I’m not going to mince words here to try and sell you a false sense of security – live streaming is a colossal strain on a person’s mental health. It is a massive anxiety generator, as there are so many things that go on behind the scenes of a live stream that many people wouldn’t even think of unless they were in the field of live streaming. This is especially true if your goal as a streamer is to take it full time and become a moderately successful streamer capable of generating a livable income.
In this article, I’m going to be putting things into perspective as to what could be causing you to feel anxious while streaming. Additionally, I aim to provide a few ways for you to be able to manage it that I have personally tried that worked for me. I hope that these methods provide you some respite from your jumbled thoughts.
Remember to seek professional help any time that you feel that you need it. Mental health is incredibly important, and getting help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. If you live in the United States, these are some places you can reach out to if you need someone to help you immediately.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- (800) 273-8255
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Spanish)
- (888) 628-9454
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Options for Deaf and Hard of Hearing)
- (800) 799-4889
- Crisis Text Line
- Text HELLO to 741741
- Veterans Crisis Line
- (800) 273-8255
I hope that you will never need these, but don’t put them off if you do. Remember that there are people in this world that love you – even if you think there aren’t.
Table of Contents
General Anxiety Management Techniques that Work For Me
Before I get into the article and address the sources of anxiety from live streaming, I want to provide you a list of techniques that I use on a daily basis to manage my own anxiety. The list below is organized from most effective to least effective for me, but don’t discount any of them, as what works best for you might be different than it is for me.
- Cuddling with my significant other
- Reading a book for fun – See my favorites
- Writing in a Journal – I recommend using Pencil for this, as mistakes with a pen can raise your anxiety (Ask me how I know)
- Talk with a friend or family member you feel safe around about your stress
- Hug someone, or a pet
- Take a warm bath
- Listen to piano music
- Aromatherapy – My Favorite Scent is Vanilla
- Or Dive into a hobby
The technique I choose to use depends on the day and the level of stress I’m under. If I’m really stressed out, I tend to go over to my girlfriend’s house and cuddle with her for an hour or so while we talk about the things that I’m stressed about. I’m employing two techniques at once, and I imagine if the stress were bad enough, I’d light a candle too and maybe put on some quiet piano music to really just unwind from the day.
Some of these things won’t work for you, but that is why it is important to try different things, as you could find something that really helps you. Obviously, some work better for me than others. For example, a good book is by far the most effective way to destress myself, but it isn’t always practical due to life responsibilities. Aromatherapy on the other hand can be done while you do other things around the house.
Journaling is helpful, as it allows me to log the day for both the good and the bad. See, our brains have stronger memories involving negative events that happen, and often the good things that happened are overshadowed and forgotten. This leads to a negative feedback loop that can be very tough to overcome. So if you log the good and the bad that happened in a journal, you can go back and read it later to remind yourself that not all of what happened to you that day was bad.
Identifying the Source of your Stress and Anxiety
Now I know this part can cause anxiety, which is why I gave you the anxiety management techniques I use in the first section. This is because, in order to be able to better manage your stream anxiety, you need to identify what about the act of streaming causes you to experience feelings of stress. For me, I’ve noticed three when I actively streamed.
1: Numbers and Metrics
One of the most anxiety-inducing things that I did, is look at my metrics. This data record of how my stream performed for the day is what Twitch uses to determine whether or not you have made the requirements to become a Twitch Affiliate or Partner, as well as determine ad revenue. Unfortunately for me, I also used that data for myself. In my case, I ended up equating stream performance to my self-worth.
Biggest. Mistake. Of. My. Streaming. Career.
Why was it a mistake? Well, say I average around 100 viewers per stream, and suddenly one stream had nobody show up. I assume it is because I did something wrong to scare away my audience, so I then go on a personal self-crusade to literally nitpick at every single thing that I did in a previous stream. I try to draw conclusions about the “failure”, and I start thinking, “I must suck. Why bother doing this? What is the point?” Bitterness follows, and even anger can come from this line of thinking.
