The strangest part about writing my articles is the sheer number of topics that I start and then either abandon or eventually finish. Usually it is from some fledging idea that I get and I see if I can actually create a full article on the subject. Often I will abandon these ideas, usually due to lack of substance or my personal need to get more experience on the topic. So generally if you see an article on here by me, it means that I have put quite a bit of thought into it.
That said, a topic that is nearly always on my mind is stress. In large part because I am poor at managing it myself and deal with it on a regular basis. My assumption is that many other content creators out there also deal with some level of stress. For this article I am going to take the time to do some real talk about the things I learned about this subject. I am not an expert on this matter so all advice comes from personal experience and self reflection.
Risks of Stress
I don’t mean to increase your stress by starting with this topic, but if you stick with me I plan to end on a higher note. The risks of stress is something that I have first hand experience with, even while writing this article. I’m sure plenty of you have seen somewhere that stress affects you not just mentally but physically. These symptoms come in the form of headaches, sleep problems, muscle pain, fatigue, and digestion problems. This doesn’t even touch on the effects to your mood.
Overall it can become self-perpetuating state of being. As a content creator it runs the risk of impacting your ability to fulfill obligations that you promised, fall behind on work, or even make the content creation process less appealing. I know that I have run into all three during various times of high stress.
Manage Your Stress
The number one best way to manage your stress is to avoid getting stressed in the first place. While not always possible, there is a lot of unnecessary stress that we bring into our lives. By avoiding these in the first place you can reduce the amount you have to actually manage.
The first of these, particularly as a content creator, is the ability to say “no” to a project or a commission. Some people are completely incapable of doing this and it results in a workload that is overwhelming. Understand what workload you are able to fulfill. Give yourself some buffer so you can take on those projects that are absolutely crucial to your business (technology fixes, website updates, patreon revisions, etc).
My next recommendation is to cut out individuals from your content creation that cause you a high level of stress. If you work alone then you won’t have to worry about this. If you dread having to talk to a person that works with you on content because they always stress you out, cut them out of the process and find someone else to fill the role (if someone needs to fill their role). From first hand experience I found this relieves a ton stress both current and future.
Make sure that the current content creation field is right for you. If you don’t love what content you are creating, then you might need to consider something different. I recommend you make this decision during times that you are not stressed, as earlier mentioned stress can change your opinion on these feelings. Doing something you do not enjoy will only add to your workload. Some people may find that the content they create is more enjoyable as a hobby rather than a job.
Some stress is unavoidable. Most content creators still have a day job because they need to eat, or pay for the equipment needed for their content creation gig. It’s here that I have learned several different techniques for managing said stress, however I am bad at continuing them during low stress times. It’s crucial that you keep up with these even when you are not feeling stressed.
Relax. We all need time for our minds to not actually do real work. As much as you may love your content creation, that can’t be the only thing you do. It can be hard when your hobbies have become a job, but there is always something else you can do. For me this is reading. I always attempt to read the hour just before I go to bed. Not only does it get me to read (which is essential for any writer), but it gets me to calm down after a long day of working. This can also be as simple as taking time to play a beloved video game. Even for streamers who do a lot of gaming, playing games without the camera on can still relieve some stress. For those introverts (myself included) having some alone time to accomplish these can greatly help.
However you can’t spend all your time alone. Socializing with your friends and family is another way to destress. I find it incredibly relieving to travel north to my family’s property in the woods and just spend the day wandering around and doing odd work with my family. Even if your friends are the ones you create content with, take the time to not create content with them and just do something. At Nerdolopedia on occasion we all go to IHOP late at night and just talk. We also have gone out drinking or attend conventions for fun. I find going out without a plan helps even more with the stress relief (although might not work for everyone).
The one I am really bad at as of late is physical exercise. In my high school and college days I was far more physically active and it did help with some stress. Physical exercise not only relieves stress but also has a bunch of other benefits. Starting out small and working your way up is a great way to acclimate yourself if you are not used to getting the exercise regularly. I have no excuse not to be doing this as I own a folding treadmill, but it is something that you should be scheduling into your day. Taking a walk around the block (or down the road and back for the country folk) is enough to start. My girlfriend as of this writing walks every day and she has reported increased energy and mood. Take just ten or fifteen minutes out of your day to start out.
I have never done tai chi or yoga, but I have done meditation. In fact I have been using an app to help me with it. While relaxing was already listed above I thought that this was important to add because these tend to be less active forms of relaxation. Messages also fall under this, which I try to get not just for stress but because of my various back problems. However, I have more experience with meditation and can say that it is very helpful. I don’t actually recommend that you start meditating unguided as when I first started. This is because I think there is a lot of misconception about meditation and getting to a meditative state can actually be a struggle for people early on. To quickly cover it, meditation is the stillness of the mind, which so many of us in this age of information have a very difficult time doing. I use Headspace to help guide me through meditation but it might not be for everyone.
A Thousand Mile Journey
A lot of what I have suggested consumes time, a resource that some of us are just bad with. While you currently may be struggling to find any time to set aside from your work, consider starting with one of these stress relief activities as a necessary part of the content creation process. While stressed you are not at your best. You don’t need to change your entire way of life tomorrow to not be stressed anymore. Ease into these. Find one that you know you can do now and start doing it. Pay attention to what stress you take on. Notice the areas that you could improve on and work your way towards them. It may seem like an impossible task. As Laozi put it “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Go take that step.
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