who else loves method

Updated: February 2021

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re scared by the idea of catching some sort of STD. Or at least you have been in the past. That night you got drunk and didn’t have a condom but went for it anyway. Or maybe you hooked up with someone who had a reputation for sleeping with every third person in the phone book.

Perhaps you freaked out and rushed to get tested the next morning. Maybe you started Googling around frantically to convince yourself that you’re OK, only to find horrifying images and statistics about how people lost internal organs, limbs and never, ever had sex again because they were so hideously deformed by some pesky infection… Your mind begins racing, your liver DOES hurt, you think to yourself. It must be an early onset of AIDS. Obviously…

HIV virusThe unfortunate thing about STD “education” is that it focuses on very specific information: symptoms, treatments, and every worst-case scenario. The real-world experiences and probabilities are absent. Down-to-earth guidance on how this information should affect your behavior is usually glossed over—telling you to abstain from having sex (yeah right) and to use a condom (even though it doesn’t prevent everything).

As a result, people start getting paranoid and some serious social stigmas develop.

What’s never discussed is the actual prevalence of STDs, the realistic chance of catching these STDs, or what the experience of catching them would be like.

Get the Facts: Know Your Chances

I still remember the night a girl I was dating told me that she had HPV. I felt like I was going to vomit. I immediately imagined that my penis had morphed into a giant tumor, shooting pellets of cancer into girls’ cervices. Or the time one of my best friends told me over the phone that he had what appeared to be a herpes breakout. I nearly cried for the guy. Holy shit. What was he going to do? No woman would ever date him again.

But as I learned more, got tested more, spoke to more doctors and did more research, I realized that the truth about STDs is more complicated than previously assumed and that getting many of them would be a far more benign experience than I ever imagined.

For instance, there are 40 strains of sexually transmitted HPV, and only two of them lead to most cervical cancers in women,1 and that’s assuming it’s left untreated for years or decades, and THAT is assuming she hasn’t already been vaccinated, and then even if she does get cervical cancer it’s very unlikely to be fatal. So what I assumed was my cancer-laden pee-shooter in my pants actually had something like a 1/20 x 1/2 x 1/100 x 1/10 chance of actually killing a girl.2,3

The more I’ve learned about STDs, the more I’ve encouraged people to relax a little bit about them. I know that sounds crazy, but seriously, relax. Use a condom. Get tested by your healthcare provider periodically. Stay away from the people with crack habits. Do that, and you’re going to be fine. Seriously.

For instance, about 1 in 2,200 people are diagnosed with syphilis in the United States each year.4 By contrast, you have a 1 in 106 chance of dying in a car accident in your lifetime,5 just to give you some perspective. And the difference is syphilis can be cured with a little penicillin. Car accidents are another story.

The reason most STD information is absolutely terrifying is because 1) terrifying information sells in the media and 2) religious nuts don’t want anybody to have fun.

We do a dismal job of sex education in our culture. And one product of ignorance is fear.

STD Risk Factors and Other Facts

What I aim to do with this article is to break down the most common STDs in the most realistic way possible. Statistics, symptoms, and treatments are listed. Sources are included. But I’m also going to list a couple of other things that you won’t find anywhere else: 1) what the experience of actually contracting that STD would be like, and 2) how likely you are to catch each STD if you had rampant unprotected sex.

In fact, I’ve put together a statistic of my own for each STD, the RAW Score. The RAW Score is a rough estimation of the average number of single Americans you would have to have unprotected penetrative sex with to contract that particular STD.

The RAW Score

  • Curable STDs: I divide the number of single individuals above the age of 15 in the US (approximately 130 million as of 2018/19)6,7 by the estimated number of new cases per year (which is higher than the reported number, obviously).
  • Incurable STDs: I use the number of the American population (about 327 million as of 2018)8 and divide by the number of Americans with that STD. I realize this method is ridiculous and flawed, but the numbers are so stark that it gets the point across nicely: you’re not likely to catch anything serious anytime soon.

And finally, I will say this again and again: use fucking protection. Don’t be an idiot. Use protection, get tested regularly. And one more time, in case some people can’t read: USE PROTECTION, GET TESTED REGULARLY

Chlamydia

Living With It: Uncomfortable… then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (2-4 Weeks)
US Incidence (new cases annually): 4 million9
RAW Score: 33 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Chlamydia is a relatively minor bacterial infection, mostly transferred through intercourse. In men, it’s uncomfortable and generally harmless. In women, there’s a chance that if untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to complications with pregnancies or even infertility.

Symptoms include burning pee and, dudes, your balls might ache. While 25% of men don’t experience symptoms, a full 70% of women do not experience any symptoms, which actually makes it more dangerous for women (most doctors recommend women screen for chlamydia at least once a year).10

Gonorrhea

Living With It: Painful. Hope for no pus. Then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (within a month)
US Incidence (new cases annually): 1.6 million11
RAW Score: 81 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Gonorrhea is chlamydia’s big brother. In fact, the two often occur together. The difference is that gonorrhea can be transferred via any orifice: penis, vagina, anus, mouth. It often takes a few weeks for symptoms to show up, and it’s even more unpleasant to deal with.12

The symptoms for gonorrhea include painful urination, aching balls for guys, swollen urethra, sore throat, and pus coming out of your genitals. Yes, that was pus coming out of your genitals.

As for treatment, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that since gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.

The bad news is that there’s been a rise in antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea in the past few years. There is only one class of antibiotics left that can treat it. And health officials are closely monitoring for signs of resistance to our last line of defense while new antibiotics are being researched.

So be careful.

Syphilis

Living With It: Itchy. Then 15 years later you go insane and kill yourself… (no, seriously.)
Curable: Yes
US Incidence (new cases annually): 146,00013
RAW Score: 890 Partners (no, that’s not a typo)
Condom Protects: No

The famous philosopher Nietzsche was a bit of a lush and had a fondness for prostitutes. Somewhere along the way, he contracted syphilis and his body began to wither from the inside out. Throughout this torturous process, he famously proclaimed “God is dead” and slowly slipped into dementia and died.

Syphilis was the 19th century’s version of the AIDS epidemic. It was famously cured by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and even though it hasn’t been much of an issue since, it is back on the rise, especially among gay men.14

Nietzsche syphilis, and the chances of getting an std
When not busy philosophizing, declaring God dead or playing with swords, Nietzsche enjoyed having syphilis.

Syphilis plays itself out in stages. The first stage is you develop a sore or sores (usually just one, but not always). This happens a few weeks after contracting the infection and the sore is generally painless. From there, after a few months, you break out into rashes. These rashes go on for weeks or months and eventually subside. From there, you have no symptoms. Then 15-20 years later your internal organs start bleeding, you lose control of your motor functions, and you start losing your mind.

