Addressing Self Care

Addressing Self Care

Great work has been done in the larp community to improve player safety and comfort, but many of the techniques and methods are useless without the players prioritizing self care. Larp organizers can design safety measures, workshop them, and insist on the use of safe words, but it’s useless unless you, as a player, also pay attention to your own needs and actually use them. This article is about why self care should be your top priority as a player — and how to practise it. It will also address how your attitude to self care affects the community and how self care can enable you to be bold and go outside your comfort zone in a larp.

What Is Self Care?

Self care is about identifying your own needs and taking steps to address them. It’s about both taking preventive measures and fixing things when they’ve gone wrong. Self care is something that is done before, during, and after the larp.

Self care is your responsibility. While it’s important that we support and help each other, you are the person best positioned to take care of your own needs. You can’t feel if someone else has a headache coming on. You can’t rest for anyone else. You can’t drink water for anyone else. You can’t feel where anyone else’s boundaries are if they haven’t shared them, or (generally) be aware when someone else’s existing injury or health condition starts acting up.

You can do these things for yourself, however. You’re the person best suited to identify, take care of, and communicate your needs and boundaries. If you don’t do this, no one else can. Short and simple.

Examples of Self Care

Self care is a responsibility, and responsibilities aren’t always fun. In reality, self care is often boring and adult decisions, not bath bombs by candlelight.

For example, self care can mean:

  • Not hanging out with friends in the week before the larp, because you need to take it easy in order to have the energy to enjoy the larp.
  • Missing out on the cool scene in the woods, because your bad knee will hurt like hell if you do.
  • Putting on an ugly sweater that doesn’t fit your character’s aesthetic instead getting cold.
  • Going to bed early, despite your fear of missing out.
  • Taking the time to put on a bandaid on a blister.
  • Being mindful of your medical conditions
  • Communicating your boundaries to your co-players, even if it feels hard to bring them up.
  • Asking for help, even if you’re afraid to do so.
  • Going to the out of character area to call your partner and talk.
  • Leaving the larp early.
  • Not hanging out with your friends after the larp to recharge your batteries.

Self care can be whatever you need to do or not do to take care of yourself, but if it affects other players, please talk to them so that you don’t impose on someone else’s well being by accident. For example, you might need to listen to music to relax before bed, while other people might need silence.

Most of the things on the list aren’t fun, but they will enable you to have a much better larp experience and/or affect your well-being during or after the larp. It may not be fun, but it is worth it.

You Can Do Crazy Cool Stuff

If you want to challenge yourself, take risks, and do crazy cool stuff, you need to do self care too:

  • Do you want to swing down from the chandelier, Robin Hood style? Then you better take care of your old shoulder injury and find a way to help out before the larp that doesn’t involve carrying heavy equipment.
  • Do you want to have the most intense emotional experience ever? Then you better get enough sleep before the larp instead pulling an all-nighter to sew the perfect costume — unless you want to play “crying from exhaustion in a really nice outfit.”
  • Do you want to play the sexy evil demon? Then you better have that uncomfortable conversation with your ex about boundaries before the larp, rather than end up hiding in your room to avoid an uncomfortable scene.

If you had prioritized self care — by settling for a less perfect costume, sleeping before the larp, treating your shoulder well, and telling your ex you need some space to play your sexy demon character — then you’d get to do all the cool stuff. Self care enables you. It lets you do things you wouldn’t normally be able to do. Self care lets you take risks and push yourself further, and catch yourself if you fall. Self care will give you and your fellow players a better larp.

Your Attitude Affects Everyone

Your self care isn’t just about you — it also affects everyone else. And not just everyone’s safety, but also how cool the game will be.

First, on safety — larps are filled with the kinds of people who routinely put others first, even at the cost of their own wellbeing. While these folks are super nice, they can set a bad example by pushing themselves too far — to the point of exhaustion or even to physically or emotionally hurting themselves. This creates a culture that normalizes this, leading others to follow their example, meaning more folks get hurt.

Second, on the cool stuff. A larp is more than the sum of its parts. If everyone at a game is able to push themselves a little bit further and do something a bit crazier and cooler, the net effect on everyone’s experience is much bigger than what they were able to do alone. If everyone else does their part in self care, we all win.

Self care isn’t selfish. It is smart and kind and cool. Therefore, make self care your first priority. If not for your own sake, then for the sake of everyone else.

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Elin Dalstål (b. 1986) has been a larper and organizer since 2002, based in northern Sweden. She has organized larps and convententions and been on the board of several larp organisations.