In a world in which our LGBTQ+ identities are under constant scrutiny, we sometimes find ourselves put in positions where we are both individuals with our own experiences and values, but still representatives of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a lot of weight to bear and sometimes it can lead to complicated mental health issues such as Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and even Acute Stress Disorder. This article is the first in my six-month LGBTQ+ mental health series and advice column and we’ll start with talking about mental health during Pride.
We often neglect prioritizing our mental health during Pride Month. Here are seven ways we can manage our mental wellness this month.
Coping mechanisms are the things you do after something has occurred, but protective mechanisms are the things we do before something occurs. If your “emotional cup” is already filled, it doesn’t drain or burn you out when someone does something upsetting. It can still be hurtful and offensive, but it’s not as devastating when your “cup is full.” Your protective mechanisms should be things that you can do daily that make you feel good, like sitting next to your window and looking outside, lighting a candle and slowing down to smell it, reading a chapter in a book, watering your plants, or holding hands with your partner or friend. Protective mechanisms should be easy, frequent, bring joy, and generally free of cost.
You don’t have to watch the news everyday to be informed nor do you have to engage in politically driven conversations when you don’t want to. You can change the subject, express discomfort, walk away, scroll past the post, change the channel, or choose “no news days.”
Community is rooted in the word “commune,” emotional and spiritual connection based on commonalities and shared values. It can be two people…you don’t need five friends in the community. Two or three may be enough as long as you feel seen, heard, safe, and can practice skills like communication, problem-solving, and love.
Take a walk, go running, go for a hike, pick flowers, sit on grass, go to a local lake, open the window in your home, get fresh air, look up at the moon. Remember, we are connected to nature so it can be rejuvenating to connect with nature even when we have been conditioned to take it for granted. And, with all things connected with nature, remember to be safe, be aware, and communicate with at least one person where you are going.
Do not hoard your time off. Sure, you want to save it for “vacation” but using it now will ensure that you are not burned out when your vacation comes and it helps you to keep your “emotional cup” full. So take leave one time this month.
Your body needs rest. Your mind needs rest. It’s tempting to stay up late working, socializing, binge watching TV, but your body needs you to go to sleep.
Avoid code switching, shrinking yourself, or silencing yourself. It’s uncomfortable—even painful—to be in the margins, but it’s far worse to deny yourself because you are afraid that someone else will deny you. Your first relationship is the one with yourself, so be true and honest with yourself in all situations… even when you are afraid.