So the moral of the story? Get tested sometime in the next 15 years… ya know, whenever you get a chance.

HPV (High-Risk and Low-Risk Strains)

Living With It: Anything from a temporary nuisance and some awkward conversations to hopefully just one (painful) operation for women.
Curable: No, but it typically leaves on its own after a few years. There is also a vaccine for women and men now15 (get it!).
US Prevalence (all existing cases): 42.5 million16
US Incidence (new cases annually): 13 million17
RAW Score: 8 Partners
Condom Protects: Not entirely. HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact and can also be on skin not covered by the condom.

HPV is where things begin to get interesting. HPV was the STD freak out in the media a few years back. If all you’ve heard is the few tidbits that get passed around, it sounds horrifying: You can get HPV from vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex and most sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives. It causes cancer, condoms don’t completely protect against it, and warts are going to cover your face and you’re going to suffocate to death.

This is all true. OK, the warts on the face and suffocation part isn’t, but the rest is. But what’s more important is the information you DON’T hear.

And here it is: there are over 200 strains of HPV and over 40 of them can be transmitted sexually.18,19 The virus is so common that nearly all sexually active people get infected at some point in their lives. Only some of those strains can cause symptoms: high-risk strains can cause cancer and low-risk strains can cause warts. However, most people never develop any symptoms, even if they do come in contact with the virus. If you do develop symptoms, there is a 91% chance that your body’s immune system will clear the symptoms within 2 years.20

The low-risk strains of the HPV-virus cause genital warts. These strains are called low-risk because they only cause warts and do not cause cancer. Warts sound terrible, but they’re relatively harmless and usually small and painless. There are several treatments available to get rid of them, from laser surgery to applying a cream for a few months.

The high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer in women, as well as some other types of cancer like throat and anal cancer. Actually, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. But here, again, it’s important to know that even most high-risk HPV infections occur without any symptoms, go away within 1 to 2 years, and do not cause cancer. It’s only when high-risk HPV infections persist for many years that they can lead to cell changes that, if untreated, can progress to cancer.

The good news is that women are getting checked more and more for lesions and/or abnormal cells on their cervix these days. A Pap test or Pap smear is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65.21

For women who do get lesions, they can have a procedure that prevents them from getting cervical cancer, but it’s pretty painful and follow-ups with your doctor are necessary. That said, you shouldn’t freak out too much about it as it can at least be managed if not completely “cured.”

Your immune system is important in dealing with the virus and preventing recurrences, so it pays to take care of your health if you find out you have HPV. Drink less alcohol,22 stop smoking,23 eat healthily, and take some supplements.24,25

Also, the HPV vaccine is being given to just about every girl under 26, and again, men can get it now too. The vaccine called Gardasil protects against two high-risk strains of HPV that together cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. It also protects against two low-risk strains of the virus that together cause 90% of genital warts. The newer Gardasil-9 vaccine protects against even more strains of the virus.26

So if you’re sexually active, chances are you’ve already got at least one strain of HPV. But again, most of the time this won’t cause any symptoms, and even if you do get symptoms, your immune system usually deals with it within 1-2 years.

Women should get regular screening for HPV once they reach a certain age. Unfortunately, there is no HPV screening for men. Men can only be diagnosed with HPV when they have visible warts. And that sucks, ruins your week, causes a lot of awkward conversations… but you move on and everything ends up being fine.

Genital Herpes

Living With It: There’s a good chance you already have it.
Curable: No, but who cares?
US Prevalence (all existing cases): 18.6 million27
US Incidence (new cases annually): 572,00028
RAW Score: 18 Partners
Condom Protects: No

So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that a shit ton of people have herpes (including probably myself). The good news is that the vast majority of people never show symptoms and don’t have the viral load required for it to show up in their blood levels.

I have to admit, herpes was the big one I was terrified of getting (the reason I’m not worried about HIV is below). Then I started researching it for this article and realized I probably already have it. And chances are you have it too!

See, there are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 usually causes breakouts around the mouth—we just call them cold sores or fever blisters. Almost 70% of the world population has HSV-1,29 although at any given time almost none of us have a breakout.

HSV-2 causes breakouts around the genitals.30 The majority of people never get breakouts or get such minor breakouts that they don’t even realize that it’s herpes. My friend who has had a breakout said that he originally thought his was just a bug bite. It wasn’t until a second one showed up that he decided to get it checked out. It’s been over three years and he hasn’t had another breakout since. He’s also in a monogamous relationship and his girlfriend has never had a breakout.

Herpes never goes away, but it’s relatively harmless. In fact, even if you do get breakouts, most people stop getting them after a couple of years. And if you’re one of the unlucky few who actually does get bad breakouts, you can take medication to suppress them. So there. Not worried about herpes anymore… After all, I probably already have it, and so do many of you.

HIV

Living With It: Expensive and stressful, but assuming you’re not African, you’ll live.
Curable: No
US Prevalence (all existing cases): 984,00031
US Incidence (new cases annually): 32,60032
RAW Score: 332 Partners (significantly fewer if engaging in anal sex)
Condom Protects: Yes

HIV is no longer the death warrant it once was. Don’t get me wrong, contracting it would be awful and surely life-altering. But you would live. I just hope you have good health insurance. Life expectancy for young people living in Europe and North America is only slightly lower than the general population provided you start treatment immediately after a positive HIV diagnosis.

That said, some demographics are far more likely to contract HIV than others: UNAIDS reports gay men and drug addicts who use dirty needles are both 24 times more likely to contract it than the general population globally. When it comes to vaginal sex, both men and women can contract HIV from an infected partner. Anal sex—whether it’s hetero- or homosexual—seems to be the big culprit here.

Also, I hate to say it, but HIV positive cases are predominantly lower-income classes. African-Americans account disproportionately for 42% of all HIV cases in the US.

But HIV infections have been declining to some degree in Europe and North America (more so in Europe).33 And in 2013, there were some very early accounts of people possibly being cured of the disease, and in 2020, stem cell therapy looks very promising.

The symptoms of HIV are flu-like symptoms a couple of weeks after contracting it. From there, your immune system slowly shuts down over a period of years. There are a lot of therapies and treatments available and most people who contract it can live functional, mostly normal lives, assuming they get the proper medical care. So the news on the HIV front over the past few decades has actually been mostly good.34

But still, use a damn condom.

Pregnancy

Living With It: Completely and irreversibly life-changing
Curable: Uhh… err…
US Prevalence: Your mom had it at least once
RAW Score: 75 Sexual Encounters35
Condom Protects: 85% effective36

Over the years I’ve had dozens of people ask me about STDs, many of them looking for information, but many of them simply looking for reassurance that they were not going to shrivel up and die. I always tell them that 1) they’re going to be fine, and 2) they should be far more worried about babies. Notice the 1 in 75 sexual encounters. That’s not 75 partners, that’s 75 occurrences of unprotected intercourse. That’s MUCH more likely than many of the STDs listed here.

