Is anxiety limiting your participation in the hobby?

Do stress and anxiety limit your participation in the hobby? It could be when it come to play games or to participate at events but it can also be when you try to create gaming material.

I accumulate a lot of stress and anxiety due to my precarious financial situation and how it limit my transition, I often feel in a dead end and it strongly affect me emotionally. I often have a hard time playing in online games sessions because too many things worries me. The stress due to my limited transition often undermine my self confidence and make it very hard for me to participate in gaming or art events, like yesterday I cancelled my participation to Gauntlet Con because the combined stress of my personal life and the event is just too big for me to handle.

This even affect my personal projects. Yesterday I nearly deleted my Comet Crawl project and other things I was working on because I felt that I will never be able to finish anything. There is a strong demand for my art but I have to refuse a lot of commissions because they inject too much additional stress. I also often had to refuse to work on interesting projects because of this, like during the G+ era, Patrick Stuart offered me to illustrate a whole book for him, kind of like Silent Titans but I had to refuse due to stress, I also had to back down from illustrating the Garden of Ynn (I was so enthusiastic for this one). I so often feel hindered and limited by how stress and anxiety affect that I sometime think of disengaging totally from the hobby or even from art. What is frustrating is that I often better periods where I handle stress better and I start having hope and get enthusiastic again about running games and working on projects and then I get a anxiety spike and I have to abandon nearly everything again.

I guess that what I am trying to say is that some creative people have important personal barriers of entries into the hobby, both as participants and as creators. I often isolate myself because of this, because I feel guilt over not being functional, because I imagine that everyone else are functional, participate to events, publish books and realize beautiful projects all the time.

I don’t have much solutions but because of how I felt yesterday and the things I had to cancel again, I wanted to at least offer a testimony and to bring some awareness.

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I don’t have anything substantive to add. I’m a new member and player here at the Gauntlet. But managing stress and anxiety is something that’s constantly with me. Thanks for being open about it.

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I can’t judge the depth or breadth of your anxiety, nor can I provide a solution—because I haven’t even found one of my own.

I struggle with anxiety in all my life—both professional and personal. I fumble over phone calls, second guess my credentials, doubt by creativity or just find the world cascading in around me because the supermarket I’m in suddenly seems to be the place I absolutely don’t want to be.

I have been writing for RPGs since the early 2000s, but every new project throws up a world of doubt. I have been successfully self-publishing The Cthulhu Hack since 2016—and have been nominated for and won multiple awards and varied accolades—but, I still question my place and value within the community as a whole and I’m the last person to hold a hand up to possessing any measurable talent. Sometimes, I just want to be alone; I have had a birthday party laid on for me where the place I wanted to be most was alone, probably with just a book and a cat for company.

My personal situation is blandly ordinary—I have a partner, two kids, three cats, two gerbils, a job and a home to pay rent on. I’ve hundreds of things to worry about, but that doesn’t stop the anxiety homing in om something small and needlessly painful.

As I say, I don’t know what the solution is… but, if I did, I would share it. Absolutely. I wish people didn’t have to live this way, judged by some inaccessible inner voice that mires every possible route through the day. If I can, I will support you, as I would anyone else in our situation. But, I know that stepping back and keeping out of the anxiety zone can sometimes be the greatest relief—that moment of needing to feel safe and comfortable in your own presence with what you feel like you can absolutely rely on; like me in that room with my cat and a good book.

I hope that it gets better. I hope we all can find a route out of this horrible situation that burdens and drowns our true potential.

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You do contribute quite a bit to the RPG field. People are interested in what you create and and insights you share. If you enjoy creating RPG content, continue to do so. Don’t feel you must monetize your enjoyment.

People only post about something they’re doing, they don’t post about doing nothing. So every post is about someone doing something - and all of those postings are comprised of many people doing a little. (There’s far more people doing nothing.)

It can be scary putting your creations, your ideas out there, putting yourself out there, but you are one of the most productive persons of which I’m aware. You make a difference.

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Social anxiety is why the only game I’ve touched in the last 4 or so months is No Country for Old Kobolds.

It sucks. You deserve to be successful in ways you get to own!

