Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 - #ToHelpMyAnxiety

Anxiety is something that can affect us personally or professionally at any time of our lives, often without prior warning and it can have severe impacts on our day to day lives as well as our overall mental health.

Mental Health is an important topic to Steamforged Games, not only for our #Teamforged members but also our community too. We believe that talking about mental health is a good way to raise awareness of the topic and encourage people to seek support. The topic for Mental Health Awareness Week this year focuses on Anxiety, something all too familiar within the games industry.

Anxiety has had a huge impact on the mental health of those within the games industry, whether it's one-off panic attacks or ongoing anxiety. A few of the Steamforged team will be sharing their experiences with anxiety and talking about how connecting with the games industry whether for work, or as part of their hobby has helped them to overcome or at least create paths of dealing with anxiety.

Up first in our series is #Teamforged Rich Loxam, Founder & CEO sharing his personal experience with Anxiety:

In 2020 during COVID, I woke up one day and felt like I was trapped.  I was struggling to breathe like someone was gripping my throat.

I had to get to a window and get some fresh air - my wife, noticing something was wrong said to me ‘Look for five things in the garden, focus on them, and repeat them’... I did and slowly I calmed down, my breathing relaxed and I felt myself again.

I had experienced my first-ever panic attack. Up until this point, although I had an understanding of mental health issues from growing up around mental health challenges, I had never experienced anything like that physical response to the situation of feeling stuck - which I am sure at that time a lot of the world was feeling.

It took me a little while to come to terms with it - initially, I felt like something had broken in me. I have always been a very confident, loud, and controlled individual - and I initially felt this panic attack was going to change how I was (spoiler: it didn’t).

It actually helped me. It helped me understand more about myself, understand that is OK to at times feel not in control (trapped), and it's OK to accept support when these things happen.

At Steamforged, we have always encouraged a supportive network internally around mental health for our staff and when COVID hit this really ramped up our efforts to go further in doing this.

One of the areas that we introduced was Mental Health First Aid training across several people within the team (myself included). The training really helped me gain a good understanding of what support is out there, how to deal with people if a situation arises, and provide the right level of care for them - ensuring they have the support they need.

It has been incredibly beneficial these last few years and we continue to see the benefits on a daily basis. Writing this today makes me again realise how thankful I am to everyone who supports Steamforged and the games we make.

It has given us an opportunity to represent what we believe the standards should be for companies within our industry - offering a safe and inclusive workspace for our employees to thrive in and making great games for everyone to enjoy.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 - Anxiety

Sherwin, Product Owner & Mental Health First Aider at #Teamforged, shared with us his thoughts around the topic of gaming as a coping mechanism for anxiety.

Tabletop games come in all shapes and sizes - from simple card games in tiny boxes, all the way to vast board game campaigns, experienced across multiple boxes.

Just about everything can vary; from rows of cards to fold out boards and tokens, meeples to miniatures, 2D tiles and terrain to extravagant 3D pieces that feel like they belong in a diorama, and playing times that can be measured in minutes to hours or even days.

And, of course, the number of players, and whether the game is competitive or cooperative. And that's just card and board games - tabletop RPGs and miniature wargames are another world again.

But whilst a worrisome intrusive thought might call that intimidating, press the pause button - because such rich diversity can only really be understood as opportunity.

What's wonderful about tabletop gaming is that you can choose your jumping off point. You can spend a rewarding afternoon by yourself, simply pottering around and exploring rich and interactive worlds to your heart's content - either with your friends and family, or if you'd prefer, with just your own company as most games now support solo play.

You make the rules on how you interact with games, and get to choose what you're comfortable with. Regardless of how deep you dive, it's time well spent, and always a pleasant and stress-free activity, especially good for resetting your mental wellbeing.

Using myself an example, painting is my safe space. I can happily lose hours at my desk, exploring a character's backstory through the process of applying paint to a model and discovering all of the little storytelling details that the sculptor left for me to find - and making up some of my own to match, as I choose colours or apply weathering.

What's especially nice about painting is that your skill level doesn't matter - there's no right or wrong way to paint a model, only how you want to see it.

If something doesn't work out as you imagined it? Simply paint over the top and try again. As a man far wiser than I once said, there are no mistakes, just happy little accidents.

Better still, as you grow in confidence and feel ready to become more involved, there are literally hundreds of friendly communities of likeminded people across just about every social media outlet, that will happily welcome you, irrespective of your experience level or exact interest in the hobby.

Some of my best and most dependable friends I've met through tabletop gaming; chances are you'll find the same. Tabletop gaming is an exciting and vibrant world, but more importantly, is embraced by a gentle, open-minded and kindhearted community of people just like you.

If you'd like to get involved in the conversation, you can share your thoughts on social media using #ToHelpMyAnxiety and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2023. If you'd like to find out more head to Mental Health Foundation. You can read more of the #Teamforged stories later this week right here too.