Overcoming my Anxiety to Play Pokémon Go
I was reluctant to start Pokémon Go. I work from home and live in a quiet area and so I didn’t think I’d get enough opportunities to be able to keep up with my friends (on the plus side the few gyms we have are quieter and easier to hold onto.) There have also been many negative stories around the use of Pokémon Go, which has raised the concerns of those around me. I am a little wary of having my phone out in busy places as I’ve been frequently reminded that it could make me a target. My curiosity was too strong not to at least start Pokémon Go and I do love how new social games create that sense of excitement and connection. I didn’t want to miss out on the initial buzz.
We’ve been arranging walks out together with Pokémon Go. It’s certainly more fun with friends, but to begin with I was so eager to get started I went for a short walk by myself. This is a difficult thing for me to do due to my anxiety. I feel safe to go out with others, but I often struggle to leave the house when I’m by myself. I’ve been protected too much while growing up and given the idea that I’m not safe on my own. Unfortunately there are times when we really need to go out and we can’t always expect somebody else to be available to come with us. I also believe that you need to live life and can’t keep avoiding things for fear of what could go wrong; Make sure you take precautions but don’t let it put you off from doing things you’d otherwise enjoy. My doctor recommended to me to perform simple tasks like walking to the shops each week to help me to overcome my discomfort, but I found it really difficult to keep up with. There just wasn’t enough of an incentive to go out and I felt awkward leaving the house for the sake of it.
I have this gaming mindset, where as soon as an incentive is applied – such as experience – It’ll itch away at me until I can fulfil my goals. Pokémon Go has had the same affect on me, and with much less effort than usual I stepped over the boundaries of my door step all by myself. I feared that I would look daft catching Pokémon in public, but so many others are playing it too that I don’t need to feel self-concious about it. I enjoy it for the same reason that I also enjoy digital photography; I feel safer when I have a camera in my hands as if it forms a protective barrier between me and the rest of the world. As soon as I see an opportunity for a photo I’ll do anything I can to get it no matter how silly I look to everyone else (I’ll kneel on the floor or climb on things If I have to. I even got close to a spider the other day despite being afraid of them.) My desire to take more photos as well as my new interest in catching Pokémon gives me a strong enough reason to want to push through the anxiety and get out there.
One of the other things I love about Pokémon Go is how it connects everybody together and in person. We went to the park last weekend and bumped into several people that were also catching Pokémon. We had strangers approach us to offer advice on upgrading them or to ask us what Pokémon could be found further along the path. We even tried to take on a gym just to realize that the person defending it was standing right next to us. Three of us were stood there, all members of different teams, making friendly conversation. Many of us find it difficult to break through that initial barrier of approaching new people, but Pokémon Go is offering enough of an incentive to do so. In a digital world where I reckon that a lot of people actually struggle with loneliness, a game is helping us to connect again.
The most obvious benefit of Pokémon Go is that it’s making us more active. Walking is good for us both physically and mentally. These are the kinds of benefits that I believe games to be fully capable of and it’s why I love them. By turning the world into a playground it makes going outside and exercising seem like a fun thing to do rather than to be feared or thought of as taxing. Of course, games like Pokémon Go shouldn’t be thought of as the sole answer to our physical/mental health and it’s not yet clear how real the benefits are, but the potential positives are worth exploring. Even before the release of Go I’d heard many stories of how the cute and colourful characters of Pokémon have been a comfort to people going through tough times (see ‘What Makes Pokémon Special?‘)
- Psychology Today – The Psychological Pros and Cons of Pokémon Go
- Psyche Central – Pokémon Go Reportedly Helping People’s Mental Health, Depression
- Engadget – Pokémon Go’s mental health benefits are real
- Science Daily – Health benefits of Pokémon Go
- Health Line – Is Playing ‘Pokémon Go’ Really Exercise?