I can tell you, in all of my years working as a dating coach, with all of my sexual partners, with all of the crazy hedonistic people I partied with, I’ve only known one person who had a herpes breakout, a few people with HPV, and one person who had chlamydia. I’ve never met or even heard of anyone with HIV. I’ve never met or heard of anyone with cervical cancer. I’ve never met or heard of anyone who contracted gonorrhea or syphilis. But I can think of probably a dozen people who have dealt with an unwanted pregnancy or had a major pregnancy scare.

Do not fuck around with this.

The chances of getting an std - woman with pregnancy test

As a woman, welcome to the growing population of single mothers. Everything is about to change. If you’re lucky, the guy will stick around and help. But if he doesn’t, good luck. Not only do single mothers juggle some of the hardest responsibilities in society, but children of single mothers often grow up to have behavioral and academic problems.

If you’re a man and you don’t want to be a deadbeat and run off, then you’re not in for an easy time by any means either. Prepare to cough up half of your paycheck for the next 18 years, even if she marries someone else, even if she becomes financially self-sufficient and you’re broke. You have to pay. The paternity laws in many US states are still heavily balanced in favor of mothers and so visitation rights, not to mention custody rights, can be hell to go through. If for some reason you and the mother don’t exactly get along, prepare to hire a good lawyer.

And even if a woman decides to not keep it, welcome to the most gut-wrenching experience of your life. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to deal with a legitimate pregnancy, but I know people who have—staunch, hardcore, liberal, don’t-give-a-fuck party-goers—and shit gets real fast. It’s easy to walk around and say, “I would do this or that,” but when it comes time to walk the walk, many people can’t stomach it. Or even if they can, they live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

So if you don’t want to be a mommy or daddy, get contraception. If you don’t know or trust someone, use protection. If you’re sexually active, get tested regularly. Have open conversations with your sexual partners about this stuff: “Have you been tested? Are you on birth control?” Yes, it’s awkward. But yes, it’s always worth it.

Stay smart and stay safe.

(Cover image: “Condoms” by Shawn Latta is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Footnotes

  1. WHO. (2020, Nov). Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
  2. The rough estimate is: 1/20 (the chance of me having a cancer-causing strain) x 1/2 (chance the woman isn’t vaccinated) x 1/100 (chance that it goes untreated) x 1/10 (chance of her dying from cervical cancer). And the grand total comes to: 1/40,000. It’s a very rough estimate, but you get the idea.
  3. The 1/10 chance of a woman dying from cervical cancer is a very rough estimate based on data from the UK’s National Health Service, according to which the chances of living for at least five years after being diagnosed with cervical cancer are 80%-99% if detected at Stage 1 (and far more often, cervical pre-cancers are detected rather than when it has become cancerous). According to the CDC, in 2017, the latest year for which incidence data are available, in the United States, 12,831 new cases of Cervical Cancer were reported among women, and 4,207 women died of this cancer. For every 100,000 women, 8 new Cervical Cancer cases were reported and 2 women died of this cancer, which, mind you, does not mean you have a 1 in 4 chance of dying.
  4. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  5. National Safety Council. (2021). Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2018.
  6. Census Bureau. (2020). Unmarried and Single Americans Week: September 20-26, 2020. The most recent STD stats used in this article are from 2018, so taking the population from that year (and this remained unchanged in 2019).
  7. STD stats are collected from the age of 15, hence the cut-off.
  8. Taking the population in 2018 as the most recent STD stats, as just mentioned, are from that year.
  9. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  10. Keegan, M. B., Diedrich, J. T., & Peipert, J. F. (2014). Chlamydia trachomatis Infection: Screening and Management. Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management : JCOM, 21(1), 30–38.
  11. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  12. Nelson, H. D., Zakher, B., Cantor, A., Deagas, M., & Pappas, M. (2014). Screening for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: Systematic Review to Update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US).
  13. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  14. CDC. (2019). Syphilis & MSM (Men Who Have Sex With Men) – CDC Fact Sheet.
  15. CDC. (2021). HPV and Men – Fact Sheet.
  16. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  17. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  18. Cancer.gov. (2021, January). HPV and Cancer.
  19. Planned Parenthood. (2021.) Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
  20. Schiffman, M., Castle, P. E., Maucort-Boulch, D., Wheeler, C. M., ALTS (Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance/Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions Triage Study) Group, & Plummer, M. (2007). A 2-Year Prospective Study of Human Papillomavirus Persistence among Women with a Cytological Diagnosis of Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance or Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 195(11), 1582–1589.
  21. CDC. (2019). What Should I Know About Screening?
  22. Torre, D. D., Burtscher, D., Soelder, E., Offermanns, V., Rasse, M., & Puelacher, W. (2018). Human papillomavirus prevalence in a Mid-European oral squamous cell cancer population: A cohort study. Oral Diseases, 24(6), 948–956.
  23. Wiley, D. J., Elashoff, D., Masongsong, E. V., Harper, D. M., Gylys, K. H., Silverberg, M. J., Cook, R. L., & Johnson-Hill, L. M. (2009). Smoking Enhances Risk for New External Genital Warts in Men. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(3), 1215–1234.
  24. Verhoeven, V., Renard, N., Makar, A., Van Royen, P., Bogers, J.-P., Lardon, F., Peeters, M., & Baay, M. (2013). Probiotics enhance the clearance of human papillomavirus-related cervical lesions: A prospective controlled pilot study. European Journal of Cancer Prevention: The Official Journal of the European Cancer Prevention Organisation (ECP), 22(1), 46–51.
  25. Piyathilake, C. J., Macaluso, M., Chambers, M. M., Badiga, S., Siddiqui, N. R., Bell, W. C., Edberg, J. C., Partridge, E. E., Alvarez, R. D., & Johanning, G. L. (2014). Folate and Vitamin B12 May Play a Critical Role in Lowering the HPV 16 Methylation–Associated Risk of Developing Higher Grades of CIN. Cancer Prevention Research, 7(11), 1128–1137.
  26. Cancer.gov. (2019). Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines.
  27. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  28. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  29. As opposed to 13% worldwide for HSV-2. (Same source)
  30. Groves, M. J. (2016). Genital Herpes: A Review. American Family Physician, 93(11), 928–934.
  31. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  32. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  33. Avert. (2020, August). HIV and AIDS in W & C Europe & N America Regional Overview.
  34. WHO. (2020, November). HIV/AIDS.
  35. A rough estimate. This is how it came about: For a couple trying to conceive, the odds of the woman becoming pregnant are 15% to 25% in any particular month. Supposing the couple have sex 3 times during the woman’s 5-day ovulation window (i.e. every other day, which is often the recommended frequency), they have roughly 1/5 chance of conceiving. The ovulation window is 1/5 of the month not counting menstruating days. This means if you randomly have sex with a woman in any given month with no protection, you have a 1/3 x 1/5 x 1/5 (i.e. 1/75) chance of ending up with a baby.
  36. Planned Parenthood. (2021). How effective are condoms?

