Looking after your mental health at GGJ

Global Game Jam spoke to Pritika Sachdev who as well as being part of our theme committee this year, also works as a Community Manager at CheckPoint. CheckPoint is an international non-profit organisation who provide mental health support and resources for the gaming community.

Crunch has been a very hot topic in gaming this year, and Game Jams have been scrutinised as part of this, questioning if jams contribute or promote crunch culture. Game jams are a great way to meet new people, collaborate and challenge ourselves creatively. However, 48 hours is a short time to get a lot of work done, and there is always a temptation to push yourself.

Here at GGJ we want to try and stress the importance of looking after yourself during the jam, and making sure you can jam as healthily as possible, creating a great game while taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing, and being a great member of your jam team.

Pritika gave us CheckPoint’s top 10 tips to look after yourself during GGJ 2019!

  1. Feeling overwhelmed and need to calm down fast? Here are some exercises you can do:
    1. Controlled Breathing: Count to 4 on the way in, and 7 on the way out.
    2. Play the 5-Things Game: Name five things you can see, hear, feel, and so on This gives your brain something very specific to focus on and
    3. helps distract from the distressing feelings.
    4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Focus on the muscles in your toes. Tense them tightly for 5 seconds, and then slowly relax them. Next, move to the muscles of the calf, and do the same thing. Carry on up the body until you’ve used every muscle. This can quickly relieve stress and tension in a physical and emotional way.
  2. Remember to get up and stretch! This may sound like a pretty basic tip, but stretching our bodies for a couple of minutes improves circulation and promotes oxygen flow to the brain, doing wonders for the mind. It is also a good idea to give yourself regular screen breaks.
  3. Know the symptoms of burnout. This may help you catch it before it occurs. Some symptoms include: Feeling physically or emotionally exhausted, difficulty concentrating, loss of enjoyment and more. Find out more on our page about burnout.
  4. Communicate with your team, and set clear achievable goals from the start. Allow for extra time if you can. Remember, GGJ is about learning and collaborating, it’s not a competition.
  5. Learn to say ‘no’. It’s easy to take on more than we can physically achieve. If you feel like you can’t get something done in time, say no to it.
  6. Be mindful of your social needs and limits. One of the wonderful things about GGJ is that is brings the community together in a physical space. Take advantage by talking to the people around you, share your ideas, brainstorm, playtest and take advantage of the different skill sets and knowledge around you. At the same time, being around others for 48 hours straight can be mentally draining. Make sure you carve out some quiet time away from everyone. This may mean taking a walk, or just finding a quiet space in your jam space. A five minute break for grounding will improve your productivity on returning to work.
  7. Schedule in basic self-care.
    1. Sleep. Some jams have dedicated sleeping spaces away from the work area so you can get better rest. If it is possible, consider going home and sleeping in your own bed (just make sure you are back early the next day, so you don’t let your team down).
    2. Eat. Drink lots of water and take some healthy snacks with you. Eat some fruit!
    3. Shower. Not only will your team mates thank you, it will freshen you up and make you feel better. If possible, consider taking a break and going home for a shower if there is nothing on site.
  8. Consider alternative team activities - schedule in a park walk, a yoga break, a trip to the beach, a drive to the mall, lunch in a local cafe. Plan time outside the jam site with your team - just being in a new and fresh environment will help you feel better.
  9. Report to your site organiser if it’s getting too much. They may be able to take you to a quiet space at the jam site to chill out for a while.
  10. Put yourself first. While it may seem like making the game is all that matters, your health matters even more! If you’re really needing help don’t hesitate to reach out. Here’re some global resources to get you started.

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