Dealing With Stress in Poker
Stress is an unpleasant fact of human nature. It is a normal unavoidable part of life. Stress is something that most people experience daily. Known as the fight or flight response caused by the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, stress was an important evolutionary mechanism allowing our ancestors to supress basic bodily functions in order to maximise their reaction time and increase their chances of survival.
The Effects of Too Much Stress
Stress is inevitable therefore it is in our best interest to manage the amount of stress that we experience and train our body and mind to deal with it. While you may not be able to get rid of stress, you can definitely look for ways to lower it. Stress has a myriad of effects on the body, evoking mental, physical and emotional reactions. Too much stress can have very unpleasant results.
Elevated levels of stress stimulate the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which greatly contribute to a number of serious health issues including depression, obesity, fluctuating blood pressure, sleep apnoea or erectile dysfunction. Anxiety can hamper our cognitive functions which can adversely affect both our professional and personal life. Fighting stress is a risky game in which we can lose much more than just our bankroll.
Why Can Poker Become So Stressful?
The ‘fight or flight response’ has a great deal of uncertainty resonating in the name itself and nothing offers more uncertainty than poker, especially on a professional level. It is difficult to ever know your exact win rate because of variance.
Even a seasoned poker pro can experience downswing and break even stretches. This is much more unlikely with increased skill, but it’s not unavoidable. Uncertainty and poker go hand in hand. If we need to pay the bills, it’s not hard to imagine why professional players can experience such high levels of stress. You don’t even have to be a professional player to experience the stress that poker is capable of inflicting on your life. Even if you don’t play poker for a living, the volatile and inconsistent nature of the game can have a negative impact on your confidence causing you to doubt your ability to win or improve at the game.
Dealing with Stress
Effective stress management is painfully simple. As long as your stress levels are not severe enough to require medical intervention, all you really need to do is keep your mind and body strong and healthy as that can minimise the effect of stress on your body.
Your sleep schedule is more important than it seems. If you are under the impression that you're one of those few lucky people who can survive on 5-6 hours of sleep you're most likely mistaken. Increase that up to 8 hours and see how your body and mind will thank you for it with increased performance and lowered stress levels.
Adjust your habits by setting up an evening routine, reducing blue light exposure, taking melatonin supplements if needed. Make your bedroom cool, calm and quiet to increase the chance of going to sleep and waking up the same time each day.
Be more physically active. Studies show that adding just 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise like brisk walking to your routine can have a variety of health benefits.
Practice self-awareness and mindfulness training. Consider meditation or yoga. This can be a perfect way to unwind. Studies show that meditation can rewire faulty pathways in your brain greatly reducing the amount of stress in your life. The more mindful breaths a day you take the easier reducing anxiety will become for you.
Stress is caused by uncertainty; try to reduce it by planning and setting effective goals. Having a solid bankroll management strategy is going to make it easier for you to accept a downswing. If you make a habit of taking a 5-minute break every hour of play you'll reduce the possibility that the stress reaction will cause you to chase losses.
Stress as a Tool
Stress in small, controlled doses can actually be beneficial. Some amount of anxiety is actually necessary for the optimal performance of a human being. If we learn how to deal with stress, we can stop fearing it and use it to our advantage as a performance booster and a source of motivation.
These were some of the ways to deal with stress in poker. Do you know of any more beneficial methods that can help players? Do let us know in the comment section below.
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