Following the news could provoke anxiety in anybody, but for the LGBTQ community, keeping up-to-date can be particularly distressing these days. Stories about institutionalized discrimination, bias against transgender individuals, the risks of suicide by and sexual assault against queer people ― all of this can take a massive toll on mental health.
You can’t realistically take care of yourself by avoiding the news forever, but there are ways to deal while still staying informed. Below are some expert-backed suggestions for self-care when the news or culture surrounding you is terrible:
Remember that someone else’s opinion isn’t a measure of your worth.
It can be easy to get lost in other people’s viewpoints ― particularly when they’re negative. Remind yourself that talking heads on TV and articles on news sites don’t define your value, said Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.
“Who you are and who you love is not a political issue, nor is it based on someone else’s beliefs,” Reidenberg said. “That does not mean there won’t be times when someone in the news feels like they are attacking you or someone you care about ― because that happens ― but remember that they don’t know you.”
Talk candidly with friends about what’s happening.
Use your loved ones as a forum to discuss issues and share how you’re feeling, Reidenberg suggested.
“Check with trusted people that you know about how you are doing with the negativity in the news about LGBTQ issues,” he said. “They might be worried about you and can be a source of support, strength and help to get you through it.”
Plus, one 2011 study found that hanging out with friends can reduce stress, so you’ll be naturally alleviating some of your anxiety in the process.
Ditch your screen ― or the discussion ― if you need to.
This may seem obvious but it bears repeating: Sometimes breaks are necessary, whether it’s turning off social media or walking away from a heated conversation.
“Be conscious of your boundaries and decide what you can tolerate. ... If you have to shut down a conversation, either on social media or away from [the] keyboard, do it,” said Christine Milrod, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist specializing in LGBTQ issues. “Your mental health is more important than to win an argument.”
“Be conscious of your boundaries and decide what you can tolerate.”
Engage in an activity that makes you feel good.
Victor Schwartz, chief medical officer of the mental health-focused Jed Foundation, recommended engaging in self-care activities like getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music and eating well. Sex, yoga, a warm bath, cursing (hell yes) and even some dark chocolate have also been shown to reduce anxiety.
“These things are all ways to feel good and distract yourself from distressing or challenging experiences,” Schwartz said.
Try your hand at advocacy.
You could speak up on LGBTQ issues or an entirely different cause ― shelter dog adoption, homelessness, suicide prevention, you name it. Getting involved in an organization that contributes to the greater good can give you a boost when everything else makes you feel helpless, according to Schwartz.
“Feeling as if you can fix or even improve a problem, especially with a ‘team’ of like-minded and supportive people, helps to dispel a sense of helplessness which can worsen depression,” Schwartz said.
“Feeling as if you can fix or even improve a problem ... helps to dispel a sense of helplessness.”
Chat with a therapist.
Therapy can be an incredible tool. Research has found that talking to a therapist can positively rewire the brain over time, which could potentially help patients deal better with conditions like anxiety or depression. And seeing a mental health professional who specializes in the very issues you’re struggling with can help you develop coping techniques and plans of action.
“Talking to an LGBTQ-affirmative psychotherapist could help with issues such as coping with the reactions of unsupportive people, depression from the effects of bullying, discrimination, hostility, and rejection from family, friends and the community at large,” Milrod said. “It could also help with creating a strategy for fearing violence in public places.”
Indulge in something silly.
“Turn off the TV news ... and change the topic in your head, even if it’s just goofy, fun and not intellectual in the least,” Milrod said.
Go see a funny movie, read through hilarious tweets, read a book or watch a mindless reality TV show ― anything that doesn’t involve supreme concentration on a serious subject.
Do absolutely nothing.
Yep, you read that correctly. It’s not always your job to change the world or even just one person’s opinion. When it comes to your mental health, it’s important to recognize when you can’t control a situation and allow yourself to rest, said Milrod.
“Sometimes the best self-care is to back off and do nothing. Let yourself just be,” she said.
“No one should have to live in fear, especially for who you are. No one can take you away from you ― no one.”
Seek support if you’re at risk in any way.
Be mindful of behaviors or unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance or alcohol abuse or self-harm, Milrod stressed. And ultimately, if you feel that your mental or physical health is at risk, reach out to a clinician or someone you trust ASAP. You deserve to feel better.
“If you are feeling threatened, make sure that you tell someone about it. Whether from a family member, trusted friend, member of the clergy, an employer or a therapist, you need to get support and help to feel safe and secure,” Reidenberg said. “No one should have to live in fear, especially for who you are. No one can take you away from you ― no one.”
#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.