Self-Care, Wellbeing and Safety
We hope that the information so far has supported you in adding to or fine-tuning your safety and privacy practices in your work. Here we look at the bigger picture of wellbeing as many sex workers felt it can have an effect on safety. It is helpful to know who and where to go to for general ongoing support in your job and to manage your physical, mental and emotional health. So here are some tips, provided by sex workers, on self-care in your profession.
- Some sex workers feel that when they are stressed, pre-burn out or at the point of burn out, it can impact on safety. For example, when we are feeling pressured with stress sometimes that can cloud our judgement and this can perhaps affect our decisions, such as which clients to see, what screening processes to use and how many clients to see in a day.
- Burn out can happen in any job so it’s important to take time out. This can be taking a holiday or making sure we get a day off on a regular basis.
- Financial pressures can add to this but again, like most jobs, we need to take a step back and see how self-care can really boost our health, our energy levels and in the longer term – our business.
- If you are a high volume worker (a sex worker who sees lots of clients in one day or in one week) how can you balance this out? Some workers we spoke to either ‘feast or famine’ by choice or see this as part of the job. So, if this is you, how can you prepare. Food and nutrition, exercise, plenty of sleep, social activities with your support network (friends, family, colleagues) can really give you a boost from the inside. It might sound weird to suggest some basic things, but we all know that feeling when we are on a health drive and begin to feel more energised. This can be an ongoing self-care routine.
- Low volume workers who might see less clients but charge more, can also experience stress that is often linked to financial insecurity. Some lower volume workers we spoke to have learned how to manage by paying rent in advance, saving a percentage of their fees and/or getting a none sex work job that is less intensive. They then see the ‘in between bits’ as opportunities to socialise, relax, unwind, study… and save their money until their next booking/s.
Some sex workers we spoke to regularly attend classes to support their well-being such as yoga, mindfulness, Pilates, gentle movement, dance. Going to the gym or attending an exercise class is also a great way to recharge your batteries.
Did you know:
- Stress and anxiety can be made worse by a lack of oxygen in our systems.
- Breathing slowly into your belly (abdominal breathing) is a relaxation technique used by many and is often taught in stress management and relaxation classes.
- Gentle exercise increases your endorphins (happy chemicals) and helps to reduce the ‘stress hormone’ called cortisol.
Protecting your health in and out of work is an ongoing process and sometimes we need a little extra support. If our self-care routine isn’t working for us and we are in a state of stress, anxiety or physical burn out, some sex workers tell us that they seek outside professional support such as:
- Seeing a therapist, counsellor or attending a support group.
- Visiting/calling a supportive sex work project.
- Seeing their GP.
- Accessing a non-sex work specific mental health organisation.
- Some people describe how important online or in person peer support from other sex workers or none judgmental friends, was important to them for well-being.
When you feel you’re in crisis: If you reach a point where you begin to feel ill and you are concerned about your mental or physical well-being, it’s a good idea to:
- See your GP (Doctor) and talk this over with them. If you are in crisis, tell the receptionist and ask for an emergency appointment.
- Call 111, the NHS number where you can speak to a medical professional.
- If you are worried at all for your immediate safety due to poor mental or physical health – go to Accident and Emergency and ask to see the on-call mental health practitioner (this is usually a mental health nurse or doctor).
- If you are unable to do this call 999.
Some sex workers tell us that they have found it difficult to find a sex work friendly counsellor, medical professional or GP. Be aware of this – you might not want to disclose your job to begin with. Remember that you have the right to receive the same level of care as anyone else. To protect yourself in the immediacy – you might want to just discuss your symptoms. Later on, you can look for a sex work friendly practitioner once you are back on your feet.
We hope that the information in this document makes a positive difference to you in your work. Please do take a look at the following section on resources, links and useful contacts. This section includes information about where you can go if you want information and support generally, including if you have experienced a crime.