IMO stuff about method is fab

Updated: February 2021

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re scared by the idea of catching some sort of STD. Or at least you have been in the past. That night you got drunk and didn’t have a condom but went for it anyway. Or maybe you hooked up with someone who had a reputation for sleeping with every third person in the phone book.

Perhaps you freaked out and rushed to get tested the next morning. Maybe you started Googling around frantically to convince yourself that you’re OK, only to find horrifying images and statistics about how people lost internal organs, limbs and never, ever had sex again because they were so hideously deformed by some pesky infection… Your mind begins racing, your liver DOES hurt, you think to yourself. It must be an early onset of AIDS. Obviously…

HIV virusThe unfortunate thing about STD “education” is that it focuses on very specific information: symptoms, treatments, and every worst-case scenario. The real-world experiences and probabilities are absent. Down-to-earth guidance on how this information should affect your behavior is usually glossed over—telling you to abstain from having sex (yeah right) and to use a condom (even though it doesn’t prevent everything).

As a result, people start getting paranoid and some serious social stigmas develop.

What’s never discussed is the actual prevalence of STDs, the realistic chance of catching these STDs, or what the experience of catching them would be like.

Get the Facts: Know Your Chances

I still remember the night a girl I was dating told me that she had HPV. I felt like I was going to vomit. I immediately imagined that my penis had morphed into a giant tumor, shooting pellets of cancer into girls’ cervices. Or the time one of my best friends told me over the phone that he had what appeared to be a herpes breakout. I nearly cried for the guy. Holy shit. What was he going to do? No woman would ever date him again.

But as I learned more, got tested more, spoke to more doctors and did more research, I realized that the truth about STDs is more complicated than previously assumed and that getting many of them would be a far more benign experience than I ever imagined.

For instance, there are 40 strains of sexually transmitted HPV, and only two of them lead to most cervical cancers in women,1 and that’s assuming it’s left untreated for years or decades, and THAT is assuming she hasn’t already been vaccinated, and then even if she does get cervical cancer it’s very unlikely to be fatal. So what I assumed was my cancer-laden pee-shooter in my pants actually had something like a 1/20 x 1/2 x 1/100 x 1/10 chance of actually killing a girl.2,3

The more I’ve learned about STDs, the more I’ve encouraged people to relax a little bit about them. I know that sounds crazy, but seriously, relax. Use a condom. Get tested by your healthcare provider periodically. Stay away from the people with crack habits. Do that, and you’re going to be fine. Seriously.

For instance, about 1 in 2,200 people are diagnosed with syphilis in the United States each year.4 By contrast, you have a 1 in 106 chance of dying in a car accident in your lifetime,5 just to give you some perspective. And the difference is syphilis can be cured with a little penicillin. Car accidents are another story.

The reason most STD information is absolutely terrifying is because 1) terrifying information sells in the media and 2) religious nuts don’t want anybody to have fun.

We do a dismal job of sex education in our culture. And one product of ignorance is fear.

STD Risk Factors and Other Facts

What I aim to do with this article is to break down the most common STDs in the most realistic way possible. Statistics, symptoms, and treatments are listed. Sources are included. But I’m also going to list a couple of other things that you won’t find anywhere else: 1) what the experience of actually contracting that STD would be like, and 2) how likely you are to catch each STD if you had rampant unprotected sex.

In fact, I’ve put together a statistic of my own for each STD, the RAW Score. The RAW Score is a rough estimation of the average number of single Americans you would have to have unprotected penetrative sex with to contract that particular STD.

The RAW Score

  • Curable STDs: I divide the number of single individuals above the age of 15 in the US (approximately 130 million as of 2018/19)6,7 by the estimated number of new cases per year (which is higher than the reported number, obviously).
  • Incurable STDs: I use the number of the American population (about 327 million as of 2018)8 and divide by the number of Americans with that STD. I realize this method is ridiculous and flawed, but the numbers are so stark that it gets the point across nicely: you’re not likely to catch anything serious anytime soon.

And finally, I will say this again and again: use fucking protection. Don’t be an idiot. Use protection, get tested regularly. And one more time, in case some people can’t read: USE PROTECTION, GET TESTED REGULARLY

Chlamydia

Living With It: Uncomfortable… then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (2-4 Weeks)
US Incidence (new cases annually): 4 million9
RAW Score: 33 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Chlamydia is a relatively minor bacterial infection, mostly transferred through intercourse. In men, it’s uncomfortable and generally harmless. In women, there’s a chance that if untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to complications with pregnancies or even infertility.

Symptoms include burning pee and, dudes, your balls might ache. While 25% of men don’t experience symptoms, a full 70% of women do not experience any symptoms, which actually makes it more dangerous for women (most doctors recommend women screen for chlamydia at least once a year).10

Gonorrhea

Living With It: Painful. Hope for no pus. Then you take some pills and it’s gone.
Curable: Yes (within a month)
US Incidence (new cases annually): 1.6 million11
RAW Score: 81 Partners
Condom Protects: Yes

Gonorrhea is chlamydia’s big brother. In fact, the two often occur together. The difference is that gonorrhea can be transferred via any orifice: penis, vagina, anus, mouth. It often takes a few weeks for symptoms to show up, and it’s even more unpleasant to deal with.12

The symptoms for gonorrhea include painful urination, aching balls for guys, swollen urethra, sore throat, and pus coming out of your genitals. Yes, that was pus coming out of your genitals.

As for treatment, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that since gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.

The bad news is that there’s been a rise in antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea in the past few years. There is only one class of antibiotics left that can treat it. And health officials are closely monitoring for signs of resistance to our last line of defense while new antibiotics are being researched.

So be careful.

Syphilis

Living With It: Itchy. Then 15 years later you go insane and kill yourself… (no, seriously.)
Curable: Yes
US Incidence (new cases annually): 146,00013
RAW Score: 890 Partners (no, that’s not a typo)
Condom Protects: No

The famous philosopher Nietzsche was a bit of a lush and had a fondness for prostitutes. Somewhere along the way, he contracted syphilis and his body began to wither from the inside out. Throughout this torturous process, he famously proclaimed “God is dead” and slowly slipped into dementia and died.

Syphilis was the 19th century’s version of the AIDS epidemic. It was famously cured by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and even though it hasn’t been much of an issue since, it is back on the rise, especially among gay men.14

Nietzsche syphilis, and the chances of getting an std
When not busy philosophizing, declaring God dead or playing with swords, Nietzsche enjoyed having syphilis.

