Winter festivities can expose members of the LGBTQIA+ community to people and situations they’d rather avoid. In this Moodfuel News article, Anoopinder Singh, MBBS, MD, FAPA, explores ways for LGBTQIA+ people to navigate unwanted conversations and care for themselves.
Although winter festivities are meant to bring friends, family, and colleagues together, they can produce awkward, uncomfortable encounters. For members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Aromantic and Two-Spirit + communities (LGBTQIA+), there can be an added layer of stress due to the behaviors of unaccepting relatives or people who are under the influence during visits home.
Family gatherings can be a minefield, choose your battles
The emphasis on gathering with family, especially if relatives aren’t welcoming and supportive, can be rife with unpleasant or downright cruel experiences. Haden said verbal attacks or microaggressions can prevent LGBTQIA+ people from being themselves. Worse, some people are not allowed to return home or were kicked out due to their LGBTQIA+ identities.
LGBTQIA+ people are more likely than other populations to experience loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression throughout the year, but those feelings multiply when going home for holiday visits.
Overwhelm is normal and common
First, remember that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and behaviors of the holidays. Traveling, buying and gifting, dealing with high prices and crowded spaces and meeting others’ expectations can be daunting and exhausting.
As a result, said Dr. Anoopinder Singh, a psychiatrist and the regional medical director for Mindpath Health, “This is when many abandon healthy routines, increase their use of alcohol and other substances and compromise their compensatory or coping mechanisms.”
Therefore, it’s really important to carve out time for self-care. A 15-minute walk, a nap, a cup of peppermint tea in a quiet room or performing some breathing exercises will enable you to connect with your inner calm even if it’s very loud and people-y on the other side of that door.
Second, you are not alone! There are supportive people who appreciate you as you and they are no farther away than a phone call, text or chat. Reach out to your chosen family – people who know and love the authentic you – or to warmlines or online support groups.
Use strategies to bolster the rational part of your brain
Strategies are empowering because they short-circuit that fight/flight/freeze response orchestrated by the limbic brain. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community deserve to enjoy and celebrate the holidays with as much gusto as everyone else. Yet, many are confronted with discrimination. Preserve your mental health by planning ahead and practicing self-care. Surrounding yourself with the support you need can go a long way in allowing you to relax, enjoy and survive the holidays.
Read the full Moodfuel News article with sources.