Winter is a sensitive time for most people, and sex workers bear the added weight of a reduced income and clientele stream. Many adult content customers will be exhausted, financially and otherwise, by family and holiday obligations. Others, under the increased pressure of social norms, may decide to stop seeing sex workers altogether. It is no secret that a portion of sex industry patrons are working out unhappiness in their lives through sexual diversion and the new year is often a time of reflection and lifestyle changes. The three-month string of financially draining holidays drags on until tax payments are due thus making winter a particularly difficult time for sex workers, who do not often have a fixed income or are working essentially off tips and gigs.
Self-employed sex industry success is reliant on very emotionally-intensive work that can be taxing on your mind and body. No artist is complete without their tools so here is a comprehensive guide to fulfilling mental health needs for a sex worker.
For this article, “sex worker” refers to anyone who sells some form of their sexuality or turns people on for a living. Putting your body into a state of sexual receptiveness requires consistent mental care. Knowing what you want and figuring out what the other person wants is a type of emotional labor and is, essentially, the process of turning someone on – the purest definition of what sex workers do for a living.
Healthy Physical Environment
Build the best possible foundation for your body and mind to be at their best.
Loosely following the kaizen principle, do something for a small amount of time each day and you will eventually notice yourself spending more time in your new positive habits. Being physically rested, fit, and ready to meet life head on every day will set up a good foundation for your emotional resilience during trying times. Stick to these guidelines to make the most of your winter months without sacrificing fitness.
- Physical fitness – DO IT. It is the key to so much mental well-being, both from direct exercise and from feeling yourself in your best and most capable body. Make a pact with yourself that no matter what else may go tits up during winter time, you’ll dedicate at least 30 minutes each day to exercise whether it is living room yoga and squats, or a full-on gym experience – DO IT.
- Physically pump yourself up! Take a hot shower. Put on some upbeat music. Practice meditative breathing. Refocusing your mind on positive calm can do wonders for chasing away anxiety and getting you out of a slump.
- Empower yourself. Use the ultimate lifehack of power poses. Repeat positive self-affirmations out loud to train positive feedback loops in your thoughts. From Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga, successful people use mental tools and hacks to empower themselves.
- Get some fresh air. Even if you just go for a short walk – fresh air and sunshine are depression’s mortal enemies. Lowered vitamin D from lack of sunshine is a very central cause for poor mental health.
(If sunshine is scarce where you live, a quality therapy light and some vitamin D supplements can help a lot. Links are to the products Cat uses and personally recommends. If you suffer from persistent depression, please consult with a doctor.)
Healthy Mental Environment
Just as important as physical fitness, your mental environment impacts how you feel and what you are capable of achieving.
Modern age sex worker types can, and often do, share some mental and lifestyle traits in common. Many are self-employed in some capacity, or at least rely primarily on themselves to achieve their goals, while many of us also share in suffering from the industry-wide discrimination when interacting with the world at large. A lot of us work from the comfort of our own homes, which can be a double-edged sword resulting in increased isolation and lack of motivation to pursue our dreams. Two major themes that come up as a result of that, and can complicate mental health, are Introversion and Isolation. Here are some tips to combat these twin harpies of depression.
When we start getting affected by depression, the desire to withdraw becomes strong. However, our job and forward momentum often depend on being in front of people and able to advertise our services. To get around this road bump, get in front of people’s eyeballs in whatever manner you can during the winter months. It may feel counter-intuitive but you must keep up appearances in whatever capacity you can!
- Maintain a regular schedule. Make sure to allocate a specific amount of time each day for taking calls, camming, or otherwise engaging with your audience and fill the rest of your time with other activities.
- Don’t make the mistake of waiting by the phone all day or loitering around an empty venue. Pick your times – cut it down if you have to as long as you maintain consistency – and put on your best show during your designated work time. This will help you feel like you gave it your all without giving away too much of your emotional strength reserves; both reserving strength while feeling like you’ve done what you could, is beneficial when you don’t feel your best.
It can be difficult to find a compassionate person to talk and vent with while in the adult industry. You often can’t talk to clients – they frequently come to sex workers as an escape from their own problems and we must always put our best foot forward lest the fantasy they are paying for get shattered. We also can’t often talk to family – or most friends – without them blaming sex work as the cause for emotional difficulties while they constantly talk your ear off about the terrible stress of their job.
- Online communities are great for providing support but it is also crucial to go out into the world and spend time with people. Think of an outside hobby that you truly enjoy, or an activity that you wish to learn. Taking a class for fun can be a comfortable structured environment that removes any burden of initiation. Anything that inspires you, really, because the goal is to be connected with a community. Any community of like-minded individuals that you can bond with over something that enriches your collective lives.
- Exercise is always a great option, like dance or even hiking meetups, or you can do volunteer outreach in needy neighborhoods. Maintain world connections unrelated to your sex work; something you can do to take your mind off and help you recharge.
- There are even lots of little groups and meet-ups with specialty interests you can bond with on a different “our thing” sort of level. Whether its board games, book clubs, or fantasy football, everyone has their own little groups of fellow “weirdos” they can socialize with under no expectation other than enjoying some of the same things.
Healthy Community Environment
You are what you do, what you think, and who you admire. You are what you consume!
Finally, the best and most creative kind of work comes from a calm and empowered mind. When your mind is focused on believing in those who believe in you, it doesn’t have time for negativity. Trying to not do or think negative things is just a double negative. Instead occupy yourself with positive people and positive things. Look forward to your ability to appreciate the small things of life in a big way and soon you will have a strong new happiness habit!
- Strive to keep your environment clean, both physically and mentally. Be aware that listening to those who constantly express dissatisfaction will make you dissatisfied with life too. We are social creatures so just “managing our own mind” is like deciding we can just go on a diet while living in a donut store: It sounds great on paper but is ultimately unrealistic.
- Find what social media may be your depressive trigger. Then work out your own Social Media mission statement, like Conner Habib.
- Support from those who intimately understand what you are struggling with is invaluable. Find people invested in sex worker mental health and follow the crap out of them on social media!
- Bonus! Recent thread from Lee Roy Myers of WoodRocket naming some specific individuals as good industry resources on social media.
- Good long-form resource is Jiz Lee’s book store. If you liked “Coping With Showing Your Junk For a Living: Privacy Issue” then you’ll love “Coming Out Like a Pornstar” because it was published in there! It’s a great book all around, full of personal performer stories of overcoming social and interpersonal stigma.
- Bonus! This bookstore also carries Lola Davina‘s “Thriving in Sex Work” which is your new must-have wellness bible.