Syphilis plays itself out in stages. The first stage is you develop a sore or sores (usually just one, but not always). This happens a few weeks after contracting the infection and the sore is generally painless. From there, after a few months, you break out into rashes. These rashes go on for weeks or months and eventually subside. From there, you have no symptoms. Then 15-20 years later your internal organs start bleeding, you lose control of your motor functions, and you start losing your mind.

So the moral of the story? Get tested sometime in the next 15 years… ya know, whenever you get a chance.

HPV (High-Risk and Low-Risk Strains)

Living With It: Anything from a temporary nuisance and some awkward conversations to hopefully just one (painful) operation for women.
Curable: No, but it typically leaves on its own after a few years. There is also a vaccine for women and men now15 (get it!).
US Prevalence (all existing cases): 42.5 million16
US Incidence (new cases annually): 13 million17
RAW Score: 8 Partners
Condom Protects: Not entirely. HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact and can also be on skin not covered by the condom.

HPV is where things begin to get interesting. HPV was the STD freak out in the media a few years back. If all you’ve heard is the few tidbits that get passed around, it sounds horrifying: You can get HPV from vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex and most sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives. It causes cancer, condoms don’t completely protect against it, and warts are going to cover your face and you’re going to suffocate to death.

This is all true. OK, the warts on the face and suffocation part isn’t, but the rest is. But what’s more important is the information you DON’T hear.

And here it is: there are over 200 strains of HPV and over 40 of them can be transmitted sexually.18,19 The virus is so common that nearly all sexually active people get infected at some point in their lives. Only some of those strains can cause symptoms: high-risk strains can cause cancer and low-risk strains can cause warts. However, most people never develop any symptoms, even if they do come in contact with the virus. If you do develop symptoms, there is a 91% chance that your body’s immune system will clear the symptoms within 2 years.20

The low-risk strains of the HPV-virus cause genital warts. These strains are called low-risk because they only cause warts and do not cause cancer. Warts sound terrible, but they’re relatively harmless and usually small and painless. There are several treatments available to get rid of them, from laser surgery to applying a cream for a few months.

The high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer in women, as well as some other types of cancer like throat and anal cancer. Actually, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. But here, again, it’s important to know that even most high-risk HPV infections occur without any symptoms, go away within 1 to 2 years, and do not cause cancer. It’s only when high-risk HPV infections persist for many years that they can lead to cell changes that, if untreated, can progress to cancer.

The good news is that women are getting checked more and more for lesions and/or abnormal cells on their cervix these days. A Pap test or Pap smear is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65.21

For women who do get lesions, they can have a procedure that prevents them from getting cervical cancer, but it’s pretty painful and follow-ups with your doctor are necessary. That said, you shouldn’t freak out too much about it as it can at least be managed if not completely “cured.”

Your immune system is important in dealing with the virus and preventing recurrences, so it pays to take care of your health if you find out you have HPV. Drink less alcohol,22 stop smoking,23 eat healthily, and take some supplements.24,25

Also, the HPV vaccine is being given to just about every girl under 26, and again, men can get it now too. The vaccine called Gardasil protects against two high-risk strains of HPV that together cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. It also protects against two low-risk strains of the virus that together cause 90% of genital warts. The newer Gardasil-9 vaccine protects against even more strains of the virus.26

So if you’re sexually active, chances are you’ve already got at least one strain of HPV. But again, most of the time this won’t cause any symptoms, and even if you do get symptoms, your immune system usually deals with it within 1-2 years.

Women should get regular screening for HPV once they reach a certain age. Unfortunately, there is no HPV screening for men. Men can only be diagnosed with HPV when they have visible warts. And that sucks, ruins your week, causes a lot of awkward conversations… but you move on and everything ends up being fine.

Genital Herpes

Living With It: There’s a good chance you already have it.
Curable: No, but who cares?
US Prevalence (all existing cases): 18.6 million27
US Incidence (new cases annually): 572,00028
RAW Score: 18 Partners
Condom Protects: No

So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that a shit ton of people have herpes (including probably myself). The good news is that the vast majority of people never show symptoms and don’t have the viral load required for it to show up in their blood levels.

I have to admit, herpes was the big one I was terrified of getting (the reason I’m not worried about HIV is below). Then I started researching it for this article and realized I probably already have it. And chances are you have it too!

See, there are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 usually causes breakouts around the mouth—we just call them cold sores or fever blisters. Almost 70% of the world population has HSV-1,29 although at any given time almost none of us have a breakout.

HSV-2 causes breakouts around the genitals.30 The majority of people never get breakouts or get such minor breakouts that they don’t even realize that it’s herpes. My friend who has had a breakout said that he originally thought his was just a bug bite. It wasn’t until a second one showed up that he decided to get it checked out. It’s been over three years and he hasn’t had another breakout since. He’s also in a monogamous relationship and his girlfriend has never had a breakout.

Herpes never goes away, but it’s relatively harmless. In fact, even if you do get breakouts, most people stop getting them after a couple of years. And if you’re one of the unlucky few who actually does get bad breakouts, you can take medication to suppress them. So there. Not worried about herpes anymore… After all, I probably already have it, and so do many of you.

HIV

Living With It: Expensive and stressful, but assuming you’re not African, you’ll live.
Curable: No
US Prevalence (all existing cases): 984,00031
US Incidence (new cases annually): 32,60032
RAW Score: 332 Partners (significantly fewer if engaging in anal sex)
Condom Protects: Yes

HIV is no longer the death warrant it once was. Don’t get me wrong, contracting it would be awful and surely life-altering. But you would live. I just hope you have good health insurance. Life expectancy for young people living in Europe and North America is only slightly lower than the general population provided you start treatment immediately after a positive HIV diagnosis.

That said, some demographics are far more likely to contract HIV than others: UNAIDS reports gay men and drug addicts who use dirty needles are both 24 times more likely to contract it than the general population globally. When it comes to vaginal sex, both men and women can contract HIV from an infected partner. Anal sex—whether it’s hetero- or homosexual—seems to be the big culprit here.

Also, I hate to say it, but HIV positive cases are predominantly lower-income classes. African-Americans account disproportionately for 42% of all HIV cases in the US.

But HIV infections have been declining to some degree in Europe and North America (more so in Europe).33 And in 2013, there were some very early accounts of people possibly being cured of the disease, and in 2020, stem cell therapy looks very promising.

The symptoms of HIV are flu-like symptoms a couple of weeks after contracting it. From there, your immune system slowly shuts down over a period of years. There are a lot of therapies and treatments available and most people who contract it can live functional, mostly normal lives, assuming they get the proper medical care. So the news on the HIV front over the past few decades has actually been mostly good.34

But still, use a damn condom.