The thing is – streaming is a volatile environment. Behind each number is a unique and complex individual, just like you. For any reason, they might not show up, because something in their life takes precedence over your streaming content. They have every right to reserve themselves for themselves, and you shouldn’t blame yourself for things beyond your control.
Well, I did that anyway. Anxiety sucks sometimes.
The point is, if you look too deep at your metrics looking for answers to what will make your channel grow or prosper, you will encounter analysis paralysis. You become addicted to the numbers of your channel, and eventually, you will associate these numbers with your self-worth, as I did.
This becomes especially true for streamers who remain super small (1-50 viewers) for years. They want to get out of the rut, they want to grow. But nothing they’ve tried has worked. You guys aren’t alone.
Metrics That Affect Anxiety
- Your View Count
- Chat Activity
- Followers Gained/Lost
- Subscribers Gained/Lost
The most harmful metric to look at is your view count. This is the one that affects my anxiety every single second that I stream. If I gain a viewer, I’m ecstatic and happy. On the flip side, if someone leaves and the number decreases, I become upset, and it shows on stream.
Another metric that can affect my content is chat activity. This one is closely related to the view count, as if the newcomers come in and say nothing, then I assume I don’t really have their attention, and I end up trying to earn it in some way. This can derail the purpose of my content, and cause people to see that I’m basically just trying to appease the individuals that show up, rather than trying to create something enjoyable to watch.
Thirdly, gaining a follower or subscriber is one of the biggest dopamine rushes I’ve experienced as a streamer. It tells me in my head that I have value because again, I equated these numbers to my self-worth. It’s a huge ego boost, and it motivates the crap out of me. On the flip side, if these numbers decrease, that is when I start feeling depressed, as I was essentially thrown out of someone’s life.
If you feel like any of this applies to you, then you have anxiety caused by metrics and numbers.
Admitting that Numbers are a Problem to Yourself
It isn’t easy to admit that I had serious anxiety issues when I actively streamed. Luckily, I was able to identify, rather early, that I was anxious simply waiting for someone to show up. What tipped me off was the fact that I kept glancing at that viewcount metric every few seconds, waiting for that number to change in some way.
I realized that I was desperate to get viewers, and addicted to the dopamine rush of that number change and the addition of someone willing to spend time watching me play a video game and talk with me. However, when you go for months or even years without much of an increase, this number starts to really cement itself as an addiction. You start to equate your self-worth to that number.
Some things I remember thinking:
- “Oh, Zero Views today? I must really suck at streaming. I should just give up for today.”
- “Someone showed up? Horray! Quick, do what I can to try and keep them coming back!”
- “Hey, someone showed up, awesome! Never mind, they left. What did I do wrong?”
- “Oh my god, someone raided me?! AAAAAAAAAHHHHH I’m so happy omg omg omg!”
- “I haven’t seen an increase in my viewer count in months! I’m stuck at 9 viewers per stream on average. What am I doing wrong?”
The stress of appeasing your goal of “growing” is ever-present in your live streaming journey. And it’s all because of that dumb little viewcount number at the bottom right of your stream.
Now, this anxiety is present in other occupations, such as YouTubers, blogging, and sales jobs, but only in live streaming do you actively feel always aware of this metric. After all, you’re monitoring the content you create as it unfolds at every moment. Your content is only available in the now, so you rely on now being the best it can be.
And that is just one facet of stress in the anxiety diamond.
How to Mitigate Anxiety from Metrics and Numbers
The stress from this will never really go away, but there are a number of things that I’ve tried that worked for me to mitigate stress from staring at numbers all day.
- Stop looking at the numbers – Easier said than done
There is something that you can do in the Twitch settings to help mitigate your stress too. You can disable the viewcount on Twitch.
2: Income Stress
Next, I want to address the elephant in the room. Live streaming is notorious for its income disparity. While there is no limit on how much you can earn, and there are multiple sources of revenue that you can generate on the platform, it is not easy to make enough money to be able to rely on streaming as your only source of income (nor should you rely on it – It’s too volatile).
