Each year, we hear from LGBTQ young people that the holidays can be a particularly difficult time for them. The complicated relationships we have with our families can sometimes leave us feeling raw, overwhelmed, and upset during and after the holidays. Additionally, the time leading up to a holiday gathering can bring up anxiety as we think about how it might go. We know that it can be incredibly powerful to identify ways to support ourselves for if things get tough.
What’s a Self-Care Plan?
Self-care plans can look very different from one another — they’re just as diverse and unique as the people who use them! Before creating one, it is important to remember that whatever you are feeling is completely valid. You are not wrong for having your feelings, and you deserve to feel supported and loved for all that you are. Sometimes, though, we don’t get that love and support from the people who are supposed to love and support us. Self-care can be a way to love and support ourselves when we need it most.
Self-care can help us feel calmer, and it can give us a sense of control when things feel out of control. The best way to plan for this kind of self-support is to identify things that may be helpful or comforting for before, during, and after the holidays.
Before, it can be helpful to find a friend or supportive adult to talk to about how you’re feeling. This can give us a clearer understanding of our fears and worries, and can help us identify what sorts of support we might need throughout the holidays. It is so powerful to know that we are not alone, that someone has our back, and is willing to listen. Also, if you know that someone will be at holiday gatherings who might be supportive of your identity, it might be helpful to talk with them beforehand if you are able to do so.
Self Care During the Holidays
As you enter a holiday gathering, it is important to remember that our identities are not contingent upon our family’s ability to understand or validate them. You know yourself best, you are the expert of yourself and your identity, and you are so incredibly valid. We know, though, that hearing this doesn’t change how difficult it can feel when the people around us aren’t showing us the acceptance and love that we deserve.
One thing that has been helpful for folks in the past is to create an affirmation to repeat in their head when they’re feeling anxious or upset. This can be very specific to your experience with specific comforting words or phrases, or it can be as simple as “I am valid,” or “I deserve to be supported and loved for who I am.” Additionally, it can be helpful to identify a friend who might be able to support you by texting you throughout, and to step away from family at any point to take care of yourself if you feel safe doing so — even if it’s just a quick walk outside or trip to the bathroom.
For transgender and gender non-conforming people who experience dysphoria (or for anyone whose physical expression is important to their identity), it can be great to get creative about the way that we affirm ourselves while with family. Folks have found it helpful to wear a piece of jewelry or clothing that feels affirming while around family. This can be something that is visible to others if that’s safe for you, or it can be something you wear under your clothing (like a necklace, a cool pair of socks, an undergarment, or a cute t-shirt!) so that only you know that it’s there.
It can also be important to plan for the self-care we might need after the holidays. This may be talking with someone who is supportive and understanding, watching a favorite TV show, creating some art, writing about your holiday experience, taking a cozy bubble bath, or doing something else that makes you feel comforted. A lot of LGBTQ people find it affirming to watch LGBTQ YouTubers or read their blogs when they’re feeling upset or alone, as it helps us to remember that there are people out there who are just like us.
The Trevor Project is Here for You 24/7
The reality is that some LGBTQ young people will spend the holidays with family; and for others, the holidays are a reminder of the loss of and the rejection from their families. Homelessness, violence, and suicidal thoughts affect LGBTQ youth uniquely and profoundly, and the holidays can be particularly difficult while alone.
Regardless of our relationship to the holidays, creating a self-care plan can be a powerful way to show ourselves the love we deserve. If you need additional support, please know that Trevor is always here for you 24/7. You can reach out to our caring and compassionate counselors through our Lifeline, Chat, and Text programs to talk about anything you are going through — you might even want to consider making Trevor a part of your self-care plan!
Joie A. DeRitis, LMSW (she/her/hers)
The Trevor Project