Written by Jon Parker
We all have strategies to beat fatigue. Eating little and often to keep energy levels topped up, say, and being mindful of our sleep patterns and getting enough rest.
However sometimes a quick boost is needed right at that moment when you start to feel sleepy. While reaching for caffeine may offer a short-term gain, it can also lead to longer-term pain when it fades off. CNN.com advocates doing some quick exercises like stretching, or going for a quick walk outside, as sunlight boosts serotonin levels. Sometimes however, those aren’t options; if say we’re in the darkest throes of a Midwestern winter or a Floridian monsoon. While we shouldn’t be wary of adverse weather – as we learned in ‘Are You Afraid Of Wintering?’ it can mean we need to seek out more imaginative solutions.
Quick and simple games can be a good way of taking five minutes out to refocus, and can boost mood, which in turn, puts a spring in the step. More complex games can pose a challenge, and it’s difficult to be fatigued when one’s engaged and absorbed. Card games can cover many of these bases. So let’s take a look at four of the best.
Likely everyone is familiar with the computer variant of Solitaire that comes pre-installed on seemingly every PC. But those born in the computer age may never have played it with physical cards, which is a real shame. Solitaire is known in the UK as Patience which is a nice descriptor of playing the analog way. With the feel of the cards and a challenge set only by the universe and the luck of the draw, it can be quite meditative and a nice way of being mindful of the moment.
Soltaire’s polar opposite, the simplest of all card games is a raucous five minutes of fun. There’s something satisfying about shouting SNAP! and slapping your hand down on the pile of cards. Gamerules.com suggests some rules whereby if two players call at the same time, a separate pot can be created and played for by calling SNAP POT, but that may be missing the point. Snap is uncomplicated, visceral, energizing fun.
Moving on to a game where the rules are imperative, poker is a pastime as much of skill as chance. Gaining knowledge of the game requires both concentration and practice. Poker.org has a good guide to the basics of the most popular variant, Texas Hold’em. Once the basics are learned, there’s plenty math involved to fire up the synapses as one calculates the chances of making a good hand, and potentially what the other players may be holding. The natural endorphins that come with making the right call to scoop a pot – even if it’s just matchsticks at a kitchen table – can be their own reward.
Old Maid is an old game, dating back to Victorian times. While you can buy specific packs of Old Maid cards, it can be (like all the games here) played on a standard 52-card deck. To play with a standard deck, remove three of the queens, leaving one as the ‘old maid’. The object is not to be left holding her at the end of the game. If you do get landed with it, there’s some psychology in trying to offload it to another player. Do you hold it in the same spot all the time when your opponent is taking a card? Is there a specifically positioned card they oftentimes select? While it’s a simple game, again, there is mindfulness involved as well as the uplift in mood resulting from playing a fun game with a friend – or up to 12!
Cards can provide a number of ways to beat fatigue. Whether it’s through challenge, skill, or just some quick and easy fun, the resulting cheers can boost the brain (and body) for at the very least a short-term basis. So it might be time to dig out the pack that’s at the back of a drawer.