Stress Relief: A Raid Leader’s Outlet

Stress is like an iceberg. We see 1/8 of it above, but what about what’s down below?–Unkown

A leader of any type that attempts to persuade you that he does not experience any stress has cleverly found a way to suppress and hide it.

Handling stress, whether it be something as small as keeping up with your DPS rotation or picking who sits the bench on a given night, is a part of every WoW raider’s daily life. Some find that being able to settle in and perform their role is its own form of stress relief. Others sweat bullets trying to keep the raid alive on a particularly intense encounter.

We’ve all been there. You’ve been working on a boss for a long time. People keep making mistakes, the fight comes apart at the seams at seemingly random intervals and at the most inopportune times. The bickering begins, morale drops, everyone goes away for the evening unhappy.

Maybe it’s the last day before the reset and you need to finish all of the content, lest epics be wasted. Perhaps some of your healing crew is going to be missing due to final exams. These sources of stress can (and will) occur before raids, during raids, and on the weekends when you don’t even have a raid scheduled. Dealing with it all, processing it, and then turning that back around into a solution is difficult, but necessary. You may deal with the situation, but the repercussions and possible future occurrences keep the stress alive and breathing for a long time.

It is a constant goal for self-improvement that I have: keep the raid up and moving forward. If that means a stern Cowher-esque “LET’S GO!” to just getting feedback and have someone other me do the talking after a wipe.

A leader in any capacity, be it a manager, coach, or raid leader needs to find somewhere or some activity where they can get away. A place where they can put everything from their daily routine aside and just let go.

I think back to my earlier raid leading days in The Burning Crusade. Most days I would get home from class and lay in bed watching TV before getting online to “relieve stress.” More often than not my head would hit the pillow and the History Channel would help put me to sleep 20 minutes later (hey you can only listen to docs on aliens and nazis so many times). Just in time to get the raid going, I would wake up and shuffle over to my keyboard; blindly clicking names and getting people into the raid.

Needless to say, right at that moment my energy level wasn’t all that high. When you have a new dungeon to start working on, or when it’s Tuesday and you know that it’s time for a fresh instance clear, it’s easy to get going. The third wipe night on a very difficult boss is not quite so easy. You know what you’re in for: probably 3-4 hours of practice.

The raid feeds off the raid leader’s energy. Energy and enthusiasm breeds confidence in your raid, and helps to get people going whenever there’s little else to really get excited about. Trying to go from sleep to PROGRESS MODE is nearly impossible. You need to get up and get the blood flowing. Some of the worst raid nights that I’ve ever been responsible for have occurred because myself, and by extension, the raid as a whole was just lethargic. I needed to find something more effective.

My two favorite things to do in my free time, hockey and WoW, are almost completely dissimilar.

The picture at the top of this post shows is my stress reliever.

Inside of this 50’x150′ walled off asphalt surface is where I go to battle the stress that accumulates from a day of work, raiding, and just plain old life. It is a place where I can focus on a singular goal (no pun intended): putting that orange ball into a 4’x’6′ net in the most creative way possible.

More often than not when I make my way down to the local rink, there is no one else there. For me, on a weekday, that’s just the way I like it. Playing pickup is incredibly fun, and it’s the only competitive hockey I play anymore (if you can call it that), but during the week I just want to be able to come and go as I please. No teams, no goalies, no shifts. Just unlimited time skating and shooting.

There are numerous things that I think about whenever I’m going back and forth firing shots at and into the goal, but none of them relate to anything other than hockey. “How would this player approach a shot from this angle?” “How can I get that shot off faster, and more accurately from this spot?” “Missed high again, shit!” The focus that I put into playing well, even when alone, is no lower than when I’m sitting in Icecrown helping to keep the raid alive through another hard mode encounter.

Players in any sport often spend a lot of time dwelling on what could have been, what they should have done, or things that might happen the next time they step out to play. The worst thing you can do is dwell on any of those.  Skating for two hours allows me enough time to focus on very small, very inconsequential things that really have nothing to do with anything other than putting the puck into the net: footwork, shooting angle, shot release, skating posture.

Taking time out to really exhaust myself physically is cathartic in that, when I leave and head back home, I feel much better. It might come from a lifetime of physical activity, and it might come from simply loving to challenge myself even when I’m the only one out there, but it’s something that I cannot live without.

Finding somewhere to play during the winter months is nearly impossible where I live, but that doesn’t stop me from getting out my gear and shooting around in the garage or on the driveway into a trashcan. Anything to help work my mind in a different way than analyzing boss mechanics and healing targets. It is often difficult for me to start a raid or feel energetic getting the rest of the group going without the endorphins gained from relieving just a little stress right before invite time.

Focusing on putting that puck top right corner from the right wing boards is a challenging shot. It requires a good angle to get it in above the goalie’s shoulder and it requires a quick release if they carry their glove on the left hand. None of that has anything to do with WoW in the most remote sense, and that is the beauty of it.

What do you do to relieve the stress of a difficult week? Shoot some hoops? Listen to some metal? Sibling punching bag?

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