Grounding Techniques for Event Anxiety

Judging events may induce symptoms of anxiety. Remember, you don’t necessarily need an anxiety disorder diagnosis to experience symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed or nervousness. You might be having a bad day, running low on sleep, nervous about that L2 exam, or experiencing any other variety of factors. Some anxiety symptoms may include:

Feeling overwhelmed
Shallow breathing
Sweating beyond what is expected
Racing thoughts -or-
Mental “fog”
Unreasonable feelings of fear
Dry mouth
Racing heartbeat

If you are judging an event, and you begin to feel these symptoms… first and foremost, make sure you are physically okay. A lot of these symptoms are congruent with physical conditions like diabetes, heart attack, or stroke.

If you are physically okay, and it’s clear that you’re experiencing some anxiety, here are five grounding techniques you can use to calm yourself. These are also helpful if you notice a colleague of yours begin to feel anxious. Take them aside (event permitting), and run through one of these with that person.

1) Alphabet Magic:

Run through the letters of the alphabet, and try to name a Magic Card which starts for each letter of the alphabet. For example: A for Animal Boneyard, B for Blue Sun’s Zenith, etc. You can also do this in tandem with another judge, but make sure it’s a calming exercise and not a competition.

2) Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Breath from your diaphragm. Anxiety can cause muscle tension. The muscle tension causes us to breathe shallowly. The decrease in oxygen flow causes an increase in anxiety. Anxiety can cause muscle tension. The muscle tension causes us to breathe shallowly.┬áThe decrease in oxygen flow causes an increase in anxiety. Anxiety can cause muscle tension. The muscle tension causes us to breathe shallowly. Focus on your diaphragm, the muscle in your belly right below your lungs. Take a few deep breaths and try to relax it. It might take a few tries, but you’ll feel better once you’re actually breathing. Note that you don’t have to be sitting down in a room alone to do this. You can do it for a few seconds at a time while scanning for calls.

3) Drink Water:

Drinking water (or any other beverage) isn’t about the hydration. Drinking is about focusing your senses on the water. Think about all the times we gulp down beverages at an event. Usually, we do it as a quick refuel. But┬átaking a moment to focus our senses on the act can help our minds recalibrate. Focus on the taste of the beverage. Focus on the temperature of it. Focus on the feel of the bottle. Focus on the sensation of the beverage entering your body.

For the record, I spent about ten minutes writing that previous sentence in a manner that doesn’t induce childlike giggling. You’re welcome.

4) Menial Tasks:

Sometimes we experience anxiety symptoms because our brain is trying to process too much. Judging an event can be quite the sensory, cognitive, emotional, and physical overload. If you’re experiencing this, ask if you can help with a “menial” task for a few minutes. These sort of tasks not only get you away from a lot of the sensory overload, but they also distract you from a lot of cognitive and emotional pressures. Tasks may include: Sorting basic land, making a water run for your team, or offering to help with cutting match slips (for side events).

5) Carry a life counter:

This grounding technique works great for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time during an event. It’s an unfortunate, but very real, possibility that your tasks don’t allow the time to run through the alphabet or sort some land. For example, anyone working main event at a GP. For anyone lacking on the ability to “get away,” this grounding technique works well. It is non-intrusive, and a technique you can use while performing your tasks. Take one of the d20 life counter die, and put it in your pocket. When you have a moment, perhaps scanning for calls or walking somewhere, try and feel the indentations on the die. Without looking, try to work your way from 1 to (insert set symbol for “20” here).


Everybody gets anxious. It’s a normal reaction, and it’s a part of life. But if you experience a level of anxiety that inhibits your ability to function at an event, be sure to try some of these techniques.

Billy San Juan, PsyD

(I want to end with a trendy catchphrase, but I can’t think of any. Comment on this blogpost with what you think my trendy catchphrase should be.)

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