As Queer Leaders and Allies, we spend a great deal of our time helping others, often at the expense of our own wellbeing. While the holiday period can be a joyous time, it can also be filled with challenges too. We're here with a simple technique that you could use to help yourself before you begin helping others in the new year.
There’s a variety of reasons why you, or other people may find the holiday period stressful. Statistics show that around 25% of people in the U.K. find Christmas and New Year hard on their mental health. For Queer people, this period can propose additional challenges. Many of us have complicated relationships with our families as a result of their rejection, misinterpretation or struggle with our queer identities. The pressure to be happy during the festive period can aggravate existing mental health issues, which already affect our community at higher rates than average.
Often, the brunt of this strain is felt after the New Year - whether you're returning to where you live after spending the festive period with your family, or whether it's simply time to return to work after some well-deserved time off. Mid January represents a challenging combination of long periods of darkness, a return to looming work-based stresses, along with high expectations we subject ourselves to with New Year’s Resolutions.
Everyone's experience vary - no doubt you are already very aware of what is playing on your mind - the load can be heavy…
So, let’s see if we can go some way in helping you unload some of this weight. Sometimes it can be helpful to process our stresses by associating them in our heads with tangible object - especially when it comes to organising our thoughts. Why don’t you try this short exercise?
1. Imagine you're carrying a bag
Head into a space where you feel most comfortable, such as your living room or your bedroom. Imagine you’re carrying a large, heavy bag which is filled with all of the things that are worrying you, or playing on your mind.
Set the bag down, and take some time to decompress. Eat some food, have a shower, get comfortable and take a breath. Try your best to clear your mind a little. Let yourself fully experience the release you are feeling by distancing yourself from your stresses for a short while.
2. Make a short list of what's bothering you
When you're ready, carefully take out each item of worry from the bag and make a note of what you are removing, one-by-one. Really take time to consider what each item means to you and why you might have packed it in the bag in the first place. Giving yourself space to download what has happened over the festive period, is important.
Being careful not to overwhelm yourself, simple acknowledgement of each different factor which is contributing to your stress or anxiety allows you to validate your emotions. Laying everything out in a simple list will help you make sense of what you are faced with.
3. Categorising & Prioritising
Once you feel like you have given yourself space to emotionally process things a little further, it is time to categorise what’s on your list and prioritise what you need to actively react to/deal with, the things that may not require your immediate attention.
Why not try and group the “items from your bag” (i.e. the things that are worrying you) as follows?
4. What are you placing on your desk?
The items from your bag (or things that are on your mind) which you choose to "place on your desk" are the things that you can deal with or resolve relatively easily and efficiently. It could be simple things like:
Writing a shopping list for the week ahead
Preparing your bag for your first day back at work
Doing some laundry
Meditating or reflecting to ground yourself / stretching out to help release physical tension
Getting in touch with friends or your Chosen Family to let them know that you're decompressing, and maybe want to catch up on what's going on with them.
Even the smallest of actions we take have value, and can go a long way to help us feel like we're being constructive, even if we are feeling low on energy and motivation.
5. What are you placing on your shelves?
This is the space for the things that you're not quite ready to deal with, and need some more time to think about before you tackle them. Some examples of things that you could place on your shelves:
Forecasting your spending for the month ahead
Talking to someone about how they may have made you feel - for example, if they have made negative comments about specific parts of your identity.
6. What are you packing away into your cupboard/wardrobe?
This is the best place for more significant worries, that you may need to think about more in the long term. That is not to say you are avoiding them or running away from them. Like we said, acknowledgement is the first step of processing emotions, which eventually leads to acceptance or resolution.
Processing difficult or triggering situations you’ve faced during the holidays, such as arguing with your family, having your identity disrespected, being misgendered or facing isolation.
Navigating your relationship with food and alcohol
With everything that causes us anxiety, it is important to remember the following:
Check back on the categories of your list regularly to ensure you continue to work forward. Employ tools such as journaling or moodboarding if you feel like you need to work some more to process the feelings that you are feeling.
It is important to remember that everyone, no matter who they are, is faced with elements of uncertainty, pain (psychological and physical) and the strain of constant work in their lives. To remember that everyone faces barriers and difficulties can sometimes help us take the steps necessary to work forward and reach out to others.
When you feel comfortable, it is important to get into contact with those who you are close to, who you can trust, to tell them about what you are struggling with. However, for these conversations to be helpful you should, in your own way, make clear to them that you are looking for either reassurance or solutions.
Once you have had a go at this visualisation and prioritisation exercise and feel, if it helps you feel a little more balanced, maybe suggest to them to have a go themselves, by reading this article!
When you are feeling calmer, you will have a stronger foundation which you use to can help others. When you are ready, take a look at our article on how you can perhaps be there for others.
While you're here...
Did you know we consult with 100+ Businesses, ERGs and Change-Leaders providing bespoke corporate solutions? Through consultancy we design shared learning experiences, produce DEI insights and craft bespoke content that support individuals with strengthening their roles as change-agents within their communities and organisations. Find out more here.
We also organise FREE community events throughout the year! We offer a variety of ways to get involved - both online and in person. This is a great way to network and learn more about others' experiences, through in-depth discussion on an array of topics. You can find out what events we have coming up here. New ones are added all the time, so make sure you sign up to our newsletter so you can stay up to date!