How Being Stressed or Meditative Affects Your Racing

Have you ever been in the zone? What I mean by that is have you ever raced and felt calm, felt at ease? Felt like there is nothing in the world to bother you, just racing?

Or are you on the other end of the spectrum? Racing gets your blood pumping. An increase in heart rate. You look everywhere at once, with total control over everything that happens around you.

How do you feel during intense racing?

The Impact on your Mindset​

Now, first off, let's be clear here: being stressed is not always a bad thing. There is good stress and bad stress. Everybody needs a bit of stress to focus on what's important.

On the other hand, with too much stress on your shoulders already through your job or other commitments, relaxing and cooling down are needed. And meditation is one way to achieve calmness. To be clear about that as well, the Oxford Dictionary defines meditation as:

the practice of focusing your mind in silence, especially for religious reasons or in order to make your mind calm.

Taking out the silence part and religious reasons, which feels like they are not up to the 21st century yet, it leaves us with:

the practice of focusing your mind in order to make your mind calm.

What I'm getting at is a healthy combination of calmness and stress is needed in a balanced life. Otherwise, you are looking to get either burn out or bore out.

The Impact of Meditating on Your Racing​

Logically thinking about it, being calm and collected during any situation is generally a good thing. In racing, however? Too much of it might be a hindrance. Let's look at what I mean:

Being calm and in a meditative state means you focus on one thing. Let's say during racing that is all your input. Everything else would be a distraction. Meaning opponents, mistakes and that pesky little timer that jumps between red and green.

If you truly manage to be in that sort of meditative state, you are in danger of not caring about other things you should care about. The reason being: You cannot care. You do not have the mental capacity while being meditative.

This might be good in situations like hotlapping or being first on the grid and just worrying about your driving, but in pack racing or as soon as a distraction comes around, you are screwed. Most likely, your rhythm breaks up, letting you out of the meditative state, leaving you to feel interrupted and anxious. And that can be a great hindrance to your pace and feelings during the rest of the race.

The Impact of Stress on Your Racing​

On the other end of the spectrum, being stressed might allow you to notice and control everything around you. You would be very aware of your driving, your opponents, your speed, your line, your mistakes and even that pesky little timer and whether it's green or red and by how much.

That is advantageous in terms of visibility, but problematic when it comes to decision-making. Any decision you make will be rushed because there are so many things you already need to care about.

So you might make that opportunistic dive up the inside, completely missing your braking point and take out yourself.

You might also try and push that little more in a corner you already almost went off before.

The Point​

In the end, there needs to be a combination of calmness and stress in racing. Finding the correct mixture will definitely help you in improving your ability on the circuit.

But what about you? Do you lean towards any of the 2 sides? Or do you wish you could be a bit more calm or aware in certain situations? Let us know in the comments below.
About author
Julian Strasser
Motorsports and Maker-stuff enthusiast. Part time jack-of-all-trades. Owner of, a sim racing-related service provider and its racing community.


Interesting article! Thank you. :)

When I drive best and most consistently is when calm, cool, and collected. When at peace with myself, basically. :) There's a feeling of urgency required to be brave enough to drive quickly and push the car up to its limit, but "stress" I feel almost always ends badly. Maybe I could eke out a spectacular one-lap qualifying by luck while stressing myself out to the max, but even so, things inevitably come undone quickly after that. :redface: I'm at my best when calm and cool-headed enough to be consistently pushing myself to 95% of the limit of my abilities, but remaining self-aware enough to not be "rattled" or crash going way over my limit.

