Homo for the Holidays: Tips, Tricks & Resources
For our recent podcast episode Homo for the Holidays, we reached out to a Bay Area mental health professional who works with queer and trans folks. Their full set of self-care strategies was wonderful and hard to do justice in the episode, so we wanted to share it as a print article as well.
Whatever you do for the holidays, please take care of yourself. If you need a save space, we are always open Christmas Day, and will be here 1pm - 9pm that day.
Many people in our community can’t go home for the holidays, or decide not to go. Some of us have been rejected by family because of our identities. Some of us don’t feel safe with family. And some of us can’t afford to travel or to participate in the festivities. If you’ve got local chosen family to love on you, or an engrossing job or other meaningful activity to fill you up, that’s awesome! But loneliness is a real threat to mental health and well-being, especially in queer and trans communities. Loneliness is not about being alone, it’s about feeling alone, which is possible even if you’re surrounded by people. Take care of yourself these next few weeks, and consider trying some of the following.
Volunteer. Stepping outside of our own heads and giving to others can help us feel connected and valuable. Consider donating your time to a nonprofit whose mission you connect with.
Lay off the booze. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco (and fucking and food and gambling and shopping and...) can help us cope with stress. But there’s a tipping point when they can add to your problems instead of giving you a break. Watch your intake around the holidays, and try to mix in other coping strategies to lighten your emotional load.
Move around. I’m not gonna use the “e” word here, because it can scare some people away. But it’s worth noting that even low-impact movement such as walking has been proven to reduce stress and promote better sleep. Look for easy ways to add more movement into your day, such as getting off the bus a stop or two early, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If walking isn’t possible for you, get creative — I’ve worked up a sweat by cleaning or organizing my apartment. Maybe this is a good excuse to practice your flogging technique?
Munches. Many routine activities in your local kink scene may become disrupted around the holidays. If you’re able to find a munch, it may be a good time to lean on your community for support.
Do something you love. Turn the holidays into an opportunity to connect more deeply with yourself. Feed that hobby you’ve been neglecting. Check out a museum, have a movie marathon of your favorite director’s work, or become a tourist in your own city and visit an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Spending time with family of origin for the holidays?
Many of the above suggestions can be adapted to help keep you sane (especially steering clear of the eggnog). Here are some additional ideas:
Establish a routine. The holidays can disrupt the rhythm of your day, which can contribute to feeling shitty. While you may have limited control over how you spend your time if you’re traveling to see family, try to do basic daily tasks around the same time each day: waking up, taking medications, eating meals, and going to sleep.
Take space. When visiting family, you may not get much quality time to yourself unless you make an effort. Breaks from your loved ones can give you a chance to recharge your emotional battery — even if you’re really enjoying your time with your family, and especially if it’s more complicated. If setting boundaries around family is hard, try taking a long bath, volunteering to run to the grocery store to pick up the missing dinner ingredient, or retiring to bed an hour earlier than you plan to sleep.
Take a deep breath. Or two. Or many. Holidays with family may mean you have to hear some shocking things around the dinner table. While you may wish you didn’t know how your relatives *really* feel about subjects dear to your heart, it’s hard to unsee/unhear that shit, and even harder to know how to react in the moment. Whether you respond with fight or flight, remember to breathe. Breathing can help calm anxiety and ground you to better cope with the present. Breathe slowly, taking longer on the exhale. Try focusing on a soothing word or image. Practice breathing before your trip so it comes more easily when you need to use it.
Give thanks. Use your visit home as an opportunity to acknowledge explicitly the good things in your life, especially the little things. Keeping a gratitude journal may help lift your spirits by consciously focusing your attention on the positive, which can be hard to do naturally when you’re visiting family and you are seemingly surrounded by examples of how fucked things are. Try writing down three things each day, and notice how you become more aware of what’s going right throughout your day.
Queer and trans (especially trans) people are disproportionately affected by suicide.
Here are some hotlines that can provide support if you’re feeling depressed or alone.
Trans Lifeline. Staffed by trans people, for trans people. Available 7am-1am PST / 9am-3am CST / 10am-4am EST, and possibly during off hours. translifeline.org | 877-565-8860.
The Trevor Project. 24/7 support for queer youth. thetrevorproject.org | 1-866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. suicidepreventionlifeline.org |1-800-273-8255
For additional hotline resources serving our community, check out pflag.org/hotlines