Finding Relief Through Play: Games to Ease Anxiety

Living with the ups and downs of an autoimmune condition is challenging enough without having anxiety and depression along for the miserable ride.

Finding Relief Through Play: Games to Ease Anxiety
Girl sitting on a bed playing a mobile game

Living with the ups and downs of an autoimmune condition is challenging enough without having anxiety and depression along for the miserable ride.

The isolation we often feel when symptoms flare can exacerbate anxious thoughts or depressed moods. While self-care basics like getting enough sleep, eating nutrient-rich foods, and making time for movement and mindfulness are so important, we also need connections and distractions to bring more lightness and joy.

That's where gaming comes in!

Immersing ourselves in interactive stories and puzzles or competing and strategizing in multiplayer games gives our anxious minds a break and allows us to socialise without having to leave the sofa (though you must do that too!).

Playing also causes our brains to release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. From mobile games perfect for when you’re stuck in doctor’s office waiting rooms, to online multiplayer worlds where you can meet fellow gamers, here are some recommendations to relieve anxiety:

Casual Games

When symptoms have you housebound and feeling down, some simple and entertaining mobile games can provide a mental vacation:

Cozy Grove: Care for a charming, haunted island and befriend quirky ghost bears in this life simulator that progresses in real-time. Interacting with these fantasy creatures and slowly beautifying your space is soothing. The comfort of repetitive tasks amid adorable graphics and chilling but sweet characters makes anxiety float away.

Flower: Flow through gorgeous fields and forests growing your flower trail to emotive music. This meditative adventure is wordless and immersive, centering your thoughts on beauty and creativity rather than worries. Moving through the landscapes is relaxing, as is the tactile feeling of making flowers bloom with a swipe or tilt of your phone or tablet.

Story-Rich Console and PC Games

Losing yourself in an immersive story is a proven way to reduce anxiety. These engrossing games invite you into their worlds:

Spiritfarer: Play Stella, ferry master to the deceased, caring for spirit passengers on their way to the afterlife while also building them cozy homes on your boat. The charming characters, low-pressure quests, and cozy tasks make this a peaceful, poignant adventure.

Eastshade: Explore the gorgeous open world of Eastshade, painting landscapes while meeting a cast of intriguing characters and making your way through gentle mysteries. With no combat, it’s pure low-key exploration filled with quests, stories, and scenery begging to be captured on canvas.

Multiplayer Games to Connect With Others

The social connections and support we can find through online gaming communities are invaluable. Enjoy these options and don’t be shy about using game chats or forums to share your troubles or lend an ear when others open up.

Guild Wars 2: This massive online RPG fantasy world offers epic storylines to get lost in. With beautiful scenery, customizable characters, magical combat, and a friendly player base, it ticks all the boxes. Best of all are the guilds (think clans) you can join to take on challenges requiring teamwork. Collaborating to reach goals forges fast friendships.

RecRoom: As VR gaming becomes more mainstream, the creative, welcoming community of this free multiplayer platform stands out. Stylized graphics lend charm while you chill and chat or play everything from paintball to co-op quests. User-created rooms mean endless possibilities for playful connection. Anxiety is no match for the immersive joy of VR; strap on that headset and enter a carefree new reality.

While games can’t cure us, they do procure powerful short-term boosts in mood and morale. Whether playing solo adventures to zen out through enchanting worlds, or joining multiplayer realms for camaraderie and competition, may we let interactivity and imagination soothe our minds.

Games remind us we’re still in the driver’s seat of our days even when chronic illness kicks us out of the front seat for exasperating stretches.

Press play to infuse your challenging journey with more wonder and delight