6 Empowering Ways to Survive the Holidays with Family

The holidays are here and I’m guessing it’s bittersweet, especially for us LGBTQ folks. In such a divided world, the one constant seems to be the collective illusion that the holidays are a time of love, there’s “magic” in the air, and it’s happy family time. However, it can be a season of hurt — both in the past and present — especially for us in the LGBTQ community. Perhaps you lost the “magic” when you chose to defend your identity. Maybe you now choose to spend the holidays with the family of your choosing because it’s safer than going home. However you choose to celebrate this year, it is essential to have a plan in place to help you cope with the inevitable stressors and triggers.

Be aware and stay present.

Take note of when your tension levels start to rise and call out what you’re feeling. Nostalgia for how things were and how we wanted them to be is common at this time of the year. Feel your feelings because feelings never hurt anyone. The actions resulting from those feelings are often a result of bottling up everything and not giving them an outlet. Noticing and naming the anxiety can often calm it. The best gift you can give yourself and others is to simply be present.

Make time to be alone.

Spending time with lots of people can be exhausting. And if you’re forced to spend it with unsupportive families, then it’s even worse. Make time to practice self-care and just do you. Whether it’s sitting in a bed and reading a book, going outside for some exercise, taking a nap, or journaling – you have the right to be alone and recharge.

Create a self-acceptance mantra.

Returning home for the holidays shouldn’t mean that LGBTQ people are required to revert back to former versions of themselves to keep the peace. Creating a simple mantra ahead of time can help you reframe your mind so that you don’t have to revert. “I am exactly who I am supposed to be and do not need to change for anyone else” is a great starting point, while Dr. Logan Jones has written an LGBTQ Bill of Rights to protect our mental health here.

Prepare for family issues.

Even with the most accepting family, chances are you’ll still have the odd aunt or uncle who continues to ask “why aren’t you married yet?” or say things like “that’s your issue” or “this is my gay cousin.” These microaggressions, even from family, are an affront to your ability to feel comfortable, welcomed, and respected for who you are. Prepare ahead of time how you will respond to these triggering comments. This prevents your response from being reactive and coming from a place of anger and frustration. Try “Please don’t make comments like that. They’re hurtful and make me feel unwelcome”.

Set your own boundaries.

You are allowed to take care of yourself. Oftentimes we feel like we always need to be “on” and defend the entire LGBTQ community, but we don’t have to. You aren’t required to go to the Christmas service with your family if it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t have to explain that “it’s not a choice.” Communicating those boundaries to your family beforehand might help prevent in-the-moment frustration.

Establish a support system of allies.

If you’re going home for the holidays, let your friends and allies know that you’ll be needing some extra support during your away time. Call or text that support system if you feel overwhelmed by your family. An outsider’s perspective can be a welcome mental reset. When you return home, remember to surround yourself with people who love you and remind you that you’re perfect as you are.

Chad Isaiah (he / him) is a Certified Fitness Coach, getting his clients results beyond the numbers on the scale by helping them understand their value as a person. He believes that health and fitness should be a safe and inclusive space for everyone. Check out his training services over at Chad Isaiah Coaching.