Overwatch Competitive Anxiety: Ranked, Ladder, SoloQ Anxiety & How to Deal with it

Overwatch Competitive Anxiety (or Ranked, Ladder, SoloQ anxiety) is a thing known for most of the players with no regards to rank or skill. Shaking hands, no will to play, images of failure. We all experience the stress of playing competitively, and this video will guide you through understanding the nature of ranked anxiety and most importantly will help YOU to come over it and turn the negative feelings into something that helps your game.

This video is heavily depending on sport psychology, based on a lot of research. You can be sure that the things we state here are valid practice in that field, so give them a try!


Hey there! Competitive anxiety in Overwatch is a psychological state that prevents you to get into game after game and enjoy it. There are several reasons for why this is happening, and the symptoms are usually hindering the player’s ability and willingness to play again. This video is explaining competitive anxiety and we are going to try to offer solutions for you to start enjoying the game again!



Hello guys, welcome to the dojo! Are you familiar with the feeling when you think you want to play another competitive match in Overwatch, but when you get there to push the matchmaking button, you just don’t feel like it anymore? Sometimes you do manage to start a competitive match, but you get cold hands and feet, start having negative thoughts, images of failure just to name a few possibilities. But what can be done about it, to let you enjoy the game again? Before answering that question, we need to understand what is happening to be able to fight competitive anxiety on different levels.

Competitive Anxiety

When we are taking part in competitive activities, we react to the situation with increased stress both mentally and physically due to competing with others. This can affect our performance negatively in a lot of cases, however competitive stress can be used to increase our performance if held on an optimum level. This level is different for every one of us, and you need to work out alone or together with a coach to be able to maximize your potential. We are going to talk about this later in this video.


The biggest problem with competitive anxiety is that you are allowing your mind to work against you. Instead of leveraging your arousal and performing higher, you let pictures of failure and negative thoughts control you. This is having an effect on the body too, creating negative experiences that will remind you of anxiety again. It’s a vicious cycle. Before diving deeper, let’s see the causes for competitive anxiety.

Causes of competitive anxiety

Now why on earth is this happening to us? If you have never experienced this state of mind and body, you are lucky. However most of the playerbase of competitive gamers are having problems with anxiety after a while.

Dealing with uncertainty

First of all, playing against others in an online environment will always have some kind of uncertainty. On one hand this is what makes sports and esports an enjoyable activity. You need to make your game technique better and better to rule out as much uncertainty as possible. This is why we practice aim drills, to be able to land those shots in every situation. This is the reason we watch pro games with an analytic mindset, to learn their moves and gain experience and insight that we can use in our games.


Graham Jones developed a model of competitive anxiety that got really popular. This says that our anxiety is depending on our judgement about how well we can control our environment and ourselves during stressful competitive situations. So if you learn how to deal with different situations (and you have a positive mindset about it), it will help you to perform better and be more confident in what you are doing. When you have the control, the symptoms that you can experience – elevated heart rate, or higher level of excitement – can actually help you to focus and perform better. However if you feel that you are not in control and you can not do anything about it, the same symptoms are going to hold you back.


The other top causes for competitive anxiety are the stress of being observed and the fear of failure.

Stress of being observed

When players are asked about their anxiety, the stress of being observed is one of the most frequent cause that they mention. For most of us, it’s hard to perform when we are being watched, our performance being judged. This causes us to act in ways that would never happen during practice for example.

What you need to understand and accept is that no one really cares about you in solo queue. Yeah you heard that right. Everyone is too occupied with themselves to pay deliberate attention to what you are doing and how. The only thing that can make them care about you if you fail to do your job, or when you do it extremely well.


When you fail to perform well with your character, you are not feeling anxious because you are being watched, but because of your fear of failure.

Fear of failure

We tend to falsely judge ourselves based on the result of competitive matches. This effect is stronger when you are playing 1v1 games like Starcraft II or the arcade 1v1 in Overwatch. Winning or losing a match in these setups will not make you any better or worse as a person. It does not have an effect on who you are and how you should be judged. Winning or losing depends on a number of reasons.

Competitive Anxiety in Overwatch and e-sport games

Okay, so we all have different motivation for playing competitive games. Some thrive for being challenged, some enjoy beating others in the virtual world, it really comes down to personal preference. However nearly all players will experience the anxiety we are talking about sooner or later. When it is mild, you just skip a few days and get back to your game. But when it gets severe and you don’t spend time to deal with it, it can cause you to abandon the game you are playing for good. Players usually report that they really want to play their game, they just can’t get themselves to start it, because of the negative feelings. This is why it is important to be able to realize that


Overwatch is a team game, however it can feel lonely in a lot of cases when we are playing in solo queue. Researches suggest that a team player’s performance can be greatly increased if the expectations are positive towards the team, and if the individual is able to have an impact on the team’s decisions. Even in a solo environment, you need to make decisions together. Starting from selecting a lineup to deciding where to attack or defend down to the specifics of who to target during a teamfights all involve group decisions. Even if someone is not cooperating at all, you still make these decisions together. Staying positive even in stressful situations and not even thinking about blaming anyone WILL help you to perform better and enjoy your game more.

