I am often the loudest person in the room, and yet I am the most anxious. Although I like interacting with new people and getting to know others on a more personal level, it’s really hard to ignore the nerves and shaky hands that come with it. When you’re dealing with something as raw and intense as anxiety, it sometimes hits you in waves.
Some days are better than the others. On a good day, stressing out over little things, like complicated dance routine that I can’t seem to figure out, motivates me to stay focused and try harder. When things are bad, though, the idea of doing anything remotely unfamiliar, like driving over the highway or actually following through with that dream job interview, leaves me feeling overwhelmed, intimidated and lost.
Anxiety affects everyone differently, which means that there is no magic cure-all. That’s why I would never have expected just how relaxing and therapeutic playing Pokémon Go could be. There have been countless stories about people who’ve found that playing the increasingly popular game reduced their depression and anxiety symptoms.
I grew up watching Pokémon, which made revisiting my childhood that much more nostalgic. Although I’ve only been playing for the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a major improvement in my overall mental health.
1. It gave me a time-out when I was drowning in stress
There’s nothing more terrifying than being put in a situation that you have no control over. Before a big interview, I spent a lot of time practicing what I would say and then hyperventilating when I couldn’t get my words right. In the past, blatant avoidance and denial were the only ways that I coped with stressful moments.
After panicking for thirty minutes straight, I knew that I could use a much-needed break from my nerves. One of the biggest features of Pokémon Go involves taking a walk and exploring the world around you.
Almost like a pause button, walking around in search for Evee or Pikachu gave me that time-out that I so desperately needed. While I kept my prepared questions and responses in the back of my head, I decided to just focus on finding those specific pokémons in that moment. Shifting my attention to something less daunting and more simple actually worked. I could physically feel my tense shoulders relax and the pressure leaving my body.
2. I feel more confident putting myself out there and meeting new people
I’ve always been more of a homebody, which explains why maintaining relationships has never been easy for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out at new and exciting places and potentially making friends there. Yet, I sometimes find myself withdrawing and building walls when the chance to socialize comes up. It doesn’t matter if you are in your mid-twenties or forties; nothing is as simple as putting yourself in a position to encounter the unknown—until it is.
As a sort of test for myself, I used Pokémon Go as an excuse to connect with other players and possibly forge new friendships. On a recent ferry ride around the city, I noticed that quite a few people were really getting into the game. I used that to my advantage by striking up conversations with them and getting cool pointers along the way.
3. Now, I travel everywhere
A recent study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that something as simple as a nature walk can regulate your emotions. As I mentioned earlier, the main point of this app is to get you up and moving. I’m very adventurous and love wandering around, taking in different sights around and outside of the city. Being forced to stay active and always be on the lookout for new pokémon to catch was the perfect opportunity to explore with my friends.
4. Speaking of staying active…
It’s hard to put in gym time when you’re working or going to school full-time. What better way then to fit in exercise on a limited schedule than by getting those eggs to hatch. Although people have discovered so many interesting hacks (i.e. those brave enough to try the ceiling fan trick), walking or running a minimum of two miles has sort of become a daily routine for me.
5. I have a stronger connection with my friends
I’m lucky to have a small circle of friends who can make any outing feel like a fun road trip. My friends and I have been planning ‘poké-dates’ where we all meet up and compete to find the most diverse variety of pokémon. I don’t think I’ve felt more comfortable completely nerding out over Wartortle or Horsea than in those moments.
It also gave me the confidence to reach out to an old friend I had once lost. We used to do everything together when we were young, but we grew up and apart over time. Hunting for rare pokémon together made it a little easier to start from scratch.
While playing the game has got me to break out of my shell, it’s also encouraged me to channel my stress into a more positive outlet. Taking myself less seriously has been all the more gratifying because of it.