#GeekGirlTalk: Self-Care During GeekGirlCon ’19

Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:

Teal (roman type!)
Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek

Hanna (italics, baby!)
Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever

Welcome to Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. Leading up to next weekend, we’re coming through with a special edition of Geek Girl Talk where we’ll be talking through our respective self-care plans for GeekGirlCon ‘19. The con is coming up on the weekend of November 16 and 17. If you haven’t yet, get your passes here!

I’ll start the conversation with an admission: As much as it pains me to say it, a lot of my excitement about attending conventions tends to be ultimately overwhelmed by anxiety. There’s some irony in that, I know. I spend months writing about an event that, when it comes down to it, ends up being one of the weekends I feel most drained and on-edge of the year. But, I also feel like that goes to show how much unique value I find in our con and organization; I’m beyond willing to support and show up for this thing, and I’m willing to do the work to manage my mental health well enough to make sure I can continue to sustainably. I have lots of tips and tricks and successes and horror stories about attending GeekGirlCon as a person with a lot of social anxiety, but before I get into that, Hanna, I’d love to know specifics about your relationship with mental health and con-going. 

For me, GeekGirlCon weekend brings up the same cycle of emotions I experience around most social activities. I’m an anxious, people-pleasing, Cancer-moon, easily-overwhelmed, introvert with extroverted tendencies, which essentially means that my emotional journey around going to the con looks something like this: 

  • Stage 1: Total excitement. I can do this and that and definitely that other thing too! I’m ready for anything!
  • Stage 2: The first twinges of dread set in. I must once again come to terms with the sad gulf between my previous anticipation and the dawning certainty that I’ve completely over-committed myself.
  • Stage 3: Full regret. Why do I do this to myself? Why am I not at home with my blankets and snacks and Bon Appetit YouTube videos??
  • Stage 4: Actual enjoyment. Wow, finally! This is great and exciting! Oh, the sweetness of life!
  • Stage 4: Panic. When did the lights get so bright, and why didn’t I charge my phone more, and how are there so many people here?!
  • Stage 5: Acceptance. It will all be fine. Just a few more hours, and I’ll be safe at home, rewatching Clair and Brad make sourdough for the 50th time.
  • Stage 6: Post-event exhaustion. Time for coffee, silent contemplation, and long naps in a dark room.
  • Stage 7: Relief and exhilaration. I did it! This was the best!!! Bring on next year’s con!

All of this is to say that, my first year at GeekGirlCon was incredibly fun and exciting and full of joy, AND I also found myself sitting outside of Introvert Alley on Sunday, totally drained and crying to my sister over the phone.

What I’ve found to be most important in navigating the highs and lows of mental health during such a jam-packed weekend is accepting my own experience rather than fighting it. At this point, I’d much rather take a ten-minute break to get coffee or sit in a quiet corner and scroll through Instagram than push through and end up even more exhausted. One of the things I love most about GeekGirlCon is exactly this acceptance and validation of everyone’s con-going experience. The fact that there is an Introvert Alley in the first place is a testament to the fact that conventions are loud, busy, crowded, logistically complex, and physically draining, and that no one should feel pressure to act superhuman in order to “fully participate” in the con-going experience.

Teal, I would love to know more about your tips, tricks, successes, and horror stories! 

Once, something like seven years ago, I went to LeakyCon when it stopped by Portland. And while it was cool and fun in so many ways, I fully committed to that aforementioned superhuman level of participation (i.e. not sleeping, eating, or drinking water for approximately 72 hours), and the toll that series of choices took on my body and mind has tainted my relationship with cons to this day. In fact, since then, I’ve ultimately turned down every opportunity to attend anything of that scale besides GeekGirlCon. And that’s not even to mention the fact that my actual memories of that weekend are so warped because of how tired and anxious I was the whole time. So, long story short, don’t forget that committing to self-care over the weekend is fully participating.

