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How Holidays Affect Queer Mental Health

Robyn Exton

Dec 01, 2021

How Holidays Affect Queer Mental Health

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

However, the LGBTQ+ community is at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues around the holiday season. You may have to deal with tension from family, aggressive comments, or rejection for being your authentic self. Even if you’ve decided to not go home for the holidays. It’s difficult to avoid the pressure to be with family. 

However you decide to spend the holidays, your feelings are valid. Your mental health should always be the first priority. So we’ve taken a look at how the holidays affect LGBTQ+ individuals and ways you can decrease stress.

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Why the Holidays are a Stressful Time, Especially If You are Queer

When everyone feels pressure to buy the perfect present or cook a feast for 10 people. The holiday season doesn’t seem all that merry and bright. However, it’s queer people that suffer the most this time of year.

While holiday blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder affect us all. Research shows homosexuals, transgender, and non-binary people are twice as likely to experience a mental health condition than heterosexual people. While LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to experience sadness and hopelessness. There is a range of factors why the holiday season is a stressful time for LGBTQ+ individuals.

An unsupportive environment

Gay and transgender people feel more comfortable coming out to their loved ones as society has grown to accept queer people. LGBTQ+ youth are taking the step at a younger developmental age. However, choosing to reveal your sexual orientation so young can have a damaging effect if you don’t have a supportive environment. A 2013 study found 40% of LGBTQ+ adults have experienced rejection from a family member. Rejection can damage your mental health and hinder social experiences and relationships. Returning home for the holidays to an unsupportive environment is not only uncomfortable but can be triggering. 

Homophobic comments

Hearing homophobic or transphobic comments are difficult for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s even more traumatic when it’s a passing comment from a family member. LGBTQ+ people are one of the most targeted groups of hate crimes as they face many forms of discrimination. You may have faced labeling, stereotyping, denial of opportunities, as well as verbal, physical, or mental abuse. This hate contributes to a heightened risk for PTSD compared to heterosexual and cisgender individuals. So to hear it from a family member is all the more damaging. 

Sadly, many people struggle in silence and fight to get help for their mental health. The LGBTQ+ population is more likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide. In fact, 40% of transgender adults have tried suicide in their lifetime. It’s never more important to protect your mental health than around the holiday season.

The Importance of Mental Health and Support

There are many challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face. Mental health services often group together anyone in the community. They forget to consider sub-communities that have their own challenges, including: 

  • Age
  • Race
  • Religious beliefs
  • Physical ability
  • Cultural and socio-economic backgrounds

Finding the right health care provider can help you lead a better life and support you in your recovery. 

Specialist organizations offer a range of services to help you overcome your mental health challenges. You may feel more comfortable knowing that many of these services employ staff that also identify as LGBTQ+. A professional therapist can help you manage and cope with a range of negative experiences. Whether you struggle with traumatic life events, rejection, internalized homophobia, guilt, low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety disorder. They will talk you through your issues and offer exercises to feel calm when you are in a vulnerable situation. 

Ways To Decrease Stress When Headed Home 

Going home for the holidays can be triggering if you know you will be in an uncomfortable situation. It’s best to mentally prepare yourself before you head home. Here are a few methods you can practice to ease your mental health. 

Limit your time with family

Just because you’ve chosen to go home doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. Set and communicate your boundaries to prioritize your needs. Make plans to see friends, or even stay the night at theirs if things become too much. Getting some breathing space may be all you need to enjoy family gatherings.

If your friends aren’t around, join an LGBTQ+ group for peer support. Connecting with people who have similar experiences can help you feel accepted. LGTBQ Meetups are a great way to find a community in your hometown. You can join an activity or hobby-based group to get out of the house and be around a comfortable environment.

Keep up an exercise routine

Why not start your New Years’ resolution early? The holiday season often means chocolate for breakfast and drinking night after night. But sticking to an exercise routine while you are at home can help boost your mood. 

Taking a walk around your neighborhood will get you away from the chaos at home. If your family has a dog, offer to take the pet for a walk. It’s a great excuse to take a moment for yourself, and your family will appreciate the gesture.

Speak to someone you trust 

You may think you’re fully prepared for what may come once you’re home. But the wrong word can be a trigger. Having someone to share your thoughts with is a great way to keep tabs on your mental health. 

Talking to a professional can help you get out of your own head. There are online support groups that you can confide in if you’re unable to get in touch with a therapist around the holidays. Or you could make a pact with close friends to check in with each other. 

How To Help A Friend Who Is LGBTQ+

Having a support network is beneficial for all of us. It can boost self-esteem and improve mental health. But helping someone with depression or an anxiety disorder can be a challenge. It’s important to listen, show you care, and offer reassurance. 

Don’t make assumptions

Your friend will have had experiences that you may not understand, and they may worry about how you will react. Let them guide the conversation. Try not to ask too many questions or make assumptions based on what you already know about the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone’s situation is different. Instead, ask your loved one what is affecting them. 

Show them you care

If someone is unwilling to talk to you, you can still show that you are there for them. While it may be clear that you care, people who struggle with internalized homophobia have low self-esteem and may not realize your efforts. Try to find ways to show your friend that you want to help them. Cook a meal or take them somewhere they might enjoy. Doing little things will make them see they are not a burden. 

Help them seek therapy

Whether or not they are willing to talk to you, you could reassure your friend that it is ok to seek help. Remind them that there is professional support available. Tell your loved one that others are going through similar experiences. It may help them to feel supported. Offering to help research the best service can take the pressure off. 

Take care of your mental health

Caring for someone with a mental illness can be stressful for you. It is a very emotional time, and your mental health shouldn’t suffer because of it. Be sure to take care of yourself by confiding in someone you trust. Taking a break from your friend to share how you feel and find the positives in your relationship will keep your friendship strong. 

Learn More With HER

Being a part of a community and feeling supported can be helpful to cope with stress around the holiday season. Whether or not you have a support network of your own, you can connect with LGBTQ+ people on HER. 

HER is a safe space for people with all different identities and sexualities. You can find like-minded individuals looking for friendship, companionship, and community. 
If you don’t have many people in your life who understand your past experiences and trauma. LGBTQ+ women, trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people from around the world are waiting to connect on HER.

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Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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