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Twitch streaming is a job that’s harder than it looks. Here’s how gamers stay balanced

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SB Nation talked to five streamers about how they practice self-care while working demanding hours.

Bobby Quillard — Quillard Photography

Twitch streamers are a different breed, especially those who are playing video games for several hours a day. Many are passionate about their work, but it still requires streamers to be mindful of their physical and mental health.

Most streamers are live for anywhere between four and 10 hours a day (sometimes longer!), delivering entertainment to anywhere from tens — to tens of thousands — of viewers. That time alone is exhausting, but there’s more to it.

I wanted to talk to streamers at TwitchCon who were family-friendly and maintained positive vibes. That type of energy is important on its own, but there’s also no way it comes easy every day, and that’s what I found in talking to these people — all who are at different spots on the same path.

However, they’re all making it work swimmingly, and their messages for wellness were unsurprisingly similar.

If you’re as big as Nick Eh 30, who recently switched from YouTube to Twitch, you have to balance not only streaming but competitive gaming, meetings, exercise, and events like TwitchCon all into the routine. I experienced a good chunk of this Friday at TwitchCon, and just watching him made me tired.

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Just your daily reminder!

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Thousands of people watch him play Fortnite every day, but they don’t see the time that goes into managing his brand, the core of which requires making videos for YouTube or Instagram, which can take up several hours.

There’s also pressures that come with live-streaming itself similar to what athletes experience. ONE_Shot_GURL, who has been streaming for four years now, keeps up incredible energy during her streams. Her passion also fuels the pressure she feels to maintain that energy every day.

“I’ve built that community with my blood, sweat, and tears for four years,” she says. “People expect, at least for me, they expect a good attitude …

“So in those moments where I’m crushed because I got wrecked, or somebody danced on me or something, and I just want to lash out and be negative, you feel that pressure.”

SanchoWest, who has been streaming for five years now, loves gaming, and it shows in his broadcasts. He says he looks at live-streaming as a form of entertainment and takes pride in being a storyteller.

“That’s why battle royales (like Fortnite) are so great as a viewer,” he says. “There’s a beginning, middle, and end. It’s all natural and organic, and you can talk to your audience and build [the story].”

It also forces streamers to keep things fresh, which he did when Fortnite collaborated with Batman. SanchoWest streamed all day with a Batman mask on and the results paid off.

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Batman plays Fortnite and don't touch his loot

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That’s another big theme with SanchoWest’s streaming strategy, along with the rest of the gamers here — gaming and streaming are supposed to be fun. Who doesn’t like to have fun online?

But that life isn’t always easy because these people are human, after all.

Clay Stehling, who has been streaming for about two years now and casting games, knows that people arrive to the stream every day with the same expectations, some of which are unrealistic.

“Sometimes, just in real life, you’re just not having a good day,” he says. “You got a headache, sometimes you just got done being sick and you have to stream because it’s your job and you’re not able to perform to your best abilities.”

That’s relatable no matter what you do, whether you’re a streamer, an accountant, a professional athlete, flippin’ burgers, whatever. Some days you just don’t have it, and that’s OK. But it’s fair to say the pressure to perform looms larger for these folks because they’re broadcasting themselves to the world.

Collectively, the responsibilities that come with streaming can make the job both mentally and physically exhausting. Many of Twitch’s top streamers do plenty of work to keep the good vibes going. Both Stehling and Nick Eh 30 take time to exercise, even during their respective streams, to keep the blood flowing.

Nick Eh 30 also takes time in the morning to get a good workout in, even though he (the simultaneously most energized and polite person I’ve ever met) swears he’s not a morning person. “It’s weird, you think you’d be more tired afterwards,” he says. “But it wakes me up, it makes me feel good about myself knowing after sitting down for such a long period of time that I exercised for the day.”

SanchoWest compares the physicality of it to an office job because you’re sitting down for many hours of the day. “Your body’s not supposed to be sitting that long,” he says. “You can stretch as much as you want, you can walk as much as you want, but sitting for a long time can be problematic, and that’s the Catch-22.”

When it comes to mental health, streamers say it’s about taking time for themselves and surrounding themselves with good people.

HeadShotChick is a college student, works a full-time job, and streams five days a week. She’s been streaming for 18 months and quickly made her way up to a Twitch partner (which grants streamers with larger followings more features and verification). She says surrounding herself with other positive friends and streamers has been huge for her well-being. “If you surround yourself with negative people, you’re going to start feeling those negative vibes,” she says. “So if you can keep yourself around those positive people and get those good vibes, then it helps you keep your mindset well.”

Sometimes negative vibes are unavoidable. Whether in video comments or in the live stream’s chat, negativity is hard to avoid when you’re dealing with online personas and viewers. Everybody I spoke to admitted that at one point or another, the comments would get to them, but they’ve learned how to cope with them.

Nick Eh 30, who has over 500,000 followers on Twitch, and over 5 million on YouTube, gets tons of comments a day. He’s mastered how to handle the negativity and foster a friendly environment.

“People like attention on the internet, they want to get recognized,” he says. “So if you’re responding to positive comments, and not negative, people are going to say, ‘I want my comment read. What do I got to do? Oh, he’s reading this one, this one, this one, I’m going to write a positive comment.’ But if you’re only responding to the negative comments, ignoring the 10 nice ones for the one negative, people are going to see that. And they’re going to write a hate comment too just so they can get acknowledged.”

Stehling also emphasizes the importance of self-worth, which takes time to build up, especially if you aren’t used to dealing with negativity online. “I put my value in myself, and my family, and people around me. That’s how I know my self-worth, not from people on the internet. Not from Anonymous382757 that can make seven different accounts. Because as soon as you do that, as soon as you put your value on what other people think of you, it’s a downward spiral, and it’s hard to get out of.”

And of course, the positivity these streamers have deliberately cultivated helps when it comes to hate comments, as well. They’re able to go to people, whether family members, friends, or other creators, and talk. Even if it’s not about a specific comment, Julie mentions, “Just hearing their voice helps.”

Streamers are constantly juggling being entertaining, interacting with fans and, of course, being good at gaming. They’ll tell you that their success is attainable, but your heart has to be in it. All of it.

“If you want to stream, and you are getting into it for the money, you’re in it for the wrong reason from Day 1,” Stehling says. “You’re going to get burned out.”

And that’s not just for live-streaming, it’s also for the time put in off-stream, as well. “You can stream 24 hours a day,” Stehling says. “But if you’re not working to interact with those people on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, wherever it may be, your streaming time is not going to have those people. Your stream time is to retain the people you build relationships with, to entertain them further.”

There also has to be a balance, which ONE_Shot_GURL points to as not only a means of production but happiness. “If you can find the balance between a game that you love, and a game that will bring you viewers, you will be good to go.”

Professional streamers have to be mindful of viewership numbers, which can be unhealthy to obsess over. It’s why SanchoWest is a big proponent of not looking at how many viewers he, or any streamer, might have in any moment.

“It blows my mind,” he says. “You could be watching Netflix, you could be watching Hulu, you could be watching the football game, but you’re literally hanging out with me playing video games, like chillin with me right now.” And no matter how many viewers he might have, that’s more than good enough for him.

ONE_Shot_GURL expands on that, saying it’s “The one thing we can never get back in life. You can’t get more time. You can get more money, you can get more clothes, you can work to elevate your status.

“But you can never get more time. You can’t get it.”