Controlling competitive anxiety

As we discussed the symptoms you experience can be leveraged to increase your performance. In order to do that you need to be able to understand your own body’s responses and act on them. This requires a good level of self-awareness as you need to be able to listen to your thought process as well as your physical responses. You must understand that this is not witchcraft and if you learn and apply these methods it can help you not just in games but in real life competitive settings too.

Preparing for a competitive game

The following techniques can be done before sessions, or in the break between sides. Make a habit of doing them and you will feel the improvement in your mood and performance.

Image yourself winning

First of all, before getting into a game, you need to establish a good mental foundation that you can keep. Starting a competitive game when you are angry, sad or tired will make it nearly impossible for you to perform well. Before you hop into a game, think about the last time you performed really well and enjoyed the game. Try to identify the key aspects of that feeling and what caused it. It will increase your performance if you are able to reproduce those aspects and believe that you can do well again. Positivity is key and what  Zarya says really works: “Just like in training: visualize, then execute.”

Five breaths technique

Okay, the next one is called five breath technique. This is an exercise to control anxiety before you hop into a game, or between rounds. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose filling your lungs with air and exhale gently through the mouth like you wanted to move a dry leaf very slightly. Close your eyes and sit comfortably. Concentrate on the sensation of your body, and dismiss any other thoughts. If you would like to, you can repeat a word that feels nice for you, like ‘float’ or ‘relax’. Now get to the exercise:

  • Take the first deep breathe. Concentrate on relaxing your face and neck when exhaling. Feel your muscles releasing tension.
  • Second breathe. Relax your shoulders and arms. Pay attention to how your body feels.
  • Third breathe. Allow your chest, stomach and back to relax as breathing out.
  • Fourth breathe. Relax your legs and feet.
  • Fifth deep breath. Relax your whole body as you slowly breathe out.
  • Continue to do the technique for as long as you feel necessary.
Regular activities

Doing some kind of sport regularly is really good for fighting anxiety. You can go for a short run or whatever. We live in a time where you can get complete bodyweight training programmes for free from different online sources, so all you need to do is load a video and do the exercises, you don’t even need any equipment. Set your mind on it and start doing it once per week. You will see that regular exercise will help you to deal with stressful situations. It helps you get acquainted with physical stress, as the same symptoms can occur after a good workout as with competitive anxiety. So take action now, and plan your next workout right after this video. Start with something small, you will feel the difference. Doing a small workout before playing also helps your body to wake up and will make you more aware of the game. This can result in better aim, more positional awareness and the likes.  

Have a cup of tea or a cup of beer

The next tip that can help you preparing against anxiety is having some kind of beverage that helps you calming down. A cup of green tea will help you calm down before a session. If you are allowed to drink beer, it may numb you a bit, however it helps you to relax and dispel any anxiety symptoms and usually allows you to communicate more fluidly.

Say no to coffee and energy drinks

Let’s talk about caffeinated beverages. If you want to remain calm, say no to them. Energy drinks, black tea and coffee will make you more alert and more sensitive to anything. This applies to anxiety too. Too much caffeine can make your shaking worse for example. Drink water instead, as being hydrated is important and it will help you more on the long run.

Dealing with symptoms of anxiety

Let’s talk about how to deal with the symptoms of competitive anxiety when you are already experiencing them.

Cold hands and cold feet

When you get cold hands and feet, make sure that you wear something warm, or wrap yourself in a blanket. You can also get a hand warming gel pack for heat your hands. It is also recommended to start the blood flow with some exercises. Stretch your arms and legs in various ways, just make sure that you hold one position for at least 10 seconds. Doing push ups and jumping jacks are a quick and easy way to get your blood flowing.

Heavy breathing, elevated heart rate, sweating, shaking

If you experience heavy breathing, elevated heart rate, sweating or shaking, your best tool is the five breath technique or something that helps you to calm down. If you have your own technique that you think others could use, share it in a comment below! It can help if you step away from the game for a few minutes, or listen to non-vocal music to help you focus on dispelling the feelings that make you anxious.

Alerted mind

If you are already anxious, listening to non-vocal music can help a lot. If you discover any of the side effects, then it’s time to stand up and do something else before the next match. Do the breathing technique, have a warm shower, just walk around the house. Take your mind off the game, let it calm down, and get back to the game refreshed and ready for action. Doing these small breaks will help you to get accustomed to the anxiety and you will be able to have longer and longer sessions without the need to stand up because of it. You should still hold breaks however, it’s healthy to just walk around and have a cup of water after 3-4 matches.


This topic is huge, and there are a lot of research investigating competition anxiety in sports and esports. Heed our advice and take action right now, don’t wait for the next bad moment. As usual, we are eager to hear your ideas in a comment below. Like, subscribe and share if you love what we are doing. See you guys next time!