Pregnancy

Living With It: Completely and irreversibly life-changing
Curable: Uhh… err…
US Prevalence: Your mom had it at least once
RAW Score: 75 Sexual Encounters35
Condom Protects: 85% effective36

Over the years I’ve had dozens of people ask me about STDs, many of them looking for information, but many of them simply looking for reassurance that they were not going to shrivel up and die. I always tell them that 1) they’re going to be fine, and 2) they should be far more worried about babies. Notice the 1 in 75 sexual encounters. That’s not 75 partners, that’s 75 occurrences of unprotected intercourse. That’s MUCH more likely than many of the STDs listed here.

I can tell you, in all of my years working as a dating coach, with all of my sexual partners, with all of the crazy hedonistic people I partied with, I’ve only known one person who had a herpes breakout, a few people with HPV, and one person who had chlamydia. I’ve never met or even heard of anyone with HIV. I’ve never met or heard of anyone with cervical cancer. I’ve never met or heard of anyone who contracted gonorrhea or syphilis. But I can think of probably a dozen people who have dealt with an unwanted pregnancy or had a major pregnancy scare.

Do not fuck around with this.

The chances of getting an std - woman with pregnancy test

As a woman, welcome to the growing population of single mothers. Everything is about to change. If you’re lucky, the guy will stick around and help. But if he doesn’t, good luck. Not only do single mothers juggle some of the hardest responsibilities in society, but children of single mothers often grow up to have behavioral and academic problems.

If you’re a man and you don’t want to be a deadbeat and run off, then you’re not in for an easy time by any means either. Prepare to cough up half of your paycheck for the next 18 years, even if she marries someone else, even if she becomes financially self-sufficient and you’re broke. You have to pay. The paternity laws in many US states are still heavily balanced in favor of mothers and so visitation rights, not to mention custody rights, can be hell to go through. If for some reason you and the mother don’t exactly get along, prepare to hire a good lawyer.

And even if a woman decides to not keep it, welcome to the most gut-wrenching experience of your life. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to deal with a legitimate pregnancy, but I know people who have—staunch, hardcore, liberal, don’t-give-a-fuck party-goers—and shit gets real fast. It’s easy to walk around and say, “I would do this or that,” but when it comes time to walk the walk, many people can’t stomach it. Or even if they can, they live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

So if you don’t want to be a mommy or daddy, get contraception. If you don’t know or trust someone, use protection. If you’re sexually active, get tested regularly. Have open conversations with your sexual partners about this stuff: “Have you been tested? Are you on birth control?” Yes, it’s awkward. But yes, it’s always worth it.

Stay smart and stay safe.

(Cover image: “Condoms” by Shawn Latta is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Footnotes

  1. WHO. (2020, Nov). Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
  2. The rough estimate is: 1/20 (the chance of me having a cancer-causing strain) x 1/2 (chance the woman isn’t vaccinated) x 1/100 (chance that it goes untreated) x 1/10 (chance of her dying from cervical cancer). And the grand total comes to: 1/40,000. It’s a very rough estimate, but you get the idea.
  3. The 1/10 chance of a woman dying from cervical cancer is a very rough estimate based on data from the UK’s National Health Service, according to which the chances of living for at least five years after being diagnosed with cervical cancer are 80%-99% if detected at Stage 1 (and far more often, cervical pre-cancers are detected rather than when it has become cancerous). According to the CDC, in 2017, the latest year for which incidence data are available, in the United States, 12,831 new cases of Cervical Cancer were reported among women, and 4,207 women died of this cancer. For every 100,000 women, 8 new Cervical Cancer cases were reported and 2 women died of this cancer, which, mind you, does not mean you have a 1 in 4 chance of dying.
  4. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  5. National Safety Council. (2021). Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2018.
  6. Census Bureau. (2020). Unmarried and Single Americans Week: September 20-26, 2020. The most recent STD stats used in this article are from 2018, so taking the population from that year (and this remained unchanged in 2019).
  7. STD stats are collected from the age of 15, hence the cut-off.
  8. Taking the population in 2018 as the most recent STD stats, as just mentioned, are from that year.
  9. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  10. Keegan, M. B., Diedrich, J. T., & Peipert, J. F. (2014). Chlamydia trachomatis Infection: Screening and Management. Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management : JCOM, 21(1), 30–38.
  11. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  12. Nelson, H. D., Zakher, B., Cantor, A., Deagas, M., & Pappas, M. (2014). Screening for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: Systematic Review to Update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US).
  13. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  14. CDC. (2019). Syphilis & MSM (Men Who Have Sex With Men) – CDC Fact Sheet.
  15. CDC. (2021). HPV and Men – Fact Sheet.
  16. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  17. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  18. Cancer.gov. (2021, January). HPV and Cancer.
  19. Planned Parenthood. (2021.) Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
  20. Schiffman, M., Castle, P. E., Maucort-Boulch, D., Wheeler, C. M., ALTS (Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance/Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions Triage Study) Group, & Plummer, M. (2007). A 2-Year Prospective Study of Human Papillomavirus Persistence among Women with a Cytological Diagnosis of Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance or Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 195(11), 1582–1589.
  21. CDC. (2019). What Should I Know About Screening?
  22. Torre, D. D., Burtscher, D., Soelder, E., Offermanns, V., Rasse, M., & Puelacher, W. (2018). Human papillomavirus prevalence in a Mid-European oral squamous cell cancer population: A cohort study. Oral Diseases, 24(6), 948–956.
  23. Wiley, D. J., Elashoff, D., Masongsong, E. V., Harper, D. M., Gylys, K. H., Silverberg, M. J., Cook, R. L., & Johnson-Hill, L. M. (2009). Smoking Enhances Risk for New External Genital Warts in Men. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(3), 1215–1234.
  24. Verhoeven, V., Renard, N., Makar, A., Van Royen, P., Bogers, J.-P., Lardon, F., Peeters, M., & Baay, M. (2013). Probiotics enhance the clearance of human papillomavirus-related cervical lesions: A prospective controlled pilot study. European Journal of Cancer Prevention: The Official Journal of the European Cancer Prevention Organisation (ECP), 22(1), 46–51.
  25. Piyathilake, C. J., Macaluso, M., Chambers, M. M., Badiga, S., Siddiqui, N. R., Bell, W. C., Edberg, J. C., Partridge, E. E., Alvarez, R. D., & Johanning, G. L. (2014). Folate and Vitamin B12 May Play a Critical Role in Lowering the HPV 16 Methylation–Associated Risk of Developing Higher Grades of CIN. Cancer Prevention Research, 7(11), 1128–1137.
  26. Cancer.gov. (2019). Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines.
  27. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  28. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  29. As opposed to 13% worldwide for HSV-2. (Same source)
  30. Groves, M. J. (2016). Genital Herpes: A Review. American Family Physician, 93(11), 928–934.
  31. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  32. CDC. (2021, Jan). CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection.
  33. Avert. (2020, August). HIV and AIDS in W & C Europe & N America Regional Overview.
  34. WHO. (2020, November). HIV/AIDS.
  35. A rough estimate. This is how it came about: For a couple trying to conceive, the odds of the woman becoming pregnant are 15% to 25% in any particular month. Supposing the couple have sex 3 times during the woman’s 5-day ovulation window (i.e. every other day, which is often the recommended frequency), they have roughly 1/5 chance of conceiving. The ovulation window is 1/5 of the month not counting menstruating days. This means if you randomly have sex with a woman in any given month with no protection, you have a 1/3 x 1/5 x 1/5 (i.e. 1/75) chance of ending up with a baby.
  36. Planned Parenthood. (2021). How effective are condoms?

