From an outside perspective, streaming might seem like an easy gig. After all, most viewers see streamers playing video games all day, and they think to themselves, “Oh, he’s living the dream.” Little do they know, streaming as a day job involves a lot of pressure, and it isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Mental stress is a very real thing that can affect anyone, of course, not just specifically streamers and content creators, but because some parts of society expects them to be living the easy life, their mental health issues might be dismissed.
Effects of Mental Stress
Caring for your mental wellbeing is vital. Psychological stress can affect you in many ways, some more obvious than others.
When you’re starting to feel the strain of the grind and the pressures it brings, you may begin to experience anxiousness and inexplicable nervousness. You become easily distracted, tend to worry too much, and your sleeping pattern may start to change.
When stress levels get too high, you may go through a whole range of mental and physical symptoms. You may start feeling excessively fatigued for no good reason. Stress makes our bodies produce hormones that act as sedatives, which helps calm us down during times of extreme duress. When these hormones occur in large amounts for extended periods of time, they make us feel exhausted and in some cases, even depressed.
Depression is serious and should never be treated lightly. Everyone experiences periods of sadness, but when it becomes chronic and recurring, it may be time to do something about it.
People experiencing depression are always irritable and generally, lose interest in things that they used to do. This headspace can be troublesome for a streamer - what started as a project done out of love and passion will begin to feel like a chore.
Besides being excessively tired and having trouble sleeping or staying awake, depression can also manifest itself in physical pain such as headaches, muscle cramps, or digestive issues. It can even affect your appetite in either extreme direction.
Depression can make people see life through a different lens, making them want to stop doing things they used to enjoy and affecting the way you make decisions. In extreme cases, patients may wish to inflict self-harm. If you’re starting to feel like you want to harm yourself or others, reach out and ask for help. There are a number of hotlines in many countries that offer such services. Here’s a list of international suicide help hotlines.
Stress can also manifest itself physically. One can experience abnormally fast heart rate, dizziness, restlessness, shortness of breath, and hyperventilation.
When you start experiencing these symptoms and they seem inexplicable, then you should consult a doctor.
Prolonged stress also leads to burnout. Burnout happens when stress becomes overwhelming and you’re finding it hard to do anything because you’ll feel exhausted and frustrated and helpless. Burnout leads to a lack of energy, which means way less productivity, which then leads to less streamed hours, and potentially decreased income.
You’ll know you’re experiencing burnout when you feel a general lack of energy, and you don’t feel like doing anything, even getting out of bed seems like a herculean task. It may not even happen suddenly. It could just be something that gets worse and worse over time.
Burnout can lead to fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, reduced immunity, frequent illness and a change in sleeping and eating habits. Anybody experiencing burnout also feels emotional duress such as feelings of self-doubt, defeat, detachment, among others. Victims of burnout also feel a general lack of drive and motivation.1
Sources of Mental Stress for Streamers and Content Creators
Like with most healthcare, prevention is always better than cure. The first step is to identify the source of stress. For most people, familiar sources of stress include work and specific life experiences.
When it comes to working, it could be long hours or dangerous work conditions or just being generally unhappy with the job. Then there are some life events like the death of a loved one or the looming shadow of financial obligations, or to a more severe extent, traumatic events like natural disasters or violence.
All those sources can affect everyone and we all have to be careful to take care of our mental health, but there are certain sources of stress specific to aspiring and career streamers and content creators.
Beginners struggling to take off might find it challenging to find a footing. Sometimes just speaking to an empty chat room in and of itself can be stressful. If it’s something you’ve decided to try and do your full-time job, when it isn’t going as planned, it can be a source of undue pressure and anxiety.
Just getting people to interact with you can be difficult. Lurkers and channel jumpers won’t usually interact with a budding streamer.2
The pressure to stick to your streaming cadence can also lead to additional stress, although doing that is vital to a streamer’s success. In 2018, popular then-Twitch streamer, Ninja, lost about 40,000 subscribers after going on a two-day break3. With him being Ninja, it probably was easy for him to bounce back, but smaller streamers might have a much harder time doing so. But maybe it was the right call to go on break. It all depends on how much care you want to put into your wellbeing.
Another source of stress can be less-than-ideal physical health.4 Gaming streamers who are seated all day may experience some health issues related to general sedentariness. Mental wellbeing is easier to achieve when the approach is holistic, so one has to look after one’s physical health, as well.
How Can Streamers Improve Help their Mental Health
After identifying potential stressors, what can you do to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically?
Here are a few tips:
Once you’ve identified your main source of stress, remove it if you can.
Of course, this may not always be possible, especially when the main stressor is very much part and parcel of your life, like bills or health issues, or even just the unrelenting monotony of following a 16-hour streaming schedule. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to do other things to deal with the realities of life.
Keep physically active.
When you’re not physically active, it can negatively affect your mental health and mood states. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete; you just have to make sure you’re paying attention to your body. Keep a regular exercise schedule, as light as it may be. It can be something as simple as taking a brisk 15 minute walk every morning or a quick 5 minute HIIT session every day. It’d be much better if you follow an exercise program with professional help so someone can monitor your progress. Think of it like grinding out levels for a legendary piece of armor.
Just standing up and doing some stretches every half hour will help you with your energy levels. You can even just do some yoga poses. The good thing about that is, you don’t necessarily have to stop your stream. You can let your viewers watch you exercise. You can keep your mic on so they can hear your pained grunts. Not only will it be good for you, it’ll also be quality entertainment.
You don’t have to follow a crazy diet, like limiting yourself to a piece of dry chicken breast and a half a piece of steamed asparagus every meal. You just have to make sure you eat at a regular schedule and you eat enough to satiate you.
The timing and volume of your food are important, but so is the quality of your food. Maintain a well-balanced diet to give you enough energy to maintain that streaming schedule, to keep your energy levels up to be entertaining for your viewers.
Eat less of the stereotypical food for gamers like energy drinks, cheesy junk food, and fizzy lime-flavored soda pop, and have more fiber, more vegetables, more fruit, more protein. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats.5
Plan your breaks.
You are a human being. You are not a machine. Heck, even machines need to be turned off and maintained every now and again. You have to make sure to take time to rest and give yourself to recuperate.
First, you have to decide how long you want to stream and play. Maybe try to use your analytics to see when your viewership is highest and plan your streaming hours during that time. Give yourself a set amount of streaming hours, and a set amount of recuperation time. It can be as simple as taking a 15 to 30-minute break after a few hours of streaming, and make sure to stand up every 30 minutes of sitting down to prevent blood pooling in your legs.6 That goes for everyone, not just streamers! Anyone sitting down on an office job or just gaming or just lounging around should stand up every 30 minutes and let their blood flow normalize.
Mental stress can turn the wonderful activity of streaming into a chore and drain your passion. Too much stress can lead to burnout and depression, which can affect your mood, your health, your relationships, and your career.
Make sure to take breaks, exercise, eat properly, and only stream if you enjoy it enough to keep doing it for extended periods of time. If you feel like your stress is too much to bear, then don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Always make sure to take care of yourself, mentally and physically. It’s the best way you can keep grinding away and streaming. It’s the best thing to do for yourself and for your viewers and fans.