The Reality of Burnout as a Content Creator
Have you ever had one of those days where you love your job so much that you forget to eat, drink water, or take a break? Congratulations, you might just be a full-time content creator! While it’s great to be passionate about your work, there’s a dark side to being a content creator: burnout. Burnout can happen even if you love your job, and as content creators we’re often particularly susceptible to it because we love what we do.
It’s important to note, though, that burnout doesn’t care what you do. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. You could be a CEO, a teacher, a parent, or a content creator. No one is immune to burnout. Sometimes I feel from the outside, people think content creation is “easy”. There’s this theory that because it’s fun and we love it that we’re not at risk. In fact, as content creators, we have a unique set of challenges that make us particularly at risk. We’re constantly striving for perfection, under pressure to churn out new content, and always “on” for our audience. It’s no wonder that burnout is common amongst content creators.
Here are five things I’ve learned about burnout and stress, after moving from a high-stress project management job in the games industry to content creation full-time.
Burnout doesn’t always come from overworking
Burnout doesn’t necessarily come just from working too hard or too much. It can also come from under-caring for yourself. As content creators, we are often so focused on producing the next piece of content that we neglect our own self-care. This can lead to burnout, even if we love our work. To avoid this, we need to prioritise self-care and make sure we’re taking care of ourselves at least as much as we’re taking care of our own content.
This could look like taking regular breaks throughout your day to stretch or just step away from the screen for a few minutes. Drink some water, look out the window, and make sure you’re feeding yourself! On top of that, learning to incorporate mindfulness practices, like meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help reduce stress and increase focus. Also, always make sure to make time for hobbies you’re not trying to monetise. This will look different for everyone; for me it’s reading and painting miniatures, or going for walks.
Burnout can affect your creativity
Perhaps one of the most surprising truths about burnout is how it can affect your creativity. As content creators, creativity is so important. It’s what sets our work apart from others, and what keeps us going. However, when we’re burnt out, our creativity can suffer. This usually manifests itself as difficulty coming up with new ideas, or feeling uninspired or demotivated. This can be frustrating and can cause more stress, which feeds into the burnout cycle. We worry that our communities might lose interest because we’re not doing anything new or exciting, or our energy levels are lower. This additional stress just makes it even worse.
Giving yourself conscious permission to step away from work and recharge for a few days can actually help boost your creativity in the long run. A lot of full-time streamers avoid taking time off, when really it might be exactly what they and their content need. It’s so easy for me to say this when I know I’ve struggled with it myself!
The pressure of being always “on” can lead to burnout
As content creators, it’s easy to feel the pressure to be always “on” and available to your audience. Whether it’s responding to comments on a YouTube video, engaging on social media, or constantly churning out new content, the pressure to keep up can be overwhelming. Something that doesn’t happen often but when it does can be hugely stressful for me is “putting out fires”. I feel a pressure to maintain harmony in our community, which means sometimes getting in the middle of heated discussions when I should be “off”. I’ve also had people expecting immediate responses to an extremely negative situation that makes me feel like I can’t look away sometimes. It leads to a feeling that we can never truly disconnect from our work.
To help prevent this, it’s important to set clear boundaries — including with yourself! — around work time and personal time. This might mean turning off notifications after certain times, or if you’re me all the time. Make use of scheduling social media posts in advance. By setting these boundaries, you’ll be able to step away from work for short periods of time to recharge, which can help you feel more engaged and reduce your stress levels.
Burnout can cause physical and mental health consequences
A lot of people focus on the mental impacts of burnout and stress, which are of course important. Burnout can definitely contribute to anxiety and depression. However, it can also directly affect your physical health too. Research shows that chronic stress can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease by elevating blood pressure, increasing inflammation in the body, and altering heart rhythms. It can also weaken the immune system, cause digestive issues such as acid reflux, lead to sleep disturbances which contribute to further health issues, cause headaches and migraines, and even contribute to chronic pain such as back and neck pain and muscle tension. The last point is particularly true if you’re sitting at a computer all day.
By understanding the impacts of burnout and stress on your mental and physical health, you can hopefully better prioritise self-care, not just to improve yourself as a content creator. It’s also important just to look after yourself, okay!
Prioritising self-care can prevent burnout from happening in the first place
Prioritising self-care is key to building up resilience to burnout and stress. Taking care of yourself can help you cope with the demands of working in a job you love where sometimes you don’t want to switch off. I’ve been going to therapy over the last few months, and my therapist taught me about my parasympathetic nervous system. Did you know that the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight response, doesn’t need any help to activate (because it just does, she’s an anxious girly)? On the other hand, your parasympathetic nervous system, which works to calm you down, needs help activating and doesn’t activate automatically? Go girl, give us nothing!
Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or mental health professional, but my therapist encouraged me to take time every day to do things to activate my parasympathetic nervous system. She told me that it sort of builds up a (paraphrasing here) bank account that you can draw from when you’re stressed. Basically, do things every day that soothe your soul. This might mean practicing mindfulness, taking breaks throughout the day, going for a walk in nature, or simply indulging in any hobby or activity that brings you joy. If, like me, you’re bad at relaxing, you may have to practice giving yourself active permission to just do a soothing activity. By prioritising self-care, you’ll be better equipped to handle the stress and pressure that comes with being a content creator. You’ll also be able to tap into your creativity more effectively and create content that truly resonates with your audience.
Remember, as a full-time content creator, you are the ultimate source of your content. It’s important to take care of yourself by setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and recognising the signs of burnout before they get too bad. By doing this, you’ll be able to continue creating content that truly showcases you, your creativity, and your joy. Plus, you’ll be able to really enjoy the perks of being a content creator, like working from home in your sweat pants, having a never-ending supply of coffee close at hand, and the ability to pet your cat every five minutes. Just me? Surely not!
Take care of yourself, and let’s continue making cool shit that we can all be proud of!