Thanks for the post big mindset fan here

%%sitename%% | The Self-Improvement Blog | Self-Esteem | Self Confidence

high quality sleep

High quality sleep is what allows us to function to the best of our ability throughout the day. However, when you don’t get that quality sleep at night, it can lead to a bad day that just never seems to end. For many people, this leads them into a cycle where they are anxious because they had a bad day, they can’t sleep because they are anxious, and so on. If you find that you’re overly anxious before bed, here are some great techniques to employ to get to sleep faster and sleep more soundly throughout the night.

Try Bedtime Yoga

Yoga has long been used to alleviate both physical and mental tension. Its incorporation of controlled deep breathing and slow stretching movements allows for overall relaxation of the body. Not only will the stretching in yoga help you to relax your body before bed, but the breathing practices will also help to calm your mind as well. There are countless videos all over the internet and apps for your phone that you can try. Practice yoga just before bed for a week and see if you notice a big difference. If so, incorporate this practice in your regular nighttime routine.

Invest in the Right Mattress and Bedding

For many people, they find that they aren’t able to get the sleep they need because they aren’t comfortable at night. Often this is because of an old mattress, itchy sheets, or not being the right temperature. Feeling uncomfortable just adds to nighttime anxiety.

Get rid of your old mattress and buy something that is more suited to what you need now. Sometimes this will mean upgrading the size from a full to a queen mattress or investing in one that can adjust firmness or softness. Additionally, make sure you have the sheets and blankets you need. One item that many people with anxiety swear by, is a weighted blanket. The concept behind these blankets is that they provide a loving hug to your body. The slight heaviness that the blanket provides can assist you in calming your body.

Try a Sound Machine

Many people who are anxious before bed state that their thoughts keep them up. Often the silence around you can amplify your own thoughts in your head. One way to quiet your mind a little bit is by adding some ambient noise around you. Use a sound machine to produce white noise that helps to take the attention of your subconscious mind and allow you to fall asleep faster.

Deep Breathing Exercises

One great way to help calm down the body and alleviate anxiousness is to practice deep breathing while you are in bed and trying to sleep. Focus your energy on filling your entire body with air. The best way to describe a full breath is when you feel your sides expand. As the air fills your lungs, they push your ribs outward like a bucket. Your whole lower body should fill full of air. Then, let it out slowly.

There are many different types of deep breathing exercises that you can do. It’s advisable to do some online searching to find the ones that work best to calm your mind and body down. If possible, avoid looking at a screen to guide you through your breathing techniques as this will often stimulate your brain.

Trying to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest when you’re anxious can be extremely difficult, to say the least. There’s no denying the fact that lack of sleep sets you up for a pretty miserable day. To avoid the misery, try one or all of these four tips that we outlined above to lower your anxiousness and finally obtain quality sleep.

About the Author

Anica Oaks is a freelance writer who hails from San Francisco. When she’s not writing, she’s enjoying her time outside with her dogs. Anica recommends purchasing a queen mattress to help you sleep at night. Keep up with her on Twitter @anicaoaks.

%%focuskw%% | Getting High Quality Sleep When You’re Anxious

I <3 self-improvement

Does self-care ever feel overwhelming or like another thing on your to-do list? Maybe you feel like you desperately need self-care, but you’re never sure exactly what you need in the moment. This leads to a quick Google for “self-care ideas” which gives you a million suggestions that leave you feeling more stressed out than when you started.

Learn about the seven pillars of self-care and take the self-care quiz to see which type of self-care you need right now.

There’s a lot of information out there about self-care, and it’s a complex topic that only makes things more confusing. All you know is that you need to take care of yourself, but you’re not sure what that should look like.

I have a simple solution to avoid overwhelm: look at self-care in terms of seven pillars. Seven might sound like a lot, but once you know them, you can better recognize what needs work in your life instead of trying to do everything. Plus I’ve created a self-care quiz you can take to see which type of self-care you need right now!

Overview of the Pillars


The seven pillars of self-care work together to bring a sense of wholeness to your life. I previously wrote about the five dimensions of self-care in this post, but I’ve added two other elements because I felt like they were missing from the original list: recreational and environmental.

7 pillars of self-care

The pillars of self-care:

  1. Mental
  2. Emotional
  3. Physical
  4. Environmental
  5. Spiritual
  6. Recreational
  7. Social

How to use them:

Seeing this list might feel overwhelming. You might think you have to find some kind of perfect balance between them all.

You don’t need to focus on finding a perfect balance between them all. Instead, you might need to focus on one area for a day, a week, maybe even a month. When you’re ready, you can focus on others.

What’s most important is noticing which one area needs attention so that it doesn’t start dragging the other areas down with it.

Now that we’re a little less overwhelmed, let’s explore the pillars of self-care in more detail:

The 7 Pillars of Self-Care


1. Mental Self-Care

Mental self-care

Mental/intellectual self-care is about cultivating a healthy mindset through mindfulness and curiosity. Mental self-care is important for developing a healthy mindset, growing your skills, reducing stress, and enhancing your knowledge and creativity.

Examples of mental self-care:


2. Emotional Self-Care

Emotional self-care

Emotional self-care involves taking care of matters of the heart with healthy coping strategies and self-compassion. Tapping into emotional self-care helps you understand yourself more, better deal with challenges and setbacks, and develop healthy emotional responses.

Examples of emotional self-care:

  • Watching a deep movie
  • Listening to your favorite songs
  • Writing down positive affirmations
  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Setting boundaries to protect your time and energy

3. Physical Self-Care

Physical self-care

Physical self-care involves taking care of your body with exercise, nutrition, good hygiene, and proper sleep. When you practice activities for your physical well-being, you can increase your energy levels and boost your self-esteem.

Examples of physical self-care:

  • Eating meals at regular times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Drinking more water
  • Taking vitamins daily
  • Getting 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Trying a new workout class or video (here’s a playlist)

4. Environmental Self-Care

Environmental self-care

Environmental self-care involves taking care of the spaces and places around you. The more you take care of your immediate environment, the more it will help you to thrive and feel a sense of belonging where you are.

