YouTuber and licensed therapist Kati Morton on how to care for your mental and emotional health as a content creator
Kati knows the unbridled joy of a content piece that blows up and goes viral.
She also knows the pain of negative comments—and the well of negative self-talk that’s so easy to fall into when things don’t go the way she hoped.
She’s cried under the attack of online trolls. She’s struggled to set boundaries with her fans. She’s stressed about making money to support herself.
In spite of everything, she’s persisted.
Because, as she told us when we spoke with her recently, it’s immensely rewarding to have a positive impact on the people in her audience.
As she put it, “It’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve done. I don’t think there are words to really describe how it feels to connect with people.”
From dealing with internet trolls to coping with exhaustion, Kati can dish on how to be a successful (and sane) content creator.
In this article, we’ll share Kati’s specific techniques and methods that Kati recommendations for anyone trying to ride the psychological roller coaster of being a creator.
No high-level theory in this one.
From identifying coping mechanism to finding the courage to ask your audience for money, every technique below comes directly from Kati’s knowledge as a therapist and her own experiences as creator of content.
We hope you find them helpful for your life as a creator, too.
How Kati left two part time jobs to spend more time on her channel
To Kati, the defining moment in deciding to leave was when she saw her jobs as obstructing better things.
“I started to feel like my jobs were getting in the way of opportunities, like ‘I couldn’t make it to that event because I had to work and I can’t afford not to work.’”
At the same time, she knew her schedule was out of balance. She’s always wanted to play things safe and aim for a job with benefits and a secure, regular income. But she also loved her channel. Doing both would be impossible.
Eventually, she realized, “I hate my job. It’s sucking my soul. I’d rather do videos and feel good about it.”
So, she started saving money. Once she had a cushion, she “took the leap” and dropped two of her three jobs. Now, her channel and her private practice are her main focus.
The change wasn’t without sacrifice. “Yeah, I got rid of my car,” she laughed. “It’s still scary, but I feel a million times better than I did working for someone else.”
For those considering a similar decision, “Take some time,” she said. “If that means you don’t upload for a few weeks, your channel will still be there. I think people worry that it will die, that your fans will just wonder where you are. Tell them ahead of time you’re taking a break and do some some deep thinking.”
It’s imperative that you decide what’s most important to you. “Is stability important? Then don’t quit that job,” she chuckled. But she encourages everyone to find their calling, or vocation—something that “feeds your soul.”
Takeaway for creators*: Take as much time as you need to decide if you’re ready to create full time. It’s OK to take a break from your art to decide.*
Kati was able to go from two part-time jobs to focusing on being a full-time creator with the help of Patreon. Sign up for Patreon here.
How to be comfortable asking your fans for money
Leaving two jobs meant that Kati needed to monetize her channel more effectively.
Like many creators, she wasn’t comfortable asking for money from her fans at first. Now, she has a bustling Patreon account with over 350 patrons.
“The thought process that helped me was that nothing changes for them if they can’t give. I think that’s the most important thing for people to realize. I don’t only create videos for my Patreon people,” she said.
At the same time, she realized, “That content cost me eight hours of my time. If I don’t have the Patreon patrons, then I can’t create it at all.”
When faced with asking fans for money or shutting down her channel, the choice was obvious.
“You have to change your mindset,” she emphasized. “While this is my hobby and I want to spend time doing this, this is also a business, and I need to make money off of it.”
Takeaway for creators: It’s OK to give willing fans a way to support your work. If it means you can keep creating, ask away!
How to deal with stress by identifying your coping mechanisms
Everyone has some way of dealing with what life throws their way. But not everyone knows how to determine what’s normal and healthy, versus what’s not.
“I always recommend people know themselves and know their signs for when you’re maxing out,” Kati began.
First, establish what’s normal for you. “If you don’t know your baseline, then you won’t know when you’re out of it,” she explained. “For me, I don’t have any trouble sleeping and if I did, I’d know that I’m stressed out.”
She recommends thinking about your habits when everything was going well. What was normal for you “when you were living your best life and it wasn’t stressful” can serve as a starting point.
If running is optional for you during an unstressful time, but absolutely necessary during a stressful time, it’s probably a coping mechanism.
