It’s no secret that the holidays are stressful: work deadlines, busy travel and financial worries all tend to accompany the chaotic scheduling and hyperspeed calendar of December. How quickly the year has passed is emphasized and amplified, our expectations and goals battling self-critical reality checks. While December activity can be overwhelming, the holidays have the capacity to create deep isolation and loneliness for individuals distant from their families or who have lost loved ones. Doubled over with multiple gatherings and social engagements, the “holiday break” can be a source of stress and/or sadness, an especially challenging time for queer people.
Even in safer spaces where queer folks may feel supported, any soiree provides potential to mingle with those who do not see eye-to-eye and, furthermore, do not approve of our identities and lifestyles. Interpersonal trauma is often linked to or around family-of-origin; we’ve previously discussed the ways in which the LGBTQIA+ community is more likely to experience trauma and rejection in youth, often by family members and friends. Going “home for the holidays'' can put us near unresolved issues around acceptance with certain family members. We may feel we have to hide parts of our identity and expressions to stay safe or avoid conflict.
Additionally, holiday parties can trigger general social anxiety, alcoholism, addiction, disordered eating and other deep-rooted psychological issues and behavioral patterns. Mental health services are life-changing for queer people to unpack their upbringing and learn to handle situations of discomfort. Therapy and/or medication can absolutely be utilized as needed, such as during an uptick of grief or pressure that the holidays bring. It’s never too late to start a journey with mental health and our needs do not have to be long-term. Noting potential conflict and upsets can be a source of fear, but this awareness is also a means of being prepared. Being kind and gentle with ourselves, planning on how to handle situations and reaching out for professional assistance is a sign of care, not of weakness.
Here are some helpful suggestions for queers to get through the holidays:
Have a friend on call. Opening up about anticipated difficulties and, furthermore, asking if you can call or text to vent assists in receiving validating emotional support from afar. Trusted friends who understand aspects of being queer in a cis het work or family environment can ease the anxiety of awkward or even aggressive encounters.
Find your family ally. If you have an ally in the family, let them know your concerns and discuss an exit strategy in advance, such as options to take breathing space, an alternative place to stay or earlier return arrangements.
Boundaries around topics. We may be pressured to explain gender-identity, gender presentation, HIV/AIDS status, coming out or any number of misconceptions around our queerness. It’s 100% up to you if you want to have these conversations. Consider your needs and wants in advance and decide on a script or preferred reaction to shut down any unwanted discussions.
Recognize emotional triggers. Finding quiet time in advance to note how the season of indulgence and excess may tempt us in a negative way is extremely helpful. One person’s view of “treating themselves” can be a tipping point for vices in others.
Say “no” if needed. Make boundaries around your time, energy, effort, spending and anything else that causes excess stress. Less can be more! Setting self-care intentions for downtime and managing expectations also empowers us to find balance.
There is nothing wrong with feeling a bit down around this time. In fact, humans are scientifically more likely to experience depression in the Winter months. Lack of sunlight and vitamin D deficiencies with colder temperatures can create “the blues” for up to 10 million Americans every year. Seasonal Affective Disorder is unfortunately very common, beginning as early as Autumn but concentrated more so within December to February, the latter ranked as the worst month for Winter SAD. Experiencing a “crash” after January is also typical; the stark energy between Holiday overload and “New Year, New Me” resolutions can be disorienting.
Equal Health currently serves 20 States and DC, offering Mental Health Management, Gender Affirming Care, Sexual Health, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment and Weight Management services through the privacy and convenience of telehealth. There are no hidden fees for Equal Health’s Memberships. Equal Health’s partnership with Grassroots Labs helps with discounts by 30-70% of the market price and partnered pharmacies greatly reduce the cost of medications, offering fast and discreet prescription delivery right to the patient's home.
For the remainder of December, Equal Health is offering 25% off Membership plans and Pay-As You-Go services. Use the coupon code: PRIDE25 during checkout. Offer ends 12/31/2023.
"Seasonal Affective Disorder Impacts 10 Million Americans. Are You One of Them?", Boston University Today
Seasonal Affective Disorder, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)