Esports are growing fast and are quickly becoming an industry with a competitive and demanding environment. An environment which is not forgiving mistakes and absolutely not tolerating players who don’t grind on a daily basis and are not spending several hours in practice. It’s not a secret that most professional players practice around 80 hours or more weekly to maintain their optimal performance. While some of them find such an environment productive and beneficial, others pay a solid price – their mental well being. With time, the intensive schedule often leads to psychological and physical exhaustion and if left unattended leads to burnout.
What is burnout?
The topic about ‘burnout’ is controversial and since it is a relatively new concept in psychology, there is still a lot to learn about this state of being. Last year the World health organization (WHO) classified burnout as ‘an occupational syndrome’ “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
These symptoms have different intensity with different people which makes burnout really hard to diagnose.
Burnout and esports
If we have to be honest – there is no solid definition of burnout in esports from scientific point of view, because both concepts (esports and burnout) are relatively new and further research needs to be done. However, there are some differences between burnout in sports and burnout as “an occupational syndrome”.
Here are some of the symptoms of burnout in esports:
- Cognitive issues such as difficulty in concentration and attention;
- Emotional outbursts, moodiness and irritability;
- Reduced confidence, increased anxiety and depression.
Here is an example of behavioral symptoms that might be associated with burnout:
- Being too late or not present on practice frequently;
- Not attending group meetings without clear reason;
- Cynical attitude towards the whole process or teammates, coach etc.
The combination of these factors (symptoms) amongst others leads to what often players and coaches call – underperformance without ‘any visible reason’.
In fact the topic about burnout is so popular and relevant in esports, that players even share their struggles and seek help on public forums. Here are some examples from CS:GO
There are also several cases from the elite scene. In a very recent interview, Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković, a professional League of Legends player shared his experience in struggling with burnout.
“Burnout also comes from your schedule, the way you decide to practice and live your life. I think in the past I had been overcompensating in my practice time and not taking care of myself and not having enough free time, but now I am learning to balance it, being a little more relaxed.”
Dealing with burnout
The difficulties which Perkz shares are only a small part of the everyday challenges which burnout players have to deal with. Below I would discuss a case from my practice and a discussion which suggests a few steps which could help dealing with burnout.
One of my clients, a professional CS:GO player reached to me with a request to help him overcome some burnout symptoms he had been fighting with recently. He told me that his team is about to have a very important game after one day, and he feels that for the past week he had been underperforming and is well aware that it’s not because of his technical skills but rather a ‘ mental barrier’ which he can’t overcome. I asked him to describe his daily schedule for the past week and it turned out that not only he didn’t have any time to relax, but he also didn’t have any sufficient amount of sleep. Luckily this player had a developed sense of self-awareness and was able to give me this feedback timely enough so that we could develop an action plan and help him regain control over his performance. Here are few of the things we did back then:
Clear your mind
When you are exhausted or ‘burned out’, your brain ends up overstimulated or simply said – fried. In such moments, the best thing you could do is to cut any sort of stimulation related to gaming. Give your brain time to relax. This means completely cutting off playing (even matchmaking), watching gaming related videos, demos and everything else related to your game. We did exactly this with the only exception of the preparation before the official game which was mandatory.
Get quality sleep
The benefits of quality sleep are a well-known topic amongst professional gamers. Even though one single night could not compensate for all the nights of intentional sleep deprivation, the chance to perform better when you had a solid sleep is much larger. In the current case my client even had one hour power nap before their game.
Focus only on the present moment
It’s really easy to lose your focus when you are exhausted. That’s why a good strategy is to intentionally focus only on the things which have value in your current moment. We discussed the benefits of focusing only on the current rounds and avoiding deep analysis on in-game mistakes which cannot be fixed at the moment and would only lead to negative thinking and emotions. When mistakes occur it’s better to work on them after the game, when you have all your focus and attention and are ready to learn from them so that you don’t repeat them.
Because of my client’s strong motivation and self discipline he was able not only to complete our ‘action plan’ but even overfullfil it and his performance returned under his control during all maps.
The topic about exhaustion and burnout in esports would continue to become more popular amongst professional gamers. If you are also struggling with exhaustion or feel that you are becoming ‘a victim’ of burnout symptoms, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and get control over your performance today.