During the winter months when it’s coldest and darkest, it’s a lot easier to feel more sad, or even depressed and anxious. For queer and trans people especially, we often face more unique circumstances around the holidays. We know that family and traditional gatherings that are meant to be happy can be a difficult topic for queer and trans people.

Around the holidays, it’s not unusual to feel stressed or confused about celebration and family—either because of lack of acceptance from the people you grew up with, or because you’re trying to find ways to create a chosen family.

Research shows that many of us are much more likely to experience behavioral health struggles, and to indulge in alcohol and other substances to cope with the stress of the season. Whether you’re going to stay with family that causes you stress, or you’ll be spending the holidays alone, finding someone to check in with about your mental health during the next few weeks could prove to be extraordinarily useful. That might look like choosing someone as an accountability partner who you can talk to about how you’re coping with the holidays and what activities you’re trying to keep afloat. Or it could look like planning virtual movie nights with a trusted friend—no talking or venting necessary.

Queer and trans people on how they cope, in their own words

Cass Wahl, one of our team members at Included Health, says that one thing that has helped them feel extra confident and significantly less stressed leading up to the holidays is their recent decision to quit drinking alcohol. “Three months strong and feeling so energized and revitalized makes me feel really good about going into the holidays with no pressure to consume, especially knowing in the past I’ve over-consumed,” they say, adding, “I feel great about the ability to recognize what is making me feel anxious or what’s bringing up PTSD symptoms. It’s helping me be more in touch with myself.”

The same coping skills they have all the time are what they also rely on to get them through the holiday season, they note. “A great night of sleep, meditating, connecting with my physical body… all of these help. Educating myself makes me feel really good, too, personally,” says Cass. “Learning refreshes me. For me, if I can intellectually engage myself it is often kind of a journey away from my conscious brain. Then I’m totally engaged in thinking critically and a learning experience.” When they dive into books, it helps to broaden their perspective about what other people are going through, Cass explains. “Having that experience of not thinking about myself all the time is great. Reading is an anchor. So is drawing, painting, going for a walk. I can always rely on those things to ground me.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed this time of year and looking for resources to make it through to the other side, look no further. Our team has put together a wealth of resources for you.

Resources:

More ideas for surviving and thriving through the season

If you’re spending the holidays alone this year, consider planning a group walk with some friends, or small phone calls to hear the voices of people you love. “Especially while visiting family, remember to take breaks and incorporate exercise/movement and nature. Offer to run an errand on your own, take a walk in the park. A moment alone, sunlight and fresh air won’t resolve all your stress but they can help immensely,” says Alex.

As a trans person myself who’s not going home to any family this year and is usually a bit of a vagabond, I usually feel depressed during the holidays. It’s a time of trauma anniversaries for me, and often a reminder that I don’t have a traditional family to go to and spend joyful times with. But this year, I actually feel a little excited to spend the holidays alone, because I’m thinking about the traditions that I can establish and that I get to choose for myself. That’s not to say you should overwhelm or distract yourself with toxic positivity. It completely makes sense to struggle with the holidays, and to allow yourself to feel that. But it doesn’t have to consume you. Instead, it can be motivation to find something that helps you feel at peace.

One of our Care Coordinators says they typically do a group text thread of all their queer friends on the day before Christmas to send some love and memes. The conversation doesn’t have to be overwhelming or actually full of much substance—it’s just a good way to connect and remember there are people who support and cherish you.

Other ways to cope during the holidays:

  • Volunteering on holidays can be a wonderful community experience and a way to get the warm and fuzzies (if you’re able to safely engage in person outdoors, you can, but there may be online opportunities as well)
  • Crafting or creating something alone can be a wonderful way to engage your mind and lose all track of time and space. It’s also a great way to have gifts to give!
  • If you’re choosing to spend the day alone, make sure to grab some good books, shows, podcasts, etc. to keep yourself entertained and in good spirits.
  • If you enjoy cooking or baking, grocery shopping and planning ahead of time may be an exciting and rewarding way to support yourself. If you don’t enjoy cooking, try ordering ahead food that you really enjoy to kind of ‘splurge’ on the holiday!
  • Avoid doom-scrolling and over-consuming social media or news about things that trigger you or cause you to spiral

And, as always, if you’re an Included Health member, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Care Coordinator team to get connected with affirming providers.

At Included Health, we strive to provide friendly and exceptional healthcare navigation services to the LGBTQ+ community. Join our mailing list to receive more health and wellbeing updates from our care team. And please do not hesitate to contact us to #GetIncluded for your company, health plan, and community.

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