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How to Avoid Content Creator Burnout and Thrive Online

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Carla Marshall
February 28, 2024
Avoid Content Creator Burnout with Dr. K of Healthy Gamer

The task of engaging, educating, and inspiring social media audiences can feel relentless. The pressure (and the non-stop screen time) can take a very real toll on creators.

As Dr. Alok Kanojia, MD MPH points out, screens and social media are not inherently bad. It’s how we use them that matters. Excessive usage, negative interactions, and comparing oneself to others online can be detrimental to mental health.

On the Healthy Gamer website, on YouTube, and across social media, Dr. K leverages his medical background to speak about the challenges gamers, parents, and creators face, without fear or hyperbole.

“The constant pressure and lack of boundaries can lead to burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion and cynicism,” Dr. K says. “Taking breaks is crucial, but the fear of losing momentum can prevent creators from doing so.”

Creator burnout is real

A recent study shows that 79% of creators have experienced some form of burnout. That figure jumps to  83% for creators who have monetized their content and are trying to maintain or increase their income online.

We’ve all seen creators we admire fade from our feeds. We might assume they found other opportunities, but the harsh reality is that many talented creators burn out under the pressure of constant content creation.

YouTube OG’s MatPat of The Game Theorists, and Tom Scott are just two the latest high-profile creators to step back due exhaustion and a lack of work-life balance. In this emotional video, MatPat explains the pressure that led him to make such a momentous decision: 

What does content creator burnout feel like?

“Burnout” isn’t just about feeling a little tired or under the weather. It’s deeper and more existential than that. 

Burnout manifests in different ways. It can be a state of chronic exhaustion, mental fog, a growing cynicism, feeling overwhelmed,  emotionally drained, a loss of a sense of accomplishment or even purpose. Burnout can start with very mild symptoms that you may miss or just ignore and try and plow through.

Dr. K advises against simply “taking a break” without addressing the underlying issues. He advises focusing on managing stress daily, not just taking occasional breaks. This might mean setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and otherwise prioritizing mental well-being.

If you see these signs reflected in your own content creation journey, it’s time to address burnout before you crash and burn.

How to avoid content creator burnout with Dr. K

Signs of creator burnout: lack of energy

A feeling of  constantly drained or fatigued despite being physically able to work. This can manifest as:

  • Decreased motivation to create new content.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to produce high-quality content constantly.
  • Experiencing writer’s block or creative stagnation.
  • Struggling to meet self-imposed or external deadlines.

Signs of creator burnout: cynicism and negativity

Feelings of disillusionment. Negative and cynical feelings, towards work, those you work with, the industry, the audience… 

  • Considering quitting content creation altogether due to feeling overwhelmed or disillusioned with the industry.
  • Battling skepticism and negativity towards your craft and the industry at large
  • Seeing your once-beloved passion turn sour or feeling dissatisfaction, regardless of success

Signs of creator burnout: lack of fulfillment

Creating content might have stoked your fire once but if you’re burning out, it might feel like:  

  • Losing interest in topics or niches that were once enjoyable.
  • Feeling like your creative fire has dimmed
  • Feeling disconnected from your original passion
  • Experiencing a sense of emptiness in your work 
  • Struggling to find meaning and purpose in creating content 

Signs of creator burnout: short temper and irritability

This can manifest as difficulty in empathizing with others and their problems and might present as being short tempered or irritable.  

  • Feeling disconnected or disengaged from the audience.
  • Feeling emotionally numb, impacting the ability to connect with others authentically
  • Experiencing irritability or impatience with interpersonal interactions, both online and offline 

Signs of creator burnout: physical symptoms

Burnout symptoms aren’t just mental in nature. Burnout can exact a physical toll on creators too. A physical ailment without a clear physical cause can be a warning sign: 

  • Experiencing stress related symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or eye strain due to excessive screen time
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, stomach pain, or digestive disturbances without a clear physical cause
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia, leading to further physical and mental health fatigue

These examples illustrate the spectrum of burnout experienced by content creators and highlight the importance of addressing mental health and well-being within the online creator community.