Also, FYI I'm not certain "meditative" is the best word for what you're describing as such. Instead, I'd say your description better corresponds (in my opinion and understanding of the words) to a "flow state".
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When you start to think about anything you do right now, while you're about to move a car or anything else around a track, you're already lost. Free your mind, you can never be fast (comfortably fast) if you remind your day or even worse, your live. Let it loose!
For starters, I'm not exactly the fastest driver in the world. When I say that I am very fast, it is fast by my standards.
When I go to bed after a busy day, I can't sleep well because everything about that day keeps spinning in my head. That's why at the end of the day I'm going to "drive in circles". When concentrating on driving fast laps, all thoughts of the day disappear from head. If I go to bed quickly afterwards, I easily fall asleep.
When I am driving in the sim with the aim of driving nice and fast, there is often a moment when I start thinking about something very calmly. Driving then seems to be automatic. At that point I think the lap time must be bad because my mind was distracted for a moment. But the special thing is that I am usually a lot faster at that moment.
Sometimes the thoughts stop for a while, I suddenly don't know where I am somewhere on the track. At such a moment there is a good chance that I will make a mistake.
I raced every day with my son on the sim for several years. That was 20 minutes of practice, 10 minutes of qualifying and 10 minutes of racing. At least, those were the sessions we did. In reality it was just 40 minutes of racing, the first 30 to warm up and then 10 minutes for real. I didn't last longer than 10 minutes because it was very intense. We were fighting each other on the cutting edge every turn of every lap. During those 10 minutes, the rest of the world didn't exist. We were totally into it. If someone else said something to us, we just didn't hear it. After those 10 minutes I needed 15 minutes to calm down again.
Basically it means that I can have different states of mind while racing but it is almost always fun and calming. I used to think I'm addicted to sim racing. But if I'm on vacation and I'm not around a sim for three weeks, I don't start shivering. So that will be fine.
Very good article :thumbsup:
However i will not say much it`s just above my basic english :D

But i can say - if i am stressed or relaxed while driving, it `s often depending on cars which i drive. For example a fast open wheeler is stressing me, while a 60s touring car is more fun/relaxing (even not every time easy too drive).

And i love those meditative condition, after racing few laps and slowly "become one or fuse with the car and the track" :inlove:

Yeah thats almost a sim-race-meditative status :geek:
unfortunately getting lost fast by making a mistake and missing the corner.....
From my own poor experience, when I want to play Wreckfest, I invite my mother-in-law to get me in the mood for euphoria :mad::p
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Great reading material. I have really just once been in a complete zone. Won every race because of it. Tried to get in that state again, but didn't make it close.....
Racing when stressed out is a no go for me.
As someone with social anxiety I game to destress as much as possible (with some game design that's fricken impossible, but I digress).

I try to get in the "zone" when racing and hotlapping (easier when hotlapping for obvious reasons!) and don't attain it all that often, and it's hard to notice when it happens as "I'm in the zone" so nothing else matters.

The point at which I'm conscious I've been there is when I realise I'm lapping 0.5-1 seconds slower than a laptime I have NO idea how I got!!!! No matter how hard I try I can't nail the corners any where near as good, and the harder I try the slower I go and I completely fall out of the zone!!!
I might be slow, but I'm consistent as $$$$
Once I'm in the zone, I don't care about anything, except maybe that moron who cuts me out :laugh:
Short answer: a lot. Goes both ways. The mental and emotional state (being agitated, intensely thinking about some real life stuff/at peace, able to focus) affects lap times a lot. 7 time world champions are affected by this too.
Ah yes... "Senna's Tunnel"... that moment of complete moving stasis in which your mind is atuned to the car, as an extension of your self, where flow is slow but laps are fast. I have experienced that just a handful of times (mostly karting), when I am able to "let go" of my thoughts and just be present in the "racing moment". It's not something I can manifest by doing specific steps (there is no formula in my experience) but it does help when I can bring myself to a calm state before an event. I mostly sit down, becoming aware of my breathing, bring it to a slow rhythm, let it flow and then just... drive. I've been racing online with the same crew for almost two years now and that 'consistent' environment has helped me learn not to let myself be distracted by what happens around me. Knowing everybody on track creates a sort of predictive environment in which I can focus unconsciously on what I am doing because I know what to expect from the rest on track. It has also helped me learn to "quickly let go" of the mistakes I make and focus on carrying on. That's another thing that can surely disrupt your flow, letting negative emotions and thoughts take control of the wheel through your mindset. It makes for a very intense experience during the event, I know this because after every single race my mind needs time to come out of this "state of rush" so, part of my routine is to unwind by discussing the race with the rest once we're done. A bit of healthy banter along the way helps too. :coffee:
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This post really does seem a little strange to me, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If the whole article is to say "you need cognitive balance" then it's a little bit of a convoluted way of saying so.

