With Thanksgiving behind us and Mariah Carey blasting from every speaker, the holiday season is in full swing. While this time is traditionally associated with joy and warm connections, recent years have seen a rising awareness of the mental health challenges that affect many folx during the holidays.
From seasonal affective depression to the stresses of family gatherings, the holiday season is actually associated with a spike in mental health issues. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ folks who face unique pressures that make this time of year particularly challenging.
Research on the increased mental health challenges LGBTQ+ folx face is abundant, but the winter holidays touch on one of the most common struggles in our community—family. Everyone has a unique relationship to family, especially LGBTQ+ folx. Some choose not to talk to intolerant family members, while others maintain close ties.
With growing acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, some are lucky to have family members who fully support them. But even well-meaning family members can make hurtful comments that are isolating and difficult to deal with. And for those of us who are estranged from family completely, the holiday season can be an unwelcome reminder of painful memories.
Whether you are dealing with family, loneliness, or difficult times, we hope that the tips below can help you deal with the season’s stresses:
Take care of yourself
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
- Make sure you have a support system in place
Join a new club/support group
Get connected to a therapist or other mental health professional
- Help yourself by helping others and getting involved in volunteering
- Find a new hobby, like baking!
- Celebrate YOUR life
If you are seeing family—plan ahead and set clear boundaries
- Consider staying in a hotel or friend’s house if you decide to visit family for the holidays
- Empower yourself to leave if family members engage in toxic or offensive behavior
- Prepare for the day ahead of time—try to find out which family members are more accepting than others before you get there
- If sitting at the dinner table with your family feels especially intimidating, ask to bring a friend who can support you in setting boundaries and defending yourself if needed
Make new traditions with friends and loved ones
- Whether you decide to be with family for the holidays or not, it’s also a great time to bring your chosen family together
- Chosen families are a group of close friends who support each other in the way a traditional family would
- Whether you can gather on a particular holiday or another day, making time to be with people who fully accept you can help alleviate some of the stress of being around less accepting traditional family members
Taking care of yourself, setting boundaries, and supporting others in your community are all vital ways to stay mentally healthy this holiday season. However, it’s important to remember that it’s ok to feel sad, regardless of the season. Millions of people deal with mental illness or feelings of unhappiness, and you are not alone if you do too. We hope these tips are helpful to you, but The LOFT also offers a range of programs and services that can provide support during this time.