young blonde woman meditating on the beach to prevent burnout

Overcoming burnout as a sex worker: Tips for self-care and recovery

If you’ve not experienced burnout, you probably know someone who has.

Sadly, burnout is a common issue throughout all modern industries, including sex work. From looking after your body to knowing the symptoms, there are strategies to prevent and heal this issue.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, we are looking at how you can tackle burnout. In this blog, you’ll find a complete guide to spotting and overcoming burnout as a sex worker.

Scroll down to start learning now.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a term that’s recently been making its way into mainstream conversations. But do you know the actual definition?

Burnout” is the state of being emotionally and physically exhausted from prolonged stress and often overwhelming work demands. Burnout stress and exhaustion are more intense than one-off stressful situations, manifesting in a “chronic” state of fatigue.

Symptoms of burnout include decreased work performance, loss of productivity, lack of motivation, detachment, and cynicism.

How does burnout specifically affect sex workers?

Burnout can occur in any career. However, for sex workers, it can show in different ways.

For example, alongside decreased work enjoyment and tiredness, sex workers may also be more vulnerable to exploitation and have a reduced ability to set healthy boundaries. This can lead to more negative situations, so staying vigilant about mental health is paramount for anyone in the adult industry.

Top signs of burnout to look for

Signs and symptoms of burnout can look different for everyone. It’s good to be familiar with the general signals, as these are the most common ones sex workers experience.

The most prevalent signs of burnout include:

  • Chronic exhaustion and fatigue — even after lots of rest
  • Lack of motivation, productivity, and desire to do anything
  • Detachment towards work and hobbies
  • Increased impatience, irritability, and a general bad mood
  • Lowered concentration & poor decision making
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep — or any general sleep disturbances
  • Ignoring personal needs and self-care
  • Escapist behaviours, e.g. excessive TV or social media usage or reliance on alcohol/drugs
  • Withdrawal from social situations and increased isolation

When left untreated, burnout can cause all symptoms. Therefore, if you notice one or two of them, ensure you take action to prevent the issue from worsening.

mental health support group man talking to the group

How can sex workers prevent burnout?

The best way to avoid becoming burnt out is via prevention. Prevention techniques are barriers put in place to stop burnout from ever occurring.

A popular burnout prevention technique is establishing strict work-life boundaries. In the digital age, allowing work to creep into your personal life is easy. However, giving clients strict contact hours and ensuring you don’t reply to messages 24/7 will positively affect your well-being.

Similarly to setting concrete working hours, sex workers should ensure they’re taking regular breaks. Time off the clock allows you to rest and rejuvenate, which is ideal for relieving stress. This also helps you approach work with a healthier mindset, thus getting better reviews and giving better services.

Building a self-care ritual is another good way to prevent burnout. Self-care is often prescribed as a recovery technique, but incorporating it into your daily life can help prevent burnout.

Another great way to prevent burnout is by checking your mental well-being. For example, regular reflection gives sex workers a chance to understand their feelings and whether they need to change their work lives to prevent their mental health from worsening.

Of course, if you’re already burnt out, prevention isn’t the route to take. However, as soon as you recover, your daily schedule and work commitments should be rearranged to prevent future burnouts.

Self-care techniques for recovering from burnout

Recovering from burnout may seem like a daunting task. However, you can slowly heal yourself by focusing on the journey, not the result. Here are some top strategies to use if you’ve burned out from work.

Prioritise rest

Firstly, if you’re burned out, prioritising rest is crucial. Even if you are sleeping well, don’t keep going. Relax and take your mind away from work. Pushing yourself when your burnout will only worsen how you feel.

Take some time away from work

For some, it may be beneficial to take some time off work. This won’t be possible for everyone. However, if your lifestyle allows you to step away from work for a while, take advantage of it. This way, you can focus on healing and return when you are in a better mindset.

Explore mindfulness

Mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but it can be very beneficial to anyone experiencing burnout. Experiment with different relaxation techniques to see which work for you. Popular options include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or slow yoga. Each works to reduce stress and emphasise calm, which is ideal for anyone needing a slice of zen.

Seek assistance from professionals and peers

If you’re not interested in mindfulness, talking with peers or professionals could be the route for you. A support network allows you to vent and discuss your experiences with like-minded people, and this can help you let out frustrations while you gain a new perspective on the situation.

Sex worker communities can be found on online forums or through sex work-focused charities. Alternatively, if you want professional attention, sex work-positive therapists and counsellors are available to help.

Focus on your body

Finally, it’s essential to remember that burnout isn’t just a mental issue. It can affect your body, too.

Focus on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet to nourish your body and mind. If you can, exercise gently to get your blood flowing and regulate your sleep cycles. These two ideas are simple, but they’re the foundations of good health.

woman leaning back in the armchair relaxing with a smile on her face

Managing stress and burnout: Sex worker friendly coping mechanisms

A coping mechanism is a strategy used to reduce stress and unpleasant emotions. If you’re feeling burned out, use these coping mechanisms to soothe yourself.

Give yourself time

Look at your schedule. Is it overbooked? If you’re burning out, it likely is.

Rejig your work life to ensure you have breathing space between clients and sessions. Jumping from one to the next doesn’t give you time to relax in between, and it’s a one-way ticket to exhausting yourself.

Disconnect from social media

Do you know how much time you spend on social media?

Endlessly scrolling and using social media as escapism is a common issue today. If you notice yourself numbing out and using social media as a crutch, it might be time to be screen-free for a while.

Disconnect from your feed and enjoy the quiet moments. This can help to reduce stress, improve mindfulness, and help you make better decisions.

Reinforce your boundaries

Boundaries come up repeatedly but are so important and can’t be ignored.

If you notice you’re not feeling like yourself, take a moment and look at your client interactions. Are clients pushing you to lower your prices? Has anyone tried to book an appointment outside of your work hours? Is there one client that just won’t stop messaging?

All of these issues can be overwhelming. It takes strength, but reasserting your boundaries is crucial in these instances. Often, clients are polite and apologetic. And if they leave? Great! You don’t have to deal with them anymore.

The takeaway

Burnout affects everyone, including sex workers, so it’s essential to be vigilant of the signs and steps to recovery. When left unchecked, burnout takes even longer to heal. Therefore, catching it as early as possible is a must. Always ensure you’re sticking to your boundaries, prioritising rest, and checking in with yourself for the best results.

Want more sex worker wellness content? Jump to the Vivastreet blog here.

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