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3 Keys to Ranked Mindset: Face. Figure. and Fight.

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Did you know that holding a pencil between your teeth could make you a more confident player?  Or that your posture could be contributing to increased stress while you play?  We have all heard the phrase Mind over Body, implying that you can better your physical being or performance by having mastery over your mindset.  But if you have a mind as stubborn as mine, then you need a trick (or 3 tricks) to get your thoughts on track when you are feeling nervous before or during a match.

Although it is vital to motivation, self-improvement, and performance that you communicate with yourself in a productive way, it can be really difficult to do when you are feeling anxious.  This is because productive self-talk requires a degree of calm and rational thinking that is often inhibited by intense emotion.

By manipulating your body and behavior you can lower your anxiety and make it easier to maintain a productive mindset.  With just 3 little F-words, you can use the power of Body over Mind to become a more successful competitive gamer in the face of stress.  All you have to remember is…

Face | Figure |Fight

FACE your fears by changing your facial expression to a content one.

Fix your FIGURE by relaxing key parts of your body and sitting in a confident position.

Get in the FIGHT by taking action instead of avoiding.

How can body language improve my mindset?

A smile goes a long way

Now I know what you’re thinking:  “How in the world is smiling at my computer screen going to make me play better?”  Well believe it or not, a smile really does go a long way in terms of making you happier and a better performer in the long run.  My good friend Weldon Green told me a story not too long ago, about how a smile a day got him through a truly tough period in his life:

“In 2009 I was very depressed. For some reason I was in a really bad place mentally and I hated my job. Every morning I had to get up and ride the bus in for 35 minutes and then work through a horrible and depressing work day hating every minute. I decided it needed to change. After all, it was spring time, the sun was shining, and when I was riding to work the entire city and world was bustling with happy people full of life. So I forced myself to smile.

Every day from the moment I stepped out my door until I arrived at the office I forced myself to smile non-stop. And when I noticed I wasn’t doing it I quickly corrected. The result was that for the next few months I arrived at work happy instead of depressed. I had more productive work days, happier students, and I was more satisfied with my life. After a few months I was done with that job and able to move on to something I was much more passionate about, but the lesson stuck with me and I use it all the time to fix my low energy or my negative evaluation of a certain life situation.”

In this story you can clearly see that just a simple change in facial expression was able to have a positive effect on Weldon’s mindset.  This positive outlook allowed him to turn a negative situation into an opportunity to follow his passions in life.

Is your passion in life to become a better competitive gamer?  Something as simple as smiling could help you become a champion.  So why not try it?  Let’s look at some ways you can try it yourself to lower your anxiety when you play.

So How do I do It?

 “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.” –Amy Cuddy

FACE your fears by changing your facial expression to a content one.

Pencil Smile:  An awesome life hack is putting a pencil horizontally between your teeth.  This activates the same muscles you use to smile and decreases stress.  Try doing this during the load screen of your next game.

Facial Relaxation:  Another trick is to focus on relaxing your face and neck muscles one part at a time.  Start with your forehead and work your way down to your brow, lips, cheeks, jaw, and so on.  It’s like progressive relaxation for your face!

After your whole head is relaxed, gently upturn the corners of your lips.  Your smile doesn’t need to be visible.  Just do it enough so you feel it.

Fix your FIGURE by relaxing key parts of your body and sitting in a confident position.

Willing Hands:  A key indicator that you are not accepting a situation is when you tense your hands and have them face down.  A quick way to get your mind on the right path is to turn your palms face up and relax your fist and fingers.  This is called “willing hands”.  The next time you have a 60 second death timer, and the enemy is approaching your nexus, just sit back in your chair and use your willing hands to keep calm.

Power Posing:  If you really want to boost your confidence before a game, try using a power pose.  Sit strait up with your chest out, your hands on your hips, and with both feet spread and flat on the floor.  Hold this position for 2 minutes before each game, maybe while you are waiting for the queue to pop.  (Hint:  You could also do this standing.)

For more on power posing watch this video on Amy Cuddy’s research on using power poses to increase confidence:

Game Changer: Amy Cuddy, Power Poser

Get in the FIGHT by taking action instead of avoiding.

Just Do It!  Sometimes when you are really feeling the fear, there is just one thing left to do:  Do what you are afraid of doing!  The natural inclination when you are afraid is to avoid the situation.  Get out there and prove to yourself that you really can succeed.  More importantly prove to yourself that you can tolerate the possibility of negative outcomes in your games.  You can even tolerate the negative outcomes themselves.  So avoid avoiding, and get in the fight.

Why does it work?

As stated above, stress can inhibit your ability to think rationally.  This is important to note because your rational line of thought is where your self-coaching stems from.  So to stay in a productive frame of mind, you need to be able to moderate the degree of arousal you experience.  Weldon has put together a series on the role of your body’s arousal to your success in eSports, and has offered large scale relaxation techniques to help mitigate anxiety.

Another approach is to moderate your mind’s interpretation of the excitation your body experiences when you are feeling nervous.  You do this by first recognizing what you do naturally when you are anxious, and then doing the opposite.  It’s that simple.  Here’s how it works:

face_figure_fight_steps

So to sum it up, the way you feel impacts the way you express yourself, and the way you express yourself consequently impacts your mood.  When you express yourself in a way that is in line with how you are feeling, then the emotion intensifies.  If you act opposite to your instincts, then the emotion will diminish.  Pretty easy right?    Try it in your next few games and tell me how it went in the comments below.

 

For more on overcoming anxiety in solo queue, check these articles out!

 

References

Beaumont, L. R. (n.d.). Fear: Imminent Danger. Retrieved May 9, 2015, from Emotional Competency: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/fear.htm

Brinol, P., Petty, R. E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1053–1064.

Buck, R. (1980). Nonverbal Behavior and the Theory of Emotion: The Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 811-824.

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010, October). Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science, 1363-1368.

Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (2003). Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotion from Facial Clues. Los Altos CA: Malor Books.

Kraft, T., & Pressman, S. (2012, August). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science.

Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. New York: The Guilford Press.

Perkins, A. (2012, January). A facial expression for anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Soussignan, R. (2002). Duchenne Smile, Emotional Experience, and Autonomic Reactivity: A Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Emotion, 52-74.

Strack et al. (1988). Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile: A Nonobtrusive Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 768-777.