As a poker player we suffer from stress, why?
Well because unlike most jobs we have to make financial decisions every minute. For a lot of people it can be every other second. Now there is a huge difference between making an important decision and making a financial decision. Our decisions are always monetary, whether it be stake selection, table selection, the way we play a hand or which tournament we enter. The main outcome will always be a) how much did we make, b) how much did we lose.
We hear about people working in the stock market being the most stressed in the world due to the long hours they work and the massive financial decisions they make. I actually feel it's harder for us as poker players because our decisions affect us directly, whereas a trader is generally working for a company or dealing in other peoples money. Obviously that is stressful and I can't imagine doing that, but they will still eat at the end of the month if they downswing. There is always a pay cheque coming, whereas for us we have to win to get a pay cheque...now thats pressure!
Signs of stress can be broke down into 4 different categories:
1. Cognitive symptoms
Inability to concentrate
Seeing only the negative
Anxious or racing thoughts
2. Emotional symptoms
Irritability or short temper
Agitation, inability to relax
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Depression or general unhappiness
3. Physical symptoms
Aches and pains
Diarrhoea or constipation
Loss of sex drive
4. Behavioural symptoms
Eating more or less
Sleeping too much or too little
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastinating on neglecting responsibilities
Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
Nervous habits such as twitches, nail biting or pacing.
I think it would be a good thing for you to do whilst reading this is to tick how many you suffer from or have suffered from. It's quite shocking to see what stress can do to you and how much it will have/is affecting your game and results.
Stress can be caused before playing as well, such as life problems (Check out these 7 unknown factors of poker tilt). So make sure your head is in the right place before even sitting down at the table. Why bother playing when you aren't in your A game mode and you know playing will end probably in bad results which therefore leaves you feeling even more stressed.
What can we do to calm stress caused by poker?
This is what is known as stress management. Different things will work for different people. You need to find what works for you best.
Some things that may help you:
- Avoid people who stress you out (like the guy who sends you 10 badbeats a day on skype)
- Have a nice working/life environment. Turn the TV off, turn music on, have both off, have clean surroundings.
- Express your feelings. Talk to someone, write a journal, start a blog venting your anger. It always feels good to get things off your chest.
- Look at the big picture. This is a life long game, a lot of you will pay yourself monthly or yearly so 1 day, 2 day, 1week, 2 week poker downswingscan be turned around.
- Focus on positives. Positive thinking is always going to help and I dont just mean in the mind coach/guru way. If you lose a hand maybe just remind yourself that getting in Queens vs this laggy fish is going to make money long term and it was the correct play.
- Exercise. This is probably one of the most important things to do. It clears your mind, gets you healthier, allows you to vent your anger elsewhere (hitting punchbags, running hard and fast etc)
- Make time for fun and relaxation. Dont just sit in your room till your eyes bleed. Doing things you enjoy. Simple things like walking, watching tv, calling a friend, socialising, seeing a movie, getting a massage, playing a different form of poker (you may grind 5k hands of cash a day, maybe grinding 5-10 tournaments will relax you and keep the pressure off for that day.
- Having an all round healthier lifestyle will help you at the tables and improve your results. Sad but its true and is honestly that simple. ITS BEEN PROVEN.
Good luck at the tables guys and of course, good luck away from the tables!