First, I'd like to unpack the whole meditating portion, I'll start by saying no, meditating and/or being in a "meditative state" do not have any negative consequences on your sim racing ability. The whole idea of meditation is to become more mindful, of yourself and others, which completely contradicts your idea of becoming careless and inattentive. And I'm not sure if you're trying to imply simracing is a form of meditation with the whole 'definition of' piece, but it absolutely is not; just because something is relaxing doesn't make it meditation.

Secondly, the whole stress part, is a little mislead also. Yes, stress has certain tangible benefits when it's mild, but at the end of the day, stress is not a good emotion to have on a prolonged basis, as it's exhausting. Mild forms of stress can increase focus, at the cost of draining your mental stamina, but heavy stress will provide you zero benefits, and will cause you to overthink, and generally become careless and impulsive, which causes accidents.

I'm an emotional competitor myself, and am no stranger to the idea of mental balance, and if this article was more along the lines of "How your mental state can heavily influence you when simracing" it'd be a far better read, and maybe would open people up a little to allow themselves to truly understand their psyche when racing.
When you start to think about anything you do right now, while you're about to move a car or anything else around a track, you're already lost. Free your mind, you can never be fast (comfortably fast) if you remind your day or even worse, your live. Let it loose!
I believe the scientific definition of that state is, " Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow".
Pffft... I always go to an online race relaxed and calm. After T1 pile up, then I'm stressed! :mad: Anyways, good old days gone, some hot laps and AI racing relieves real-life stress nowadays.
I can't say I particularly enjoy the feeling of stress when for example I am the car ahead, I am being chased and I know that I have the pace to stay ahead as long as I don't make mistakes and hit my marks. But to make those lap times happen you have to push the car and yourself to the edge of your comfort zone. And not make those mistakes.

And while I don't enjoy the feeling of that pressure I do enjoy the challenge of the situation though. Doing your best is not just about maximizing your performance on your own terms. It is the act of doing so under the pressure that you have only one chance to get it right.

I feel that being able to handle that uncomfort is important part of being fast. You can't expect to win races by knowing the car will do exact what you want. You have to make it do it. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable every corner, every lap
So i do Yoga 2 time's a week maybe more depending on how my body is feeling,it relax's me and loosen's my body up.

But if i have had a bad day or really stressed out,i do not race just because i feel it's better for me too work on Myself than rather work it off in a game,
Then getting some what more triggered if someone takes you out doesnt help you,more rather it causes more stress
I think its best if we step away and acutally talk with loved one's than taking to a sim to sort our life out...

I quit online racing due to stress. I wasn't enjoying it anymore and it was making me ill.

I have ADHD, my brain is a big shouty mess, but sim racing is the only escape I have from it as it's the only thing in my life I can focus on. Not sure if that counts as meditative or whatever, but when I moved recently and my wheel stand was damaged, it took me months to get it fixed. Didn't race in that time and I noticed a huge difference.

And it's weird. Gamepad racing doesn't remotely do the same. That's like any other game. But focusing on the wheel and pedals like real driving... My one break from a brain full of squirrels.
As someone who is struggling with anxiety and depression, putting on the VR headset and just zoning out is such a relief.
My lap times are a joke, even after hundreds of hours of gameplay, but just being able to hop in an F1 car and throw it into corners at 300kph really helps me with confidence and relaxation. I trust the car and the fact that I can risk it all and have nothing to lose is also great. The VR headset also comforts me, because I feel something on my head.
Lastly, the fantastic Assetto Corsa community is also very important to me, so many talented people sharing their work, supporting the creators (like RSS, VRC, x4fab, you name it) so they can actually live from it, being able to talk to all of these likeminded individuals - just great.
Sim Racing has a special place in my heart, and it always will.

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Julian Strasser
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