For my leadership series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview Nadeshot, professional gamer and 100 Thieves Founder and CEO. Nadeshot, is partnering with Excedrin and opening up about his personal experience with gaming-related headaches. As part of the partnership, Nadeshot and Excedrin are unveiling a new six step mindfulness routine to help gamers improve focus, optimize performance, and manage the risk of headaches. The research-backed routine can help manage the risk of headaches by controlling triggers like stress. This routine can be easily adapted into any lifestyle and help gamers and non-gamers alike navigate headache triggers.
Nadeshot is a professional gamer, YouTuber, and the founder and CEO of the esports team, 100 Thieves. Nadeshot came to prominence in 2009 as a professional Call of Duty player and played on several different teams in the professional gaming scene throughout his career, including the OpTic Clan competitive team where he was the former team captain. He has been open about his struggles with headaches and its effects on his gameplay.
About Dr. Seng
Dr. Elizabeth Seng is a clinical psychologist and Excedrin head pain expert who specializes in the study and treatment of headache disorders, chronic pain, and other health problems influenced by stress. She specializes in modifying behaviors, thoughts, and lifestyle factors in an effort to improve management of headache disorders. Dr. Seng has been researching factors associated with migraine-related disability and migraine treatment for fifteen years.
Q&A — Nadeshot
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I always looked up to my older brother who was much more athletic than I was. We both loved sports, but the only game I could ever beat him at was video games. As I played more and more, I realized that I had a talent and loved doing it so began to play competitively.
What do you stand for? What are your life philosophies?
I stand for hard work and dedication, and one of my greatest life philosophies comes from my father who taught me that nothing in life comes free. This really inspired the motto for my brand, 100 Thieves, which is: Take what’s not given.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am excited to partner with Excedrin to help gamers who experience headaches. I love their approach working with the gaming community and think their mission to drive awareness around mindful gaming is really important. I have suffered from headaches since I first started gaming, and there’s nothing worse than getting one when you’re in the middle of an intense game. The truth is, gamers end up playing through the headaches. They brush off the pain they experience and don’t get to the root of the issue of finding ways to prevent themselves from getting headaches in the future. That’s why Excedrin’s message around health and mindfulness strikes a chord with me and is something that I want to help spread across the gaming community to help gamers understand their triggers, as well as prevent them from getting headaches in the first place.
Can you share a bit more about the Excedrin program?
When I was first experiencing headaches while gaming, I wasn’t sure what to do when they prevented me from playing my best. I wish I had something to resort to in preventing the pain, so I was excited to partner with Excedrin to help develop a simple mindfulness routine that gamers can integrate into gameplay. What’s great about this is that it was developed specifically for gamers to help combat the most common triggers we experience while gaming. I started implementing parts of the routine into my gaming sessions and while the changes may feel subtle – it helps to do them every time. Some of my favorite tips from the routine are listening to music, keeping a positive mindset and taking deep breaths. Head to Excedrin.com/gaming for full details on the routine.
Can you share a little more about game related headaches? Do you have any tips on how we can manage them?
Everyone is different, but when I experience headaches from gaming, it usually occurs due to too much stimulation and too many lights. For some people, it can be due to poor posture or not drinking enough water. For me, my headaches feel like blunt pain and pressure; and it’s painful to move around. If my headaches get really bad, I have to look away from my game for a few minutes and take something, like Excedrin. Having to stop everything that I am doing can be really frustrating because impacts my team and our entire production. I don’t want to let anyone down.
I would definitely encourage other gamers to think about their overall wellness and try incorporating Excedrin’s mindfulness routine into gameplay as a way to manage the risk of getting headaches. While these changes feel minor, they’re definitely helping.
What do you want the readers to know (any calls to action)?
Excedrin’s gaming routine can be incorporated into your daily life, even if you aren’t a gamer. While I mainly use the routine during my game play, I also use it any time I’m at my computer doing work or personal things for long periods of time. It’s helped me to manage all headache triggers. Check out Excedrin.com/gaming for the full 6-step mindfulness routine.
Thank you! Our last question is– What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I want to leave behind a legacy of resilience and show that no matter what obstacles or pain you are going through, you can still manage to come out successful in the end.
Q&A — Dr. Seng
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about your headache research and why gaming can lead to head pain?