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Certainly I have had times where my hobby projects seem insurmountable, bad or impossible to complete and it tracks to some degree with life stress. Art is especially hard, it depends so much on patience and state of mind - hard to do when one is stressed. Heck I never finished a 200+ page megadungeon project due to trial stress and then annoyance with the politics of the game scene.

Financial stress is a real beast though and it gets really hard to think when one is worried about rent. It gets especially hard to think about the fantastical when one’s hustling - writing billing emails to deadbeat clients or scrambling for paid hours. I think there’s been some studies on scarcity mindset/mentality that ring really true for me (https://www.npr.org/2017/03/23/521195903/how-the-scarcity-mindset-can-make-problems-worse).

I’ve adjusted my professional life a bit since, but now I find myself too busy to work on games, even if less stressed. I don’t know what to say other then you’ve done some stuff people love, and there’s no indication that if/when the clamor and terrors of modern life are stilled you won’t keep doing more (in this space or another). Everyone has rough times, and everyone’s rough times are unique. My experience though is that guilty and useless folks rarely feel guilty and useless, but the folks who are smart and diligent beat themselves up a lot. Games, illustration and such aren’t going anywhere, someone will still be here if you need to step away for a while and take care of business.

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I’m not very active as a game author, but I’ve done a ton of open-source software development and have struggled with stress, anxiety, work/life balance, and burnout.

For me a major contributor to anxiety and stress is feeling guilt about what I think I should be doing with my free time. There were projects or tasks that I had little enthusiasm for, but that I felt I had to get done due to external factors (encouraging or demanding people). Over time I think that stuff contributed to a period of major burnout that lasted a few years, where I had to step away from almost everything I was working on.

I don’t have great advice about the anxiety part, but I would encourage you to try to be honest with yourself about what you are genuinely enthusiastic about working on versus what you feel you should be enthusiastic about (based on your reputation, perceived importance, or your idea of how you want to be, etc.). I find that those kinds of disconnects create a lot of internally-imposed pressure, disappointment, and guilt. In the long run (at least for me) these build up until a constant low-level feeling of stress and guilt that manifests as burnout and avoidant behavior.

I’m very sorry to hear that you’re going through this. Over the last couple of years I’ve made a lot of progress compared to my low points. I hope you do as well. Good luck!

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Extreme social anxiety has been such a significant barrier to joining gaming groups, attending cons, or publishing for me… sometimes it even prevents me from being really present with people I know are friends. I really appreciate hearing your story of it, and am so sorry it’s happening to you. Your voice and perspective have been important to me.

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I medicate for my anxiety-- I hadn’t even realized how bad it was until Sherri pointed it out to me. I still have problems at cons unless I have at least one close friend with me. I can handle things when I’m in a structured environment, but outside of that I have problems. The anxiety creeps up in little ways, like putting off emailing people who I vaguely know but need to contact. Once I get stuck in that loop, it is hard to get out.

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I am living with post-traumatic stress disorder. I guess in one sense, anxiety affects everything I do, but with respect to TTRPGs…

I take medication and attend biweekly talk therapy. Both are essential to my function, but sometimes, especially in intensely social interactions with strangers, it’s not enough. In an anxious state, I am withdrawn in my story-telling and in my engagement with the game in front of me. It’s not a one-for-one ratio of good to bad, but it happens enough that I feel at least somewhat limited.

I can’t speak to the creative side of things because I do not design games, but if the way I treat my academic work is any indication, I can see anxiety affecting that, too.

In my experience, providing an open forum to discuss such things is one of the best things a community can do. It lessens the stigma.

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I feel this so hard. I end up wasting so much time trying to figure out what I should be doing with my free time - what the optimal thing to do is… I just end up not making the decision for fear of choosing incorrectly. For fear of regretting my decision.

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This is me all over. I often beat myself up about “wasting my evening” when I could have been writing or designing. The logical part of my brain usually wins out. Full-time job, full-time dad (as much as possible given aforementioned full-time job), I need to unwind, etc. But the creative/critic? That jerk gets cruel, some days.

