Self-care ideas from video games

Everyone should be able to talk about their mental health openly.

Pushing forward with the main quest and levelling up, while getting distracted by side-missions and non-player characters (NPCs) along the way. It’s difficult to tell whether I’m talking about an RPG or real life here, because things can become stressful in both worlds.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. This is why it’s so important that everyone feels comfortable talking about it whenever they want to. Conversations are key to reducing stigma, and can create supportive communities where we can talk openly about our mental wellbeing and feel empowered to seek help when we need it.

Today is Time to Talk Day, an event run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness dedicated to having these conversations. We all have mental health and talking about it can enable us to support both ourselves and others. There are lots of ways to get involved, from sharing on social media using the #TimeToTalk hashtag to organising activities within your community. Visit the official website for more ideas.

Here at Later Levels, I’ve decided to share some self-care tips picked up from video games over the years. The following activities can help look after your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Many people still confuse self-care with being selfish or indulgent, but it’s so far from that: it’s about taking care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives so we can have more energy and spirit to give to others. It’s important to make some space for yourself regularly so you can come back stronger.

Taking care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives means we have more energy and spirit to give to others.

The Elder Scrolls Online: read a book

Reading isn’t only a good way to expand your horizons and increase your understanding. It’s also a relaxing activity which allows you to stop for a moment and take some time out for yourself. Even the more serious adventurers realise how important it is to take a break from hard questing every once in a while to leaf through the pages of an ancient tome. If you’re not into books, how about a visual novel instead? Grab your laptop, a warm drink, and curl up for an hour while getting lost in a good story.

The Elder Scrolls Online, ESO, video game, screenshot, reading, book

Eastshade: be creative

Eastshade is one of the loveliest games I’ve ever experienced. Playing it may be a form of self-care, but it also teaches players about the simple pleasure of making something. Be it cooking, sculpting, painting like the protagonist here or anything else, giving yourself such an outlet can provide the space needed to take a mental break – and maybe even create something that makes others think, feel or smile. My own creative channel is blogging, and I’m always thankful for the quiet moments it provides after a long day at work.

Eastshade, video game, screenshot, painting, easel, canvas, hot air balloon

Proteus: go for a walk

As my stepson told me once after returning from a visit to the local woods with my parents: ‘Walking though the forest really de-stresses me.’ You never know what wildlife you’re going to come across as you enter the trees, and you’re never sure which creatures you’re going to see in the procedurally-generated Proteus. Being outside in the fresh air and surrounded by nature has a way of calming your mind; there’s something meditative about focusing on the rhythm of your footsteps and the birdsong around you.

Proteus, video game, screenshot, sea, trees, sky, grass, flowers

Kind Words: write it down

When I have too much going on in my head and begin to feel overwhelmed, I grab a scrap of paper and write everything down in a list. It then feels as though I can breathe again and focus on what’s important. Other people keep journals, some write poems, some send letters. Although the basis of Kind Words is sending the latter on to a stranger and possibly receiving words of encouragement or advice in return, that’s not always the most important aspect. Sometimes getting it out of your head and onto paper can be enough.

Kind Words, video game, screenshot, bedroom, writing, journal, letters, desk

Night in the woods: hang out with friends

One of the things I liked most about Night in the Woods was its depiction of friendship. It’s not always smooth-sailing and there are bumps int the road with any relationship, but good friends will always be there for you. Sometimes forgetting about what’s happening and just being silly together for an hour or two – squirting people with water at the shopping mall, eating bad pizza at the local diner, or hanging out at a mate’s house – can be the best medicine in the world. A close friend can help with the following activity too.

Night in the Woods, video game, Mae, cat, Bea, crocodile, Gregg, fox, Angus, bear, living room, sofa, hanging out

Mass Effect: talk about it

If there’s something on your mind – like a powerful mechanical race trying to take over the universe, for example – one of the best things you can to is head down to the cargo bay and share it with your crew. They’ll be a source of valuable support and advice, and show that you don’t have to go through anything alone. Talking isn’t only a great self-care activity in times of trouble. It can also help you develop your character, as well as find out more about the thoughts and feelings of those individuals who have your back.

Mass Effect, video game, conversation, FemShep, woman, Commander Shepard, Garrus, alien

Certain titles have been developed to aid players in the management of stress and anxiety, but even playing other games can have beneficial effects.

This list now brings me to my final self-care activity suggestion: play a good video game Certain titles have been developed to aid players in the management of stress and anxiety, but even playing other games can have beneficial effects. I always seem to find myself returning to The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) when I need some time out. As I’ve written before, heading off in any direction just to see what I can find allows me to take a mental break and forget about everything else for a few moments.

What self-care lessons have you picked up from video games? Which titles do you turn to when you need some space for yourself?

About Author /

Spreadsheet lover, video gamer and SpecialEffect volunteer. Goes by the name 'kissingthepixel' online. Lifelong fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.


  • The Indecisive Eejit
    2 months ago Reply

    I loved the game Omno. I played it when I was recovering from my last surgery.

    There were little moments of pure joy sometimes with the gameplay avd also how you interacted with other creatures, but the story itself struck a chord and at times brought tears to my eyes. It was just what I needed at that time 🙂

    • Kim
      2 months ago Reply

      I’ve seen Omno, but haven’t played it myself. Sounds like one you’d recommend then? I’ve just checked out the Steam reviews and they seem pretty positive!

      • The Indecisive Eejit
        2 months ago Reply

        Yes I’d recommend it, not terribly difficult, but just a joy to play and very calming I thought, when the whole puzzle solving was going my way that is lol

        It was actually on game pass but I lied it so much I bought it to support the game maker as it was I believe his first release.

        I even went as far as buying the soundtrack lol

        • Kim
          2 months ago Reply

          I always forget about game pass, I should really make an effort to check my husband’s subscription more often. Looks like Omno isn’t on there now but I’ll add it to my wishlist. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

  • Mr. Wapojif
    2 months ago Reply

    Celeste is a mental health classic, plus a brilliant 2D platformer. I’ve found Unpacking rather therapeutic as well. Tetris (proven to help with all sorts of issues).

    OMORI is another one, a fancy RPG with some impressive (dark) themes it deals with.

    I also recommend juggling (kind of counts as a game).

    • Kim
      2 months ago Reply

      I should have known you’d be all up in here with your Unpacking again…

      Those reviews for OMORI are really positive though. That one might have to go onto the wishlist.

  • The Dragon's Tea Party
    2 months ago Reply

    I have never heard of Eastshade but it looks lovely, I’m going to try that! I found the small, repetitive tasks in Stardew Valley to be good for making me feel like I was accomplishing something and had something to work towards, even if it wasn’t ‘real’.

    • Kim
      2 months ago Reply

      I know just what you mean! This is exactly how I feel about fishing in ESO. Sometimes it’s nice just to do something repetitive that you don’t really have to focus on, so you can zone out for a while.

  • kaytalksgames
    2 months ago Reply

    I love this! Kind Words is one I’ve been meaning to buy for a while now. It’s such a lovely idea.

    • Kim
      2 months ago Reply

      I have to say, everyone I’ve ever communicated with through Kind Words has been really supportive. The last time I played, you occasionally saw some ‘spam’ where people had written letters to advertise their YouTube channels (sigh) but thankfully that was a very small number. Generally speaking, I think players use the game for the right reasons.

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