All laborers deserve respite: the restful moments that allow a body to charge up and be a human and not just a worker. And for the most part, conversations that promote healthy work-life balance have become more commonplace.
"Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness." writes Forbes, the big-daddy of all financial water-cooler talk.
Even tech companies (well-known for a 'work never stops', 24/7 workcycle) are taking a page out of the balance book, insisting that caring for yourself is 'essential for success', and will, ultimately, up your profit margins--or at least your creativity.
We know that. Or if we don't, the therm 'self-care' has been so much a part of the zeitgeist that it's almost a tired expression. So then why is it not part of normalized conversation when it comes to sex work?
It's time to acknowledge that not only is sex work labor that demands commensurate self care, but also that said labor is embodied.
Treat Your Body Like The Boxer It Is
What do we mean by embodied labor? It means that sex work is more akin to labor performed by other physical workers, such as dancers, star athletes, wrestlers, or entertainers. For sure, the concept of "labor embodied" originated with Marx, but you know, without a robust understanding of sex work and its place in the modern gamut of labor done with a body. The term "embodied labor" is one that is being coined by sex and sexuality scholars, and isn't in wide circulation--yet.
So for now, let's just agree that the work is physical, and, as such, providers must care for their bodies in kind.
Enter: baths, massages, foam rollers, acupuncture, ice packs, lux sleeping accommodations (ie, a hella good mattress).
Lush bath bombs can add up if you get more than a few, but Epsom salt is gold standard for sore, aching muscles, and Costco-sized quantities are extremely cheap. If you really want to save, get the unscented salts and add a few drops of your own essential oils to suit your ailments: lavender for headaches, eucalyptus for soreness or congestions, orange for mood adjustment (which can be a result of catering to the needs of others, and is necessary for all in care positions), and a host of other scents for all your needs.
If you have particularly generous clients, they may be willing to buy you nice bath products off your wishlist.
Just like any good boxer, make sure you're getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, taking your vitamins (collagen helps your bones and makes your skin look flawless), and stretching.
Make being your own boss work for you.
Let's talk about $$$$.
It's a racket that being a provider means you don't have access to the same resources as many other, full-time employees, such as Human Resources, retirement contributions, and benefits – but the good news is that it's relatively easy to find your own.
Making sure that you can go to the doctor if you need to, pay your taxes, get those student loans down, buy your grandmother a house (oh hey Destiny!), and get your teeth fixed are all THE MOST in terms of self-care. And the good news is that, in this day and age, there are all kinds of apps that can help you.
For savings, out of sight can sometimes mean out of mind, and that might be a great thing. Apps like Digit connect to your bank account and let you know how much you have on the daily, asking if you'd like to save. The money, which is moved into an external savings account, can be accessed any time you need it, but the fact that it resides in a place that is not your primary checking account means that it's slightly harder to spend. Digit can save a set amount for you daily, and/or set aside the change you have, rounding up. For example, if you buy a $3.25 cup of coffee, Digit will move the additional $.75 to your savings. You can set goals, and the app will reward you for getting close to your savings– with cash.
Want to set aside retirement, quarterly taxes, and/or healthcare expenses? Catch is a company that is sort of like a portable HR department, letting you cherry-pick what you need and discard what you don't. Every time you deposit money into your account, Catch asks if it's a pay check. If it is, then the app will ask permission to set aside different amount for the benefits you've chosen. Easy peasy.
Don't forget to set aside a little extra, to treat yourself.
The Christmas scene in Hustlers instantly became iconic, not only because it's the height of the film when things are really good, but also because it's the moment in which the workers were able to really splurge on one another – give each other gifts that usually come from men, not other women.
You don't have to get yourself a pair of the red-soled dream shoes in order to take care of yourself (in fact, if you want them but just can't hack the price tag, there are DIY tutorials all over the internet on how to turn your own soles red). But rewards are nice! After all, stickers worked wonders in elementary school – that conditioning is real, and not going away any time soon.
So, what makes you feel rewarded? Maybe it's a pedicure, a fancy collar for your cat, a new rice cooker (or a new used rice cooker from a thrift store), an upcycled jacket? Your work should also get to give you a little play, so set a budget for yourself and go for it.
No one owns your time, except you. This is one of the wonderful things about working as a contractor. And no matter how intensely interwoven your relationship is with your clients, you deserve to untangle, put the phone in your drawer, and have some down time.
Unplugging can have significant benefits for your mental and physical health.
"Screens deliver a never-ending barrage of new shiny things so we’re always craving for more and more, as hamsters trapped on a wheel.
Eyestrains, constant headaches, back and neck problems, attention span decrease, worse quality of our sleep, weaker social bonds, just to name a few."
You can be as balls-to-the-wall or as a low key about your unplugging as you like (example: the above link can be used as a digital detox bootcamp, if you really want to make a big lifestyle change) – it's your respite. Maybe unplugging looks like nature to you (and if so, there are an amazing number of cabins and retreats that are both high and low price points), or maybe it looks like turning your phone off but staying close to Netflix and a plate of oven nachos – either way, the point is to make time for yourself. Think of the care and consideration you give your clients, then give it to yourself ten times over.
It isn't easy to prioritize self-care, and its even harder when the world doesn't always recognize your labor. However, the tools available for robust and holistic work-life balance are all there– and most of them are low-cost or free. Make the choice. Make it mandatory. Make it sustainable.