For me, part of how it relates to social anxiety is that I used to run a small but dedicated community, and every time I didn’t have anything to show or anything to discuss I felt like I was letting everyone down or being boring. I felt the duty to always be “on”, if that makes sense.

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It makes Total sense! I have battled with general anxiety plenty in the last 10 years. Mostly that is under control for me until my ADHD distracts me so much that I can’t get anything requiring detailed work done for a time. (I work with data while my hobbies are boardgames and tt-rpgs so details are most of my life). Then, I stress about what I could have gotten done during that time.

Related specifically to rpgs, I have dropped out of GMing games at conventions because I did not feel prepped enough.

I also have started many rpg projects and writing projects but generally get anxious about finishing any of them. I have never had anxiety prevent me from playing in an rpg session even with strangers though so it could certainly be worse.

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What does participation need to look like, for you, to be satisfying. People love your art. I bet people would have enjoyed your half finished comet crawl, even if the last page said, “now you make up the rest”. But, maybe that’s not enough for you, which is fine. I just think it’s important to figure out if you are making things difficult for yourself because you worry about expectations no one else has about your work or output.

My work is stressful and busy sometimes, so RPGs and warhammer are an outlet to relax. We all need breaks or we will burn out. If you are working constantly you won’t be able to do anything useful. Sometimes it is OK to waste time, because it’s not actually a waste.

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Yes yes yes, so much so it caused me to take a step back from the gauntlet entirely for a few months.

I suffer social anxiety when around people i dont know and when overloaded with stimulus. I find playing with people i dont know incredibly stressful and the whole lack of “table talk” and banter in most games on the gauntlet means i dont get the opportunity to just get to know folk meaning that i find a lot of the games on the gauntlet less satisfying than traditional FtF games.

As an ST I find the whole method of setting up the game stressful and anxiety triggering, getting the character keepers done, writing the fluff for the firebase site posting the game waiting to see who will sign on. ending emails out, which is why my comms almost always come at the last minute in games i’m running.

One of the biggest issues i have with running games if the sheer lead time in between posting them and actually doing them. invariably my mood will nosedive at some point during the 4-6 weeks between a game being posted and play starting.

Ironically, I have less problems with anxiety when playing larps than i do with running them. Running them my paperwork is again always last minute as i do multiple rewrites or struggle to get the words down where as when i’m playing i can be as confident as anybody because, thats not me being confident… thats the character being confident.

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For me, I’d say it’s mostly depression that keeps me from engaging more, although depression-related social anxiety has made conventions harder in recent years. I also shelved a game I was working on because I knew some people’s reactions would cause me problems, and that was a source of some anxiety too.

Evlyn, it seems like the projects you mentioned mostly involve you illustrating a book that’s already written? Which is a big job and understandably stressful. Do you find it easier to draw first and have someone else write about it after? That’s how I do the monsters for my Patreon. My artist Nathan gives me whatever he wants to draw and I have to figure out what it is, which puts most of the pressure on me instead of him. Whereas most of the rpg industry seems to be focused on writers first and getting illustrations for those words second.

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This seems topical:

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I definitely feel this. One of the main reasons I joined the Gauntlet community is I wanted to play more games but I haven’t been able to get myself to sign up for anything yet. I have a hard time doing anything with new people and it really limits my ability to participate in the hobby despite the fact that the act of playing itself really helps my anxiety.

For me: Exercise helps. Getting outdoors helps (especially getting outside the city). Playing games with my home group helps. Any positive social interaction helps (but of course there’s no way to guarantee a social interaction will be positive going in). I used to meditate 3+ times per week, and that helped a lot, but it’s been a while since I’ve maintained that habit. I haven’t tried medication, mainly because my anxiety makes it difficult to contact doctors and set up appointments, but I am working on it because so many people have told me that medication has helped them.

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I can relate to a lot of this.

I know it won’t work for everybody, but one of the more helpful strategies I’ve found for personally fulfilling creative output, at least, is to aim to complete smaller projects. It makes sure I don’t have enough time to get too anxious about them and quit in frustration. I know I need a longer term strategy if I ever want to get anything longer done, and of course this doesn’t address other sources of anxiety at all, but it’s something.

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Good point! Almost every large project is completed by breaking it into parts

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