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What do Navy Seals and Gamers have in common?
Gamers and Navy Seals have something in common. They both need to perform at a high level, making fast and complex decisions in an often stressful situation. Navy Seals are known for being able to force themselves through extremely stressful situations. How they handle this stress is what makes them so powerful.
In the domain of stress, some people believe stress enhances their abilities while others believe that stress is limiting their abilities.
From the outside perspective, it doesn’t look like Navy Seals and Gamers have much in common. But when looking at the mental side of it there is something they share. Both need to perform highly demanding mental tasks in an often stressful environment.
For pro gamers, the most stressful environment is at LAN events where the players compete for high-stakes prizes while thousands of people watch. The hobby player is not placed in the same stressful environment but most people know the stressful feeling you have after a clutch situation or the stress related to one’s performance.
Navy Seals and gamers both need mental strength and a clear overview of what is happening around them while staying calm and focused. Luckily for gamers, they don’t need to perform while they’re unrested and physically drained.
What is a mindset?
Psychologist and researcher Dr. Alia Crum from Stanford Mind & Body Lab defines a mindset as “Core beliefs or assumptions that we have about a domain or category of things that orient us to a particular set of expectations, explanations, and goals (1).
We have a mindset about many things such as food, exercise, stress, etc. These mindsets root in beliefs and assumptions about what will happen under specific circumstances.
People with a limiting mindset believe that stress will limit their performance, while people with an enhancing mindset believe that stress has enhancing abilities for one’s performance.
The “stress is enhancing mindset”
Before getting into this, I want to point out that not all stress is good and continuous stress can lead to serious health problems.
In one study, researchers investigated the mindset of Navy Seal candidates on how their mindset about stress affected their performance when trying to complete the first qualification process. 175 candidates started, and only 25 completed.
What the researchers found was that the 25 candidates who completed all had what’s called a “stress is enhancing mindset”. They all believed that the stress they felt during training could enhance their performance under the given circumstances.
The study suggests that those with a “stress is enhancing mindset” is faster in completing challenging tasks and persist in training compared to those with a “stress is limiting mindset”
They also suggest that people with a “stress is enhancing mindset” or that given information about the positive aspects of stress have more optimal physiological responses to stress and report fewer negative health symptoms and greater positive emotions (2).
What can gamers learn from this mindset?
The key takeaway for gamers is that we can learn to have a positive mindset about stress. When gamers are informed about the positive effects of stress that arises in challenging situations their performance will likely be greater.
To understand this more clearly, think about the adrenaline you feel when playing an important match or being in a clutch situation. The stress from the adrenaline does various changes to the body that can enhance performance such as increased heart rate, enlarged pupils, and sending more blood to the brain.
The physiological changes caused by the adrenaline boost our focus, reaction time, information processing speed, and other physical and mental processes. You should try your best to see the stress that arises in challenging situations as opportunities to enhance performance.
If you feel a lot of stress consider implementing a relaxing activity after gaming to calm down your body and mind.
Smith, E. N., Young, M. D., & Crum, A. J. (2020). Stress, mindsets, and success in Navy SEALs special warfare training. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2962