Sometimes ‘self-care’ advice can be completely impractical to follow. How can I eat organically and do yoga when my chocolate stained doona cover has claimed me as its own? Do not get us wrong, self-care tips are well meaning and can offer great advice, but when your stressed, anxious or having a horrid time with mental health it is not always practical to expect yourself to meditate, eat kale, shower, get your nails done and see friends.

That said self-care is an ongoing process, not just something we should do in crisis. Magenta has popped together some real self-care tips from sex workers.

  • I get my nails done/hair done and tell myself it’s a justifiable expense because it’s ‘for work’
  • I send a blunt response to one of those really irritating timewasting pricks who keep texting me shit and then quickly block them before they have a chance to respond
  • I mentally compare what I just earnt in an hour to the income of whoever just made an asshole comment about sex work
  • Have a vicious gossip session with my other Whore friends – get it all out – then return to my kind self
  • I enjoy a Netflix binge complete with blankets, snuggles with my cat and chocolate. I validate that I need to be ‘unsexy’ for a while
  • I refuse to read or watch news reports on mainstream media – I will get the highlights from twitter, which keeps me updated and stronger sex worker activists have already called out the publisher on their stigmatising content.
  • I turn off social media and read. It may not be realistic for long periods of time, but my work phone doesn’t have social media installed. This allows me to consider my work hours as ‘low tech’ and allows me to disconnect.
  • I refuse to take part in any review/client forums, I find these spaces to be unhelpful and often quite rude. Kudo’s to anyone who doesn’t get angry reading them
  • If I am having a bad mental health day I let myself have it. I allow myself to do nothing, or do completely non-productive things like online shopping, eating chocolate and ignoring the work phone. Then the next day I try again.
  • Three things I do, bath, wine and a good book. This is my time; no one can interrupt this.
  • I box and play footy. Any way I can violently take out my anxiety calms me, and leaves me tired so I get a good night sleep.
  • Vent in my sex worker only groups. The people understand, can usually offer a giggle or a shoulder and a lot of support.

The above are some techniques used by a few sex workers to care for their mental health, prevent burnout and look after themselves. However, as a sex worker with mental illnesses I know that caring for yourself in crisis is not always easy or a priority. So, if you find yourself lacking in self-care, stuck in burn-out or in crisis here are my personal tips.

  • Eat something, anything. Ignore the balanced meal and eat what makes your soul happy, I suggest using ubereats. Finding it hard to face food? Try something easy like yogurt or a banana, or drink something with calories.
  • Call a friend who ‘gets it’. Other options include venting online, especially in sex worker only spaces. If phones make you anxious email/text/social media are all perfectly acceptable replacements. As is contacting Magenta for a peer educator to head over and provide peer support.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help. A mental health plan from you GP, a sex worker friendly psych or an anonymous helpline.
  • If you have prescribed medications, ensure you take them as directed!
  • Sometimes you might feel like you are backsliding, but if you are trying to fix all your unhelpful habits at once it can be very hard to stay grounded. Its ok to not be perfect, especially if that’s the best way to get through a hard day. You don’t need to try to fix everything at once!
  • I also do something to tune out of the world. For me, I reread a favourite book (Harry Potter, if you are curious) or I journal.
  • Changing the format I work in often helps me. If I need routine and structure I head to a parlour. If I need to be at home as much as possible I offer shorter services to reduce the number of hours spent with clients.

If my crisis hits critical/dangerous levels, I try to be assessed by someone outside me such as my bestie, partner or a helpline. I take myself to my psych for an emergency appointment (if my budget allows) or present at the emergency department for an assessment. When presenting in ED it helps me to have a support person, whose job it is to help me stand up for myself against stigmatising language and treatment. I have found this support invaluable at each of my emergency room visits.

Self-care is personal. So while manicures, long baths and lit candles may work for one person; another may find that a horror film, being alone and pizza is what works for them. So we encourage you to comment below, or send us your best self-care tips.

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