In fact, it’s so hard that the top 1% of streamers earned more than 50% of the entire platform’s income, which should aptly show how much disparity there is. Most streamers won’t even see $100 a month unless they qualify for Twitch’s New Ad Incentive Program that guarantees a minimum bounty-like payout each month for running regular ads during their streams.
Identifying Income as a Cause of Your Anxiety
It’s really easy to know if income is one of the causes of your anxiety. Are you struggling to pay your bills? Then income is a stressor. The fact that Twitch pays so little to the new guys that have no following makes streaming tough to sell if, for example, you were really strapped for cash.
This is especially true for new streamers who see awesome streaming gear like the stream deck, GoXLR, Elgato Sound absorption panels. These are marketed as a way to “bring you success” and give you the ability to “grow your stream”. So many of you who are new and don’t know much about this business yet buy into the dream, only to see zero progress for months.
Does this equipment help you? Yes, absolutely. However, most streamer-focused devices are designed to improve your convenience.
- A Stream deck is nothing but a glorified macro keypad
- The GoXLR is more-or-less obsolete these days, with USB microphones that have control over software applications
- DIY Sound absorption panels tend to be far cheaper(and better!) than pre-made foam solutions – Look into Rockwool DIY Sound panels/bass traps
But all of this means absolutely nothing. Let me tell you a secret –
You don’t need any of that stuff. It is for convenience and minor improvements that most people won’t notice or appreciate. It certainly won’t magically cause you to gain viewers.
Most of it is a waste of money.
The honest truth is, if you can’t afford these gadgets and equipment, don’t buy them. They won’t give you a return on investment, and they certainly won’t make your channel suddenly take off.
With that said, two purchases can make a huge difference in quality at a low cost –
Apart from these, a decent enough computer to do the job is all you need.
How to Mitigate Anxiety from Income Stress
The simplest way to mitigate anxiety from income stress is to simply not rely on streaming as a source of income. If you make money from it – great, but I would never recommend putting your faith in Twitch and the goodwill of a fickle audience as your sole source of income.
Also, don’t buy any streamer gear with the idea that it will make you successful. Only buy that stuff if you can afford it and want the convenience it provides you.
3: Performance Stress
Performance anxiety and stress is a huge factor for most, if not all streamers. Performing live is a very stressful experience because you get live feedback on your actions, and this is true for any sort of live performance. But one thing that separates streamers from most other live performances – You do this almost every day, for 3+ hours a day. The sheer quantity of time performing to an audience is enough to break down even the most stoic of you.
This is why burnout is so rampant in the streaming community. You are in performance mode, always monitoring yourselves and trying to build something from your efforts.
Identifying Performance Stress as a Source of Your Anxiety
Performance anxiety is something you have. Everybody does, even if they say they don’t.
How to Mitigate Anxiety from Performance Stress
- Take regular breaks from streaming
- Invite someone to be live with you to share the stress – offloading some of the spotlight does wonders for your mental health
- Be able to cancel a stream for your mental well-being and use that day to unwind
- Turn off your webcam/camera during overwhelming anxiety
- Stop the stream and do something that relaxes you if you need to
Conclusion for How to Manage Anxiety from Live Streaming
As you can see, live streaming is an overwhelmingly demanding activity. These three examples I’ve provided don’t even go into the details of pre-stream checks to make that can cause someone to have anxiety before even going live. So remember to take a step back, breathe in deep, and release. Go slow, at a pace you can manage, and try to not get hung up on the details.
If you know that you need help, many streaming communities out there have a mental health channel where you can talk with others to help you overcome whatever is stressing you out. So please don’t hesitate to reach out to people for help, especially if you are beginning to have suicidal thoughts. If you are, I really can’t stress this enough – reach out to someone!
Try to stay positive, and remember that you don’t have to stream if you think you can’t handle the stress it creates anymore. Good luck out there – I’m rooting for you!