Because it’s the one time per year I face a lot of my fears (lifelong and LeakyCon-induced alike), my approach to GeekGirlCon is very strategic. I start with a modest plan of action, knowing I can easily do more if I want/need, and give myself pre-permission to skip anything as needed. And here’s the magic of this approach: my internal/emotional experience of GeekGirlCon is way deeper and impactful than it would be if I relentlessly attended every bit of programming I am even slightly interested in (which, let’s be real, is basically everything). 

Here’s a very low-quality photo of Hanna and I having A Time at GeekGirlCon last year! [Image Description: A selfie of Teal and Hanna. They’re both wearing the blue GeekGirlCon Agent t-shirts from GeekGirlCon ’18. The photo has a pretty low resolution.]

Hanna, I think a useful way to get into our specific insights and tips about GeekGirlCon might be making a list? Here goes nothing!

A randomly arranged list of dos and don’ts for GeekGirlCon:

  • Prioritize the basics. Sleep enough, eat enough, carry around a water bottle even though it’s inconvenient. I consistently over-indulge when it comes to caffeine, and that’ll definitely be true during the con, but I plan to do my best to counteract that habit with lots of snacks and lots of water! Plan this all into your itinerary, and if you need to eat/drink/chill at an unexpected time, I swear you’ll be better off taking a moment to do that instead of pushing ahead with your original schedule
  • Don’t be afraid to change your no doubt meticulously prepared schedule if you need to. Yes, you might want to go to a meetup followed by a workshop followed by a panel followed by another meetup, but what you need to do is let yourself take breaks every so often. Change up your schedule, let things go, and give yourself the space to be flexible.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if/when your needs make showing up to every bit of programming impossible because, at the end of the day, the Thing is still happening, and you still are a part of it. The fact that GeekGirlCon exists at all is basically a miracle, and that’s the perspective I try to keep as my burnout increases, and I find myself starting to sit out of things. 
  • When in doubt, find a quiet (or, at least, relatively quiet) place to chill. My 90-year-old grandma ended up stopping by the convention last year (a long story) and we easily found a spot to sit down, chat, and enjoy watching the rest of the con flow past us without even having to raise our voices to be heard. 
  • Another basic: Wear comfy shoes! Unless you’re cosplaying, in which case, you are a goddess to me and I have no advice to give, prioritize comfort in this one area specifically. I make this mistake perennially, and I promised myself not to do it again this year!
  • Be honest about your limitations and needs with whoever your con-buddies are. Coming to GeekGirlCon solo? Great! Be honest with yourself. Have a group? Congratulations, you’re a team now, and teams support each other and respect each other’s needs.
  • Get out of the Conference Center every once in a while! Maybe that means swinging over to Starbucks to grab a hot tea or maybe it means just taking a relaxed walk around the block. I know it’s cold in Seattle right now, but I’ve found that getting outside during the breaks I set for myself really helps me refocus. 
  • Treat yourself. No, this certainly doesn’t mean that you have to buy everything in the Exhibition Hall (though I for one am a true sucker for any and all art prints). Sure, if you’re able to, picking up a few items can be a great way to connect with and support your favorite vendors, but treating yourself can be as simple as going to that one panel that makes your heart sing even if no one else wants to come with you. Every year, I try to think of GeekGirlCon as a present that I give myself–one weekend to geek out over incredible creators and talk about all my favorite media and gather with thousands of enthusiastic, awesome people–which helps me emerge on Monday feeling refreshed and fulfilled, rather than just drained.

I think I speak for the both of us when I say that we would LOVE any and all tips y’all might have for surviving and thriving at GeekGirlCon ’19. Tweet us at @TealChristensen and @HuppTwoThree, and we can all work together to cultivate the geekiest practice of self-care the world’s ever seen.

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Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Teal Christensen

Teal is a recently-graduated English literature student with more unfinalized future plans than favorite songs from Hamilton. Her main hobbies are reading books, thinking about books, and talking about books.

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