Practical Advice: Winter

I've been reading a lot of tweets and posts about seasonal business slowdown, so I thought I'd post an excerpt on winter and self care from Thriving in Sex Work.

Sex work can get challenging during the winter holidays—it’s a simple fact of life. If you’re anything like me, dreary weather along with ubiquitous peppy messages to be merry, consume mindlessly, and spend time with loved ones is an annual assault on the spirit. If you’re estranged from your family or in the closet, this can make the holidays especially difficult. Even if you adore winter—you were born at the North Pole and polar bear blood courses through your veins—it’s still cold-and-flu season. Most clients have family and work obligations, so business invariably slows down. Seasonal realities of the sex industry can reinforce depression and isolation, resulting in a downward spiral. I’ve worked Christmas Day in a strip club; it takes a stiff spine to work that shift.

Year’s end is also when people typically take stock of their lives, and it’s no secret that people who pay for sexuality are usually working out (or, just as likely, denying) unhappiness in their lives. Clients, desperate to avoid drowning in disappointment and emptiness, act out or check out. Longtime regulars may resolve that this will be the year they quit seeing sex workers, so it can be a time of high attrition as well.

The first year I worked as a call girl, I made a huge mistake thinking the holiday slowdown was my fault—I just wasn’t making myself available enough. So I set aside more and more hours to sit by the phone as it rang less and less. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was a hot mess. And then there was a terrible feeling of abandonment when that client who came to see me religiously every week didn’t even text to say “hi” for the entire month of December. January rolled around, and he popped up again like nothing had happened. Bastard.

While all that sucks, holidays happen every year. Plan ahead for how you’re going to spend your time while work is slow. I provide an extended list of activities and tips for getting through the holiday blues here.

  • If there’s a creative project you’ve been ignoring, dust it off and dig in.
  • Get out to movies, concerts, museums. Feed your artistic mind.
  • Download a bunch of new music. Tickle your brain with new tunes.
  • Line up your Netflix wish list and fall in love with some great new characters.
  • Make sure you get to the gym every day, no matter what, unless you’re dead on your back in bed with the flu. Depression flourishes in inertia.
  • Take a dance or yoga class.
  • Every single chance you can, get outside and walk. Fresh air and sunshine are depression’s mortal enemies. Even if it’s a cloudy day, look up. Take in what light there is in the sky.
  • Don’t discount purchasing a sun lamp or a membership to a tanning salon—I’m a big believer in the restorative powers of Vitamin D.
  • Indulge in some retail therapy? Yeah, ok, if it feeds you. But just like drugs, food, and alcohol, the desperate spirit of the season cheers us on to mindlessly over-indulge. Hangover, self-loathing, and regret are the inevitable results. Practicing moderation, or abstinence if need be, is the true gift of self-care.
  • Do not isolate—loneliness is depression’s BFF. Accept invitations and offer them.
  • Don’t forget volunteering. It’s amazing how the act of helping others gets us out of our shells.
  • Post fixed hours for responding to calls and emails, then stick to those hours. Get the hell out of the house or the dungeon when you’re not available. Under no circumstances spend December thinking if you just check your phone every five minutes you’ll land that last-minute call. If you find yourself obsessing, notice you’re doing it, ask yourself to please stop, and redirect all that excellent energy into something positive.

If this is a spiritual time of year for you, feed that need. Denying your connection to the divine is dehumanizing. Please don’t fall into the trap of seeing yourself as unworthy.

Surviving the holidays intact is a worthwhile goal. Strategize how to mitigate the pressures of the season ahead of time; don’t wait until the last minute. It’s an excellent time to practice the very best self-care and visualize your goals for the New Year.