“If you can’t stop even if you try, then you may want to reevaluate your coping skill,” she explained.
Next, make sure you have several ways to cope: “I always tell people to have at least five to sustain yourself,” she said. Having backups means you can still handle life if one of your ways of coping isn’t an option anymore.
While exercise is a popular method, she lists many others like:
- calling & venting to a friend
- going for walks
- cleaning/organizing your house
By knowing how you cope, you can steer yourself toward mechanisms that fit your schedule and budget.
Takeaway for creators:* Identify your coping mechanisms, then use them to keep your schedule and stay creative.*
How to set boundaries with fans
Responding to and approving comments on her videos used to take Kati several hours each day.
Now, she only responds to comments posted on Monday. If fans reach out on Twitter or Tumblr, she only responds if she has the energy, time, and interest in doing so.
Even more important was letting go of comment moderation. “I used to approve all the comments. I could not go on vacation—like, legitimate brain vacation—because I had to get up every morning and feel like, well, there’s going to be 200 comments that need to be read to make sure no one’s told somebody else to kill themselves or something.”
After six years, she realized it was just too much to handle. “So, I created a video where I was like, I think we’re OK as a community. I think you’re strong enough to handle it and to let people know when they’re not in the right place.”
In addition, she’s gotten moderators to review posts on her website and forums. Relinquishing some control saved hours each day.
Takeaway for creators:* Set up rules for interactions with fans; guard your time so you can give them great content.*
How to stay organized
Kati Morton doesn’t see all to-do lists as equal.
She keeps a planner to organize upcoming tasks, a separate list for today’s tasks, and a list of things that need to be done sometime within the next few weeks. Another list exists for long term goals.
One key to a successful to-do list is to “break down large items” into smaller, more manageable tasks.
You should list out the tasks you have to complete within the next few weeks to start working toward that goal.
“Whenever there’s a huge task, it’s a mental block. You just can’t wrap your head around where to start or what to do,” she added. “You can break it down.”
She also adds easier items to the day’s list to help herself feel energized and productive. “You know, ‘I ate breakfast’ just to keep it positive,” she laughed.
Finally, she likes to organize tasks by priority. Doing so gives a little extra direction to your day.
Takeaway for creators: Make to-do items** bite-sized, separate them by priority and time frame, and use them to spark productive feelings.
How to take time off when you need it
Kati’s audience can tell when she needs a breather. “They don’t know anything about my own life, but they do know when you’re not quite yourself. They will notice,” she observed.
Their attention was a “good reminder” for her to take breaks.
For example, she often hosts a livestream on Wednesdays. If she feels like there is too much pressure from filming videos, she’ll skip the livestream. “I’m not going to have that energy” to do the session well, she explained, so it’s better to save it for another time.
“It sounds like such a simple thing,” she explained, “but those are choices that you make each day. How much am I going to ask of myself? How much am I going to do? How much is this going to cost me?”
Whenever she needs to cancel something or push it back, she lets her fans know via Twitter. Most of them are completely understanding.
Takeaway for creators: Don’t feel bad about taking time you need. Give your fans a warning and they’ll be OK.
How to quit negative self-talk
Kati isn’t concerned with the occasional negative thought; it’s the recurring ones that make a difference in our lives.
“What are the things you tell yourself all the time? Is it, ‘I can never do anything right?’ Or is it, ‘Ugh, I’m always late.’ Or, ‘I never get enough done’ or ‘I’m not worthy,’” she asked.
Once you’ve established what those patterns of negative thoughts are, talk back to them. She believes you should end your day by saying five positive things that go against your negative self-talk.
If you feel worthless, pick an accomplishment. For example, she might say, “Well, today I created a video that was worth something to a thousand people. So, I created some worth today.”
She finds it helpful to think of those thoughts as a voice separate from her own. “If someone that you know in real life said that to your face, would you just take it? Probably not.”
Giving the negative thoughts their own persona can help you argue back with them and realize that they’re wrong. It even works for imposter syndrome.