Creator burnout to creator zen

Contributing factors to creator burnout

There’s no one cause for creator burnout. Burnout doesn’t care if you’re successful or struggling, if you’ve got a thousand followers or a million. But there are some common contributing factors to look out for:

Discrepancy in values

Wanting to make good content vs needing or wanting to make money

Lack of control

Feeling like you’re at the mercy of the algorithm, feeling like you have no control over what the job demands of you

Overwork

Excessive workload without meaningful breaks 

Lack of reward

Despite all the hard work, it doesn’t feel like you’re making ground. Rewards don’t have to be extrinsic (i.e. from outside: money, fame, love) but can be intrinsic (i.e. from inside: satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment). 

Unrealistic expectations

Demanding too much of yourself, unclear or overly ambitious goals, losing sight of incremental gains.

Unclear feedback

Clear, constructive feedback is helpful, unclear feedback / personal attacks are not (we’re looking at you, comments section).

Lack of social support

A feeling like no one believes in you, absence of a support network

Perfectionism.

It’s never quite good enough. Trying to attain that which is unattainable.

Feelings of inadequacy

Feeling like you’re not good enough or that others are much better, imposter syndrome.

Lack of balance

A personal life and content creation responsibilities in conflict, a lack of separation between

work and personal life.

Unhealthy habits

Neglecting self-care. Overconsumption, whether of food, caffeine, alcohol, or anything else. 

Pressure

Pressure in all its forms. Workload pressure, pressure to manage multiple platforms, to engage an audience, etc.

Financial stress

Fluctuations in income or unstable monetization strategies.

Finding balance to avoid content creator burnout

Finding Your Balance: A Content Creator’s Guide to Avoiding Burnout

Given the nature of content creation and the demands of the influencer lifestyle, many creators are under pressure to constantly publish fresh and engaging videos to keep themselves relevant across one or more social media sites. 

Alongside the pressure creators impose upon themselves, they are also susceptible to changes in the platform algorithms, public taste, and changing trends. Imposter syndrome and external factors out of their control can create a perfect storm of burnout that, unaddressed, can be hard to recover from. 

Don’t assume burnout is an inevitable part of being a successful creator. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of burnout, even if they are mild, so that you can intervene before it escalates.

An Ounce of Prevention…

It’s far better to avoid burnout or address it early than it is to try to rise from the ashes after you crash and burn. These strategies can keep you engaged and inspired:

Set Realistic Goals

Ditch the impossible standards! Pushing yourself is essential, but if you consistently miss targets, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and resentment.

Master Time Management and Scheduling

Chaos is burnout’s close friend. Planning content batches, prioritizing essential tasks, and (crucially) scheduling in breaks can reduce stress.

Build a Solid Support Network

Surround yourself with fellow creators who understand the rollercoaster of content creation. Their advice and encouragement are invaluable!

Diversify Your Content

Sticking only to what you know can get creatively stifling. Introduce new formats, try out different topics, and keep things fresh.

YouTuber Katie Steckly has been open about the detrimental effects of burnout. In the following video, she shares her own experience about preventing exhaustion and panic as a content creator: 

Addressing Creator Burnout When It Strikes

If you’re battling burnout, talking to supportive friends and family about how you’re feeling will be helpful. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional support too. It’s important that you don’t try to tackle serious burnout alone. 

This might mean seeking out an in-person therapist or finding a creator specialist like Health Gamer’s Creator Coaches who can provide personalized strategies and support that can help get you back on your feet.

HG Creator coaching reports showing a 20% improvement in alleviating creator burnout and 60% increase in fostering sense of purpose (get the report). 

Partner with an HG Creator Coach to:

  • Tackle mental health stressors specific to content creators: Combat imposter syndrome, resilience against internet toxicity, and recover from burnout.
  • Cultivate self-awareness and set achievable goals: Understand your unique mindset, identify what prevents you from doing the things you want to do, and overcome obstacles to propel yourself forward.
  • Foster healthy habits: Cultivate practices such as setting boundaries, mindfulness, and nurturing meaningful social connections.

 In the meantime:

Take a True Break: Sometimes, a true disconnect is necessary. Let your audience know you need a pause, whether it’s a week or longer.

Re-evaluate Your Goals and Expectations: Is your schedule sustainable? What truly needs your attention? Adjust accordingly.

Rediscover the Joy of Content: What originally excited you about creating videos? Simple brainstorming or trying something new (unrelated to your channel) may rekindle the spark.

Conquering burnout is an ongoing process for every creator. Remember, focusing on your passion for content creation and your well-being is key.

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