I tend to get angry at little things in video games. A lot. Sometimes really, really, really angry. I'm starting to think I should stop. Why? A recent study explained just how bad for us small yet frequent day-to-day stresses really are. The short version? Life-threatening.
I know I'm not the only one (shit, I roomed with a guy in college who was waaaaay worse about it than me), so this is definitely worth keeping in mind. In short, according to a study from journal Experimental Gerontology, everyday hassles that get us especially bent out of shape add up to be just as bad as truly monumental events like divorce or job loss. Evidence suggests they lead to a much higher mortality risk as you age.
Psychologist Jeremy Dean broke down the study on Psy Blog:
"Just under half of [the 1,293 older men] followed went on to die during the period of the study, but their chances of dying depended on the hassles and stressful life events they'd experienced."
"Only 29% of those who'd experienced few everyday hassles had died, while that proportion jumped to 64% for those who'd experienced high levels of everyday hassles."
"For major, stressful life events, the figures were around one-third dying for those who'd experienced few events, increasing to around 50% for those who'd experienced a high number of stressful events."
For me, this means things like missing my exit on the highway, misplacing my keys when I really need to get out the door, getting irrationally angry at comments on the Internet, and -- of course -- frustrating, tedious, or repetitive moments in video games. Trial-and-error especially drives me nuts on just, like, a primal level. Sometimes I emit guttural yells, blood-curdling cries, things embedded in my genes to frighten off wolves at, you know, games.
On one hand, it's like, ok, this is silly. There are far worse, more violently upsetting things in this world than annoying moments in video games. I should be grateful that I live in a place where I have the privilege of even considering this type of thing a concern. But on the other hand, in those moments, it's hard not to see red. It's just upsetting, you know? Why did they make the game that way? Why did they waste my time? Why did I fuck that part up? Ugh, did I really die again? What's wrong with me?
At the end of the day, though, it's not a matter of how many stressful events -- be they in games or elsewhere -- we experience. It's how we react to them that ultimately does or does not take a toll on us, physical or otherwise. It's not always possible to completely mitigate the effects of something going horribly/stupidly wrong, but for the smaller things we can pause for a moment and try to take it all in stride. The more you do that, the less stress you'll have simmering away, threatening to blow your lid clean off.
If I sound like I'm lecturing, believe me: I need to hear this stuff just as much as anybody. I get irrationally upset at a lot of things. And anyway, games -- at least, the ones that aren't purposefully created to evoke powerful, not necessarily positive feelings -- are fun. We play them to unwind, not add even more stress to our teetering anxiety plate stacks.
So try not to get caught up in the little irritants (even if redoing this entire Fire Emblem battle because I lost a character is TOTAL BULLSHIT RIGHT NOW) when the game you're playing is largely pretty great. It's like snagging a hangnail on your sleeve while reaching for a slice of pie. Yeah, it stings for a second, but pie!
Games and life are really great. Be happy and stuff.
Thanks, Science of Us.