Examples of environmental self-care:

  • Arranging your workspace to be more comfortable
  • Exploring somewhere new (even if it’s in your own town)
  • Decluttering your living space
  • Going outside for a walk
  • Appealing to your five senses (e.g. light a candle, adjust the lighting, put on comfortable clothes, sip a warm drink, and put on your favorite playlist)

5. Spiritual Self-Care

Spiritual self-care

Spiritual self-care involves taking care of your soul through activities or practices that provide a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning to your life. Dedicating time to spiritual self-care can help you find more meaning in life, feel more grounded, and develop a sense of belonging in life.

Examples of spiritual self-care:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Finding a community to contribute to (online or offline)
  • Identifying your values & what’s meaningful to you
  • Volunteering or contributing to a cause you believe in
  • Connecting to a higher power (whatever that means to you)

6. Recreational Self-Care

Recreational self-care

Recreational self-care involves taking care of your inner child with hobbies, fun activities, and new experiences. Recreation is important because it lets you get away from the pressure of your to-do list and simply enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer.

Examples of recreational self-care:

  • Taking time for hobbies and creative activities
  • Going on an adventure by yourself or with others
  • Taking time to do absolutely nothing (and enjoying it!)
  • Playing board or video games
  • Switching up your regular daily routine

7. Social Self-Care

Social self-care

Even though self-care is about you, it’s important to connect with other human beings on a regular basis. Social self-care means cultivating healthy relationships and connecting with people who get you. Seeking out positive social connections helps us create a sense of belonging and acceptance. 

Examples of social self-care:

  • Spending time with people whose company you enjoy
  • Calling or seeing your relatives
  • Writing a letter to a friend (pen-pal style!)
  • Talking to a support group
  • Chatting in an online forum or community

Which pillar do you need to focus on? Take the self-care quiz!

Self-care quiz

If you’re not sure which pillar of self-care you need most, take the self-care quiz to find out what to focus on first.

My hope is that this quiz will become a tool you use whenever you feel indecisive or unsure of the type of self-care you need. Come back to it whenever you need it!

Take this quiz here. Feel free to let me know your results in a comment below!

The post The 7 Pillars of Self-Care and How To Use Them appeared first on The Blissful Mind.

I think posts about self-improvement are fantastic

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I was 30 and had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know if I wanted kids, much less when I was having them.

So I simply said, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” I would spend the next hour listening to fear-based stories of women who regretted not having children because they had put off having kids until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving because they had waited too long or because of their own biological issues, almost told as an indirect way of telling me that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on having kids right away.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant, invasive questions surrounding “When are you having kids?” from relatives, friends, and nosy people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

If you think that it ends after you have a kid, it doesn’t. The people who  had previously told you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. This repeated questioning and attempt to shape people to fit a certain mold seems to never end.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is the way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, as if expecting you to give them an open and straight answer to this very personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s invasive. It’s also presumptuous.

1) Having kids is not the only path to happiness

To begin with, having kids is a personal and private matter. Whether people want to have kids or not is none of anyone’s business, and people shouldn’t be opening conversations on this topic with “When are you having kids?” Even if it’s for the intent of having a heart-to-heart, a question like “Do you have any plans for kids?” would be more appropriate.

But in case one needs more reasons to understand why such a question is invasive, the first thing to understand is that everyone has their own path in life. This path is not always the same for everyone. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden.

Having kids is a lifelong commitment and takes a tremendous amount of time. Anyone who has kids, and have singly raised them by themselves, would understand this. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid. For some, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it is better to remain childless, rather than have children just to fit society’s mold. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because others think that having kids is great and amazing, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, and has dedicated herself to her personal purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and political activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei, Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting the narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and everyone needs to realize that.

2) You may cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some people could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world. I personally think one of the worst things someone could do is to simply have kids for the sake of it, and then afterward give their child sub-standard care, something which I feel many people do.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would to a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, like I mentioned in the beginning, you can simply ask, “Do you have any plans for kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a half-hearted or evasive answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change one’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few deep discussions on this topic and decided to have a baby, and we gave birth to our baby girl in 2019. 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only irritated me and made me avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband; it has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

More info on self-improvement please like if you agree

By Leo Babauta

There’s a big part of us that doesn’t like chaos: we want order and simplicity and feeling like we’re on top of things and doing things the “right” way.

And so when things feel chaotic, we scramble for some kind of stability:

  • When we feel overwhelmed and behwend, we might beat ourselves up and try to look for a system to get things under control.
  • When someone is upset with us, we might not like the feeling of being judged and the uncertainty about how people see us, and so we might lash out at them or spin around a story for days about how terrible that person is.
  • When plans don’t go how we hoped they would, we feel like we’re on unsteady ground, and we start criticizing ourselves or feeling like we’re doing things wrong and things are out of control, and it might bring a lot of stress in our lives.
  • When we think about putting our work out there into the world (by writing a book or putting out an album, for example) … we worry about the shakiness of putting ourselves out to be judged, and might decide that we won’t be OK if that happens, because it just feels too scary, and so we put off putting my work out there, for years.

Do you relate to any of these examples? In fact, the uncertainty of our chaotic lives is perhaps the main cause of our anxiety, stress, frustration, self-doubt, fears, procrastination, distraction and more.

We know when we’re feeling this chaos when we’re reaching for a new tool, system, method, tactic, plan, expert, book on a topic … or our phones.

There is nothing wrong with any of these things. It’s just how we normally respond to chaos.

But if we could relax in the middle of that chaos, it could do so much for us:

  • We would be OK with the feeling of overwhelm, and not need to panic or feel bad.
  • We would simply take the next step.
  • We could focus on one thing at a time.
  • We could put our work out in to the world, letting ourselves be with the shakiness of being judged.
  • We could be with someone’s upsetness, giving them compassion rather than worrying about whether we’ll be OK.
  • We could simply meditate, go for a walk, exercise, eat healthy food, deal with our finances, and do all kinds of other simple, helpful actions that we put off when we feel stressed about chaos.
  • And much, much more.

The training is to learn to relax with chaos. And from that place, decide on the next simple step.

Training with the Chaos

The training is to notice when we’re feeling chaos … and then use it as a kind of meditation, to breathe and then relax.

Notice when you’re feeling chaos. You don’t have to look for it — you’re probably feeling it right now. The world will always give us enough chaos to practice with. It’s a gift.

Notice it, and then pause.

Breathe. Deep into your belly, slowly, letting yourself relax with each breath.

Then learn to relax with this feeling of chaos, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, shakiness, groundlessness.

Breathe, and with each breath, relax into the feeling of uncertainty and chaos.

Repeat.

If you’d like to train with me, join my Fearless Training Program.

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