Most of my professional research has been done around headaches, which can be triggered by stress and long periods of screen time. Stress is interesting, because both periods of high stress, as well as rapid decreases from high to low stress, can trigger attacks. Screen time can be a headache trigger for a number of reasons: eye strain, blue light, high contrast between the screen and background, etc. This happens with gamers as well as anyone who sits in front of a screen for a long period of time – and we’ve been seeing that more this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, recent Excedrin research found that 92% of gamers report they are spending more time gaming during the pandemic. More exposure to these triggers could increase susceptibility to headaches.
Gamers – like all people – can experience headaches for a variety of reasons. Gaming specifically is full of triggers – seemingly ‘small things’ like increased screen exposure, eye strain, muscular tension and lack of sleep can all lead to headache. What’s more, gaming, like other high performance activities, is characterized by rapid shifts in stress, which as I mentioned, is a key headache trigger. I’ll share more around this later, but this knowledge helped inform the development of the Excedrin mindfulness routine which can combat these triggers and help gamers navigate the risk of headaches.
How did you develop the Excedrin mindfulness routine?
I worked closely with Excedrin and other experts in gaming and headaches to develop and test a routine that enables gamers to reduce stress levels, feel relaxed, increase concentration and more through six simple steps that can be integrated into everyday gameplay. We included quick tricks based on existing science and theory to interrupt common headache triggers that tend to crop up during gaming or any long session in front of a screen to manage the risk of headaches. Some of these steps include thinking positive before playing, taking breaks to listen to your favorite music, giving yourself a hand massage and deep breathing. This was done in a live, exploratory demonstration with real gamers and the results indicated that it helps gamers maintain focus, optimize performance, and manage the risk of headaches. The full routine can be found at excedrin.com/gaming.
We’re excited to help people with headache think about how they can optimize their daily routine to reduce the likelihood of headache attacks and improve their performance at work and play.
Will the routine help with headaches not related to gaming?
Headache triggers are not just an obstacle for gamers. In fact, we’ve seen a rise in headaches due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are spending more time looking at screens and experiencing new levels of stress.
Though the routine was tested among gamers, many of the techniques could be useful to reduce headache triggers in general. I recommend incorporating this routine into other behaviors when being exposed to screens for long periods of time such as working in front of a computer or laptop. For example, if you are working at your laptop all day, set an alarm and take a break every twenty minutes where you give your body and brain a break: get up and walk around, stretch your neck and shoulders, focus your gaze on something 20+ feet away, take some deep breaths or do a brief mindfulness practice. It is also particularly important not to expose your eyes to screens right before you want to go to sleep. Poor sleep is a big headache trigger, and blue light exposure immediately prior to sleep can interfere with your ability to go to sleep quickly and attain restful sleep. Consider another non-screen activity like reading a book, talking to family or playing a game.
What advice can you share with readers who experience gaming related headaches?
It’s important for gamers to be mindful of their personal triggers so they can limit the chances of getting headache attacks while gaming. That being said, too much focus on idiosyncratic headache triggers can overshadow simple things that can help reduce the common everyday headache triggers: stress, poor sleep, eye strain, skipping meals, alcohol and caffeine. Behavior change is hard! That’s why we chose these six simple, fun behaviors to help gamers combat the most common headache triggers. I encourage gamers to give it a try and see if any of the steps are helpful to them. I would also strongly encourage gamers who have problematic headaches to seek out an accurate diagnosis from their physician and come up with a plan for managing headaches.
The same advice applies to non-gamers, especially those who are sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time. Every person is different, so it’s important to try to set up your own lifestyle so that you can reduce how often you get headaches. What works for others may not work for you, and that’s ok. There is no one right way to manage headaches. The most common lifestyle factors associated with headaches are stress, sleep and consistent meals/hydration. You may start by tracking the lifestyle factor you are interested in, to see how consistent it is in your life. If you notice that one of the lifestyle factors commonly associated with headache is really inconsistent, you may work on improving your consistency with that lifestyle factor. For example, if you have really high stress during the week and low stress on the weekends, you may try to do something stress relieving every day during the week like meditation or hiking. If you get up really early during the week and sleep in on the weekends, you may make a commitment to going to bed and waking at the same time regardless of whether it is the weekend or weekday to reduce headache attack frequency.
There are treatment options that can help. If headaches bother you, it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor and work together to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Treatment plans almost always include acute medications taken at the time of the headache attack to reduce the attack intensity; these can be over the counter, like Excedrin Extra Strength, or prescription. Sometimes you use different acute medications for different types of headache attacks. If you get headaches very frequently, or more than 4 days per month, your provider may recommend a preventive option. These are medications, devices, or injections that you use routinely to reduce how often you have headache attacks.