the cycle continues.
Psychologists call this process the “Downward Spiral,” and it’s a nightmare for your confidence. Toxic self-talk leads to poor performance, leading to low self-confidence, leading to more toxic self-talk, etc. The key is to interrupt this toxic self-talk by disputing it (3), and who better to help you do that than a friend or group of friends?
Fortunately having supportive friends, family, and teammates around you can act as a welcome break from the stresses of training (1). They can do this by providing both emotional support and informational support. During times when we feel stressed or lonely, emotional support from friends who care about our well-being can rapidly reduce such negative emotions, and allow us to become more resilient in the days to come. But support can also come in the informational sense, through guidance, advice, information, and mentoring. If we aren’t feeling confident in our skills, asking the right questions and getting advice might be exactly what we need to solve our problems and reclaim that confidence.
So seek emotional support by talking to people who are going through similar experiences and can offer support and empathy. And be sure to emotionally support them as well. Relationships are a two-way street, and by uplifting others, we’ll be able to boost those around us, develop better relationships and enhance our own confidence.
Then seek informational support by first investing in your friend’s success and being encouraging. Even just seeing our friends succeed is also a great way to boost your own confidence levels. Psychologists call this confidence through vicarious experience (4). Then you can take it a step further by seeking their advice. When others look to us for information, it often feels like a great compliment, so doing so will also boost them up. And of course, their knowledge might be exactly what you need to overcome significant problems and regain your momentum!
But beyond the benefits for our confidence and emotional well-being, social support might have far more interesting benefits when it comes to our direct performance.
Medical Journalist Maria Cohut writes (2) that when we spend time with friends and family, our bodies release hormones such as oxytocin & dopamine, which lowers stress levels and boosts your mood. These hormones have also been shown to reduce mental fatigue by 16% (5), and are proven to increase mental resilience (6). And anyone who’s trained hard at any game knows that mental fatigue is a major barrier to improvement. If you can only train for a few hours before mental fatigue kicks in, you’ll be at a major disadvantage to the players who can train for hours on end with peak mental energy. So socializing may be the best way for our minds to fully recover from mental fatigue, and allow us to train longer.
Studies also show that these hormones are five times more prevalent in elite athletes than in the general population (7). This implies that these social hormones might be crucial in the mentality of top performers and might make the difference between you being a good player and being an all-time great. In fact, it might just enhance your brain function. Researchers in 2011 found that those who regularly interacted with others performed on average 15% better at executive functioning tasks than those who spent more time alone (8).
So simply hanging out with your best friends, developing friendships with teammates and seeking more supportive social connections, may just be what you need to keep your mind sharp and healthy for competition.
How to make Friends and build Relationships
Making friends and making social plans doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but there are some great resources out there that can help you form a supportive social group.
If you’re struggling with social confidence, or can’t seem to connect deeper with those around you, I recommend resources like the YouTube channel Charisma on Command, or Jordan Harbinger’s free course called 6 Minute Networking.
Social skills, like esports skills, can take a long time to master, but it’s worth digging deeper into if it leads to having more fulfilling relationships that ultimately improve your well-being, mental energy and in-game performance.
But as a quick tip for better relationships, consider the kind of conversations you’re having – and the questions you’re asking to lead those conversations. When we connect with one another we can keep things surface level and ask one another about basic facts. Or we can dig deeper and ask about emotions and personal reasoning. When we are able to connect with others on an emotional level, it leads to those more fulfilling conversations and builds stronger relationships. Jordan Harbinger digs deeper into this in a podcast and uses the FEW acronyms to remember it.
Here’s an example Jordan provides, which is a helpful skill in starting and maintaining conversations with people you’ve just met. It’s an exercise he calls the FEW techniques. FEW is an acronym that stands for Facts, Emotion, and Why. The following is copied from the transcript from Jordan’s podcast. Skip to 37:01 here
“So, when you’re asking about the facts, you might say something like, “Where are you working these days?” And that gets you facts, “Oh, I work at Chipotle and corporate.” “Okay.” And emotions, “How do you like working there? What’s the biggest challenge working there? What do you like about what you’re working on right now?” That kind of thing. Those types of emotion-based questions will elicit emotion-based answers, which is better than facts.
So if we only have facts, it goes, “Where are you working these days?” “Oh.” “Where’s the office?” “Oh.” “Do you like it?” “Yeah.” “Is it a big company?” “Yeah.” That’s a boring conversation. We want to go to the emotional level. “How do you like working there?” “Actually, I really like it. It’s a lot more interesting than I thought it originally it was going to be a temporary job, but I ended up staying because—””Oh, what’s the biggest challenge? Well actually, you know, we had this scare with E. coli. We’re going through all these different suppliers and it’s a whole thing.” That gets more interesting.
And then the why is what makes it a real connection and what makes it really interesting. You can say, “What makes you want to do that kind of work?” Or, “Was there something that when you were younger sparked an interest in doing work with supply chain management, especially food? And they might say, “Well my dad owned a restaurant and I was a terrible cook, but I like being in the food space. I’m more of a numbers guy.” “Oh, okay. Interesting.” So now you’re having a real conversation, F-E-W, facts, emotions, and why.
So ask more questions, and better questions are key. Of course, conversations are two-sided, so don’t treat it like an interview. Be sure to share your own ideas, experiences and emotions along the way. But ultimately by making it a conscious effort to be more curious about those around you, asking more questions, digging into their emotions and motivations behind their decisions, you’ll spark the kind of conversations and relationships that lead to the emotional resilience, confidence and peak mental performance you need to succeed.
Finding the Balance
Being focused on winning and improving can cause you to overthink strategies and overhype matches which causes unnecessary stress and can hinder your creative process. Make sure you aren’t just taking regular breaks from games but that you’re taking time to make that phone call or go hang out with a good friend. It’s not just a good investment in your confidence levels but also great for your mental health and mental performance.
In today’s society, there’s constant pressure to be grinding and hustling to outwork the competition. While there is value in hard work and outworking others, we need to find balance, not only so we feel better, but to actually enhance our training and performance. Most pros can focus and train for such long periods because they’ve periodically built themselves up to that level. But even they are training in highly social environments alongside their teammates and coaches. So before attempting an insane training program or crazy practice hours, consider the relationships you can rely on for mentally resetting. And continue to hone the connections you have with friends and teammates. Despite our cultural norm to honour individual skills and encourage a lone-wolf mindset, it’s necessary to remind yourself that you need others to stay balanced, maintain your confidence and push you closer to your full potential.