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How to Manage Anxiety from Live Streaming

How to Manage Anxiety From Live Streaming

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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. 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 and provide a few ways for you to be able to manage it. 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.

  • 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.

Identifying the Source of your Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety from Streaming

The first step to managing anxiety caused by live streaming is to identify and understand what it is about streaming that causes anxiety for you. For many of you, this answer will be multi-faceted – that is, more than one source making up the whole.

Here are the three most common sources –

  • Numbers
  • Income
  • Performance

1: The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game - Cause of Stream Anxiety

The most obvious and potentially largest source of stress for live streamers is the numbers game. This consists of:

Most of, if not all small streamers have found themselves staring at that view count and eyeing that chat window like a hawk waiting for someone to stumble across them.

I myself experienced this anxiety myself – I was in alert mode, ready for attack at any moment, to reign my potential audience in like a rabid car salesman.

Any time someone did stop in and step into my chat, I pounced on them like an overly excited puppy that missed their owner for what felt like an eternity after they went to the store to pick up food and came back an hour later. I would greet them, welcome them into the stream, and begin chatting with them like they were my estranged friend from elementary school that happened to stop by the same bar as me.

Incidentally, that sort of greeting is a turn-off for many viewers, and oftentimes, they’d politely wish me the best, and continue being that estranged friend, never to make an effort to check in again.

Identifying the Numbers Game as a Cause of Your Anxiety

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 0 to change to a 1 or higher.

I realized that I was desperate to get viewers 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, if 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! Nevermind, 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 to my viewer count in months! I’m stuck at 9 viewers per stream 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 the Numbers Game

The stress from this will never really go away, but there are a number of things that you can do to mitigate stress from staring at numbers all day.

  • Stop looking at the numbers

That was probably obvious to everyone reading this, but this is something that is nearly impossible to do without active effort on your part. That number is probably already an addiction for you if you’re here reading this article because every single streamer I know, including myself, has admitted that they have monitored, or are actively monitoring that viewcount.

As it turns out, the viewcount can be disabled on Twitch.

2: Income Stress

Income Stress

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
    • You can use MacroDeck, an app on your phone, to accomplish mostly the same thing. (Or Voice Attack if you want to use your voice to control your computer.)
  • 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

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!

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