Known as “Superwoman” to her community of 14 million subscribers, Singh began creating content on YouTube in 2010, and the viral star has since developed a massive cult following she calls “Team Super.” Singh has become a bestselling author, the star of her own YouTube Red film called “A Trip to Unicorn Island,” and was ranked 10th on the Forbes list of the world’s highest paid YouTube stars last year. Needless to say, Singh releases content regularly, keeps her fans happy, but has yet to take a break.
When Singh made her announcement that she’s taking time to step away and slow down, she addressed her mental health first. “I am mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted,” she admitted. “I could be mentally healthier. There’s a lot that I need to address, and I’m not able to [when I am] constantly pumping out content.”
Although Singh’s hiatus marks the first of her career, it follows a handful of other content creators who have suffered similar signs of burnout in the past. Other YouTubers, such as Casey Neistat, Pewdiepie, Logan Paul, and Alisha Marie, have all taken breaks from the platform — speaking out about the underlying truth of being a successful creator: The pace of work can be punishing.
In her announcement, Singh commented on the nature of her career’s double-edged sword, highlighting the fact that YouTubers are expected to continuously create great videos in order to stay relevant. “It’s kind of a machine,” Singh said. “It makes creators believe that we have to pump out content consistently even at the cost of our life and our mental health and our happiness, because if you don’t you will become irrelevant.”
Singh did not mention how long she plans on stepping away, but it’s clear that her priorities are taking a significant shift. “Happiness is the most important thing you will ever fight for,” Singh reminded her audience, looking directly at the camera. “Relevance is not.”
Singh’s struggle with the overwhelming nature of digital media is not at all unusual, notes Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., the Director of the Media Psychology Research Center. “For anyone who has a job that’s somewhat connected to technology, it’s really compressed the amount of turnaround time in our lives," she tells Thrive Global. "The idea of weekends and evenings are becoming difficult to maintain because there’s an expectation of speed with the technology we have available.”
According to Rutledge, there are small steps we can take to ensure we don’t face the kind of pressure that forces us to take a complete hiatus. Here are some microsteps to try when you feel overwhelmed by the demands of the pressure to be always “on”:
“Someone like Lilly Singh has to keep up with the demand of her subscribers, so she feels that she can’t take a vacation,” Rutledge explains. “She’s never off.” In your own life, she suggests maintaining perspective when you feel overwhelmed by the demands of your job. “Oftentimes, the things that feel like emergencies are not emergencies,” she notes. Taking a minute to breathe, and to remind yourself of that fact, can be very helpful.
Know yourself, and set boundaries accordingly
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with technology. We simply have to develop new rules about how we use it,” Rutledge says. Not everyone’s boundaries will look the same, because we don’t all use our devices in the same ways. “Each person needs to figure out what role they want technology to play in their lives, and set rules accordingly,” she says. After all, what’s best for your well-being might not be the best for someone else’s.
That said, if you feel the demands of your job encroaching on your well-being, make rules that fit your life. That may mean not looking at your phone until you’ve been awake for an hour, to give yourself some space from it, or leaving it at your desk when you go to lunch. Create the boundary that works for you.
Embrace the auto-response
Features such as the “Out of Office” calendar, or a firm auto-reply email work to your advantage, especially if you need to set your boundaries in writing. “Set up an auto-response to tell people you’re away from email for the night, or for the day [if you’ve taken a day off],” Rutledge suggests. Enforcing that time away from work not only trains your co-workers not to bother you, but it also trains you to stay away so you can recharge.