“Externalizing a bad voice in our head or a bad part of ourselves that we don’t like can be empowering,” she explained. You can say of the voice, “Well, that’s not me. It’s this garbage over here. We’ll call it Susie. We don’t like Susie. And we just leave her there and we can deal with it that way.”
Dealing with it may mean confronting external sources of negativity as well.
“If you read enough comments that are like, ‘You’re an idiot, what are you doing here?’ you start to think, ‘Maybe I am an idiot.’ But positive self-talk can stop it.”
“For instance, if my negative self talk was ‘I’m an idiot, what am I doing here?’ then I think, ‘No, I do have a wealth of knowledge. I didn’t pay over $100,000 for school to learn nothing. Did I fail? No, I did well in school, so I did learn something.’ Even if you have to argue back sometimes, that helps put it in perspective.”
Takeaway for creators: Externalize negative voices and argue back. Don’t let negative thoughts impede your creativity.
How to deal with internet trolls
When it comes to internet trolls, Kati says the best response is no response at all.
Our first reaction to someone criticizing our work is “pufferfishing.” We get defensive and protective. But if we respond, we’ve let them get to us.
She likes to remember that “it’s not about you, it’s about them. People are sad and they’re going to find a way to put it out there if they don’t have any other healthy outlet.”
At the same time, she said, “I think throughout the years I’ve gotten tougher and tougher. I have had times—like when I misspoke in a video—that I get berated with hate. And I’ve cried about it. If anybody tells you they haven’t cried over a comment, they’re lying.”
If ignoring it isn’t enough, you can always delete the comment, or shut off comments altogether. For the video in which she misspoke, she was on the receiving end of so much ridicule that she deleted the video and posted a corrected version.
“That’s thing about being a creator: you are the keeper of your environment. You can shut that down,” she said.
Takeaway for creators: Trolls will be there regardless of how amazing your art is. Ignore them and/or moderate their comments as appropriate.
How to end toxic relationships
At the same time, we’ve all had friends who weren’t good for us. Unlike internet trolls, they’re harder to ignore.
The first thing she reminds people of is that “people aren’t toxic. But it’s a bad recipe. It’s like, you and them together? Terrible.”
Even though it’s tempting to cut these people out of your life without ever saying why, Kati says to talk to them before you drop them. “Sometimes, it’s just what they need to hear because they’re in a bad place too.”
Not everyone will respond positively and change their behavior, but it’s worth saying something—even if it’s just to get it off your chest.
“They can respond poorly, but that just further reiterates the reasons that you said you’re not going to be with them or be friends with them or whatever anymore,” she explained.
As far as what to say, “Keep it short,” she said. “Keep it to the point. No blame game; just say ‘I’m working on me and this isn’t working for me for these reasons. So I’m just going to take a break.’”
Takeaway for creators: Talk to the person before walking away from the relationship.
How to find supportive people
It’s alway helpful to have friends who support and understand you. But that can be difficult for content creators, who often are asked why they don’t have ‘real jobs.’
“That’s another word of advice: just having friends in the space that understand what you’re going through, because that was something super helpful for me,” added Kati.
For example, when YouTube Space LA began, Kati and her husband made it a priority to attend. It gave them a chance to mingle with other YouTube creators and learn new techniques to use on the channel.
She also makes an effort to attend VidCon every year, regardless of whether she’s a speaker (she has been the last three).
“It’s a cool way to connect with other creators and feel like you’re part of something bigger, which I think as humans we need; we need that like community. And that’s definitely been helpful for me and just for sanity, because none of my other therapist friends understand what I’m doing.”
Takeaway for creators:* Figure out where other creators in your space congregate. They understand what you’re doing and will give you the support you need.*
A final word for creators, new and old
If you’re thinking about becoming a creator, Kati’s advice is “just start to do it. Take the leap!”
But as you continue to create, it’s so important to stay connected to your reasons for creating. “Make it something that you love,” because you don’t have to rely on externals to stay motivated.
“I don’t believe the adage, ‘you never work a day in your life.’ It’s work. But it’s joyful work,” she explained.
“I think my main advice is to have whatever you create come from something you find joy in and then other people will find joy in it too.”
Interested in making money from what you’re most passionate about? Sign up for Patreon here.