The holidays can be a mixed bag of egg nog, seasonal store displays, months of jolly music and some form of gathering with family and friends. This can be stressful for anyone, especially members of the queer community, whose families may not be accepting of their identities. Compounded with navigating conversations about the presidential election, this holiday season may be particularly stressful.
It’s critical that we remember to take some time for ourselves. For those who might be wrestling with an extra layer of stress during this time, here are 10 essential self-care tips.
- Be kind to yourself
- Be ready for what is coming
- Lean on friends and chosen family
- Communicate your needs clearly
- Do something silly
- Plan for time-outs
- Plan ahead if you’re going to make any major decisions or announcements
- Know (and respect) your limits
- Pick your battles
- Everything in moderation
Whether that means reading, journaling, or binge-watching your favorite show, make sure you have a plan in place for self-care. The holidays can be isolating and you’ll be much better off with a few tricks up your sleeve. Plan for the potential added stress by making time for the things that bring you emotional comfort.
Chances are that if you’re going to be around family for the holidays, you have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Be prepared by noting which family members are likely to cause tension so you can plan accordingly. Realistic expectations will help you enjoy the good that the holidays have to offer.
“Family” is another way of saying “people who love, support, and care about me”. Being with friends or chosen family you can count on can help soothe other losses or family breaks that feel harsh at this time of year. Rely on the family you have created if you feel hurt by the family you were born with.
Waiting for someone else to notice and respond to what you want can result in hurt feelings and arguments. If you need or want something, pause, consider if your expectations are realistic, and then choose a way to voice your request.
Whether it’s a special holiday outfit, reindeer antlers for the dog, attending a silly holiday event, or watching a funny movie, take time to remember the joy and fun of acting a little younger than you may be. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.
It’s perfectly fine to excuse yourself from family situations that become too intense or overwhelming. Give yourself permission to take a walk, retreat to a quiet room, or otherwise disengage from stressful situations around the holidays.
If you’re planning to come out to someone or share your HIV status, take your time. Breathe. Before you tell someone, arrange to have another friend or family member who already knows on-hand for support.
Old behavior patterns may start to appear around the holidays, especially when you are with relatives or under stress. You may find yourself falling into old family habits or behaving in ways you haven’t in a long time. Pause and remember that you can make different choices now, including stepping away when you know you’ve reached your limit.
Ask yourself if the current issue is really one you need to take a stand on. If it doesn’t feel worth it, let it pass. Save your energy for something that really matters to you.
This applies to food, alcohol, chocolate, sex, family, holiday events, and other things. More isn’t always necessarily better; choose what feels good, but do it in moderation.