Managing your mental health as a queer person this Christmas

Managing your mental health as a queer person this Christmas…

1) Queering time with family over Christmas

For some LGBTQ+ people, spending time with biological family members over Christmas is stressful because of their LGBTQ+ identity not being known, understood, or affirmed.

Being ‘closeted’ because you’re forced to (whatever the reason), or choosing to be because it’s safer, is a really uncomfortable place to be – especially in relationships with others. Not having safety, freedom, and easy access to your usual resources can make looking after yourself harder during the holidays.

This can be hard to manage when your body and/or brain is reacting to stressful situations that you find yourself in, including expecting to feel unsafe or uncomfortable (before it happens).

Trying to look after yourself, especially away from your chosen family, around Christmas is challenging. What can help to prepare for this is thinking about what you need to practise self and collective care before you got to stay with biological family. If you’d like to, you can try:

2) List your stress responses.
-For example: anxiety, zoning out, anger, fawning, dissociation, increased heart rate, tension in a specific part of my body, gender dysphoria, intrusive or suicidal thoughts, increased drinking/drug use, self-harm, depression, etc.

-Put these in order from low-level, manageable stress response (1) to high-level, unbearable stress responses (5+).
You can number these 1-5 (or as many as you need).

-Next to each stress response, note what you need in moments where this comes up for you.
For example: panic – breathing technique to slow down my heart rate, gender dysphoria – plan outfits to wear when I’m back home to affirm my gender, suicidal thoughts – call a friend to let them know.

Knowing what the top end of your stress response is can be helpful in taking steps before that point to manage your mental and physical health. If others in your chosen family or queer circle are also struggling, can you plan to speak at set points to help each other along?

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