Revised December 16, 2016
The holidays present particular challenges for many LGBTQ people, particularly the many who have no home for the one holiday during the year when almost everything in the U.S. and many other countries are completely closed. Leaving religious explanations aside, the assumption that underlies the wholesale closure of all community services and businesses is that all people have families to go to, and that they welcome the opportunity to do just that! But for many LGBTQ folks, one or the other is not true – many who even have families have been shut out entirely, and many who could go to their family home find the experience so stressful that they would rather do almost anything else. But the alternatives are few and far between on December 25th.
All of this is not to mention the basic fact that even if “home” and “family” are not major issues, many LGBTQ people experience the holidays as not the “good cheer and peace” time of year that is broadcast through the relentless music streams in almost every public space. So it is time to take a look at some tips to consider – ways to help yourself and to help others who are struggling with holiday stress. Here are some ideas that I can offer – if you have others, please use the comments below to add to this list!
- Assess what it is that you need – the positive things that could get you through this stressful time. It may not be easy, or even possible, to get exactly what you need, but identifying what you need will make you open, mentally and emotionally, to receiving something that comes close! If you need professional support, perhaps medication, focus on finding a way to get this support. If you need a friend to help, or if you know of a friend who might need help, reach out.
- Avoid self-medication with drugs and alcohol. While these bring about temporary relieve, they are not positive long-term solutions. Instead, continue down this list and make specific plans to take positive, health-promoting ways to cope.
- Start early to nurture a habit of reflection and meditation. Use this habit to lower stress in the moment, but also to gain clarity about your situation.
- Focus on thoughts about positive things you can do to lower your level of stress and anxiety. Consider making a plan for something you can do each day for 2 or 3 weeks, and focus on doing each daily activity. I recommend a different activity for each day, so that you have something different to anticipate with each passing day.
- Make promises to yourself about things you will avoid, and things you will say and do in those situations that are particularly stressful. For example, if you feel you must go to your relative’s home, promise yourself that you will only stay for the amount of time that you believe you can handle – not the entire day.
- Let go of relationships that no longer work well, or that are no longer possible – at least for the difficult holiday period. Letting go is a painful grieving process that cannot happen just because you want it to. But during this season that brings to the surface the pain of lost relationships, at least let go of thoughts that bring that pain to the surface by shifting your attention to the positive steps you can take to move forward – in other words, keep reading!
- Make a plan with friends to do something together. If your friends are not available for “the day” that everyone else is celebrating, make a plan for a special time the day before or the day after, and turn your thoughts to making that time special as a way to interrupt thoughts and feelings of loss or sadness. If you know of someone who has no place to go and no one to celebrate the holiday with, reach out and work out a plan to do a holiday alternative with them.
- Realize that the hype around the December holidays is designed to play on sentiments, images and memories of family experiences that draw us all into a desire for material goods as a substitute for genuine human love and relationship. I find that it is helpful to avoid places and spaces where these images abound, and minimize the material aspects of this time of year. Instead, turn to thoughts and plans for all possible opportunities you have to nurture your positive and current relationships and express love and appreciation with and for those you care about – without the aid of material excess.
- Use the comments below to share your experiences, your ideas, and even requests for help! We will respond!
The Season of Unrealistic Expectations and Unfulfilled Hopes. Good advice here. One suggestion frequently made is to volunteer for a service organization (e.g., on Xmas day). Go to a concert or performance (e.g., Solstice or 12th Night event). On New Year’s Day, follow the Southern custom of preparing greens and beans (e.g., blackeye peas) for good luck all year!
Excellent suggestions! And one good thing to notice – there are free performances – many of which are very religious – only a drawback if the religious themes create more stress. But there are also secular things happening too here and there.
I have thought of another Item – which I will add to the post above – letting go of relationships and are no longer working or possible!
Think about opening your home to others in your situation (including couples who have no other family), even if you don’t know them well. Some of your friends may know of others who are feeling the same way. Ask. Have a nice meal or ask everyone to bring something special to them.