Self-care can be hard enough on an average day, but juggling it with vending at a convention and all the stresses that come with that and it can seem like a fruitless effort. However, there are lots of things you can do to take care of yourself during and after selling at a con.
First of all, before you even head to the show, you’re going to want to do some research and planning. Homework time! One of the best things about being in the age of the internet is that we can do a lot of pre-work to prep.
Where You’ll Be
Make sure you’re looking at hotels that are actually close enough and have the amenities you need. If nature and sunlight help you, look for that. If your hotel includes breakfast, get up in time and have it! Eat as much as you can, and save yourself from being starving an hour into the convention floor opening. And also from spending time in long lines for more overpriced con food. Start the day with breakfast, and grab coffee, a large bottle or several of water, and pack some snacks for the day.
Look at the convention space and know the layout. Where are the bathrooms and exits? What are the routes to those from your booth? Find out if the convention offers a quiet room – more have been offering this option in recent years. Know where food options are.
Some of the things that will help with taking care of yourself overlap with my previous blog post about packing for con. Pack a refillable water bottle, healthy and comforting snacks for the room and the table. Comfy shoes, comfy clothes, and layers in case the convention space gets colder or warmer than expected. Hand sanitizer and all your meds. Christina Vasilevski suggests packing a few familiar comfort items such as a pillow, a book, or your favorite tea.
Don’t Go It Alone
Bring someone with you. This is a HUGE thing. Whether it’s a partner, friend, family member, or you share the table with another artist, being NOT ALONE is huge. Even the smallest tables usually include 2 badges. Make sure you use them. The best thing is to have a partner at your table so you can relieve each other, give each other breaks, make food/coffee/water runs for each other. Don’t be afraid to leave your partner in charge for a bit and walk away when you need to. Take breaks. Don’t force yourself to stay at the table if it’s just too much in the moment.
Establish and then stick to boundaries, such as time limits between breaks for each person at the table. Most artist alley tables mean you’ll have a table between yourself and your fans and customers. If you have a larger booth, you have the option of opening up your set-up so you can interact more directly. Know your limits. If that’s not a thing you can do comfortably, it’s okay to stay with the behind-the-table setup. Bring fidget toys if they help you.
Some of our friends have an assortment of tactile toys and a pop-up tent that fits one camp chair at their booths at larger shows. This allows for both those of us working the booth and even sometimes people visiting as guests to hide and just block things out for a bit when stimulation overload happens. At smaller shows where they can’t bring the pop-up, they always try to make sure there is room to hide under at least one of their tables.
If things get overwhelming and anxiety threatens to take over, Sarah walks us through some grounding techniques to help.
Geek and Sundry gives some more convention survival tips, including information about an app that might be of help to some of us for self-care at conventions.
Give yourself time
There’s more self-care to be done after the convention ends. Josh Vogt talks about making sure to bookend your convention with days off and also, unless it helps you de-stress, don’t worry about unpacking right away when you get home. Take a little time to reboot and reconnect before jumping straight from con mode back to daily life. Decompress, but feel free to talk about your experience on social media. Allow yourself time to get back into your regular routine and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Most importantly, just remember to look after yourself.