LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to struggle with their mental health, experiencing more depression and anxiety than their peers. Managing anxiety of LGBTQ+ youth is vital – now more than ever.
Ongoing efforts to adjust to COVID have changed our daily lives and anxiety is normal. You may still be worried about getting sick, or concerned for family members with specific health considerations. The news is developing rapidly — every time you turn around, you’re likely to find a new headline, story, or soundbite. While it’s good to stay informed and stay safe, this constant coverage can trigger serious anxiety.
If you already struggle with anxiety, you may find yourself feeling especially overwhelmed, helpless, or fearful. If you’re LGBTQ+, things might be even more complicated. Maybe you’re cut off from the people, groups, and social networks that lift you up. Maybe you’re stuck at home with unsupportive family members. If you struggle with your identity, social distancing and isolation can be devastating.
We’re all in this together, and anxiety is normal. As we take extra steps to protect our physical health, we must also take steps to protect our mental and emotional health, our supportive relationships, and our safety. These things matter. You matter.
We hope these eight tips for managing anxiety for LGBTQ+ youth help you stay strong as we navigate current events. Together, we will get through this.
Note: These tips are meant for general information. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek immediate care, reach out to a 24-hour lifeline, or call 911.
Honor your feelings — they are a natural part of being human. We each experience a full range of emotions. Some are more pleasant than others, but all are valid. When we try to suppress our difficult feelings, they only get stronger. As the psychoanalyst Carl Jung famously said, “What you resist, persists.”
This is not to say that you should dwell on negative emotions. Just give yourself some grace. You are not bad, or weak, or wrong because you are afraid right now — you are human. Remind yourself that feelings, however unpleasant, are temporary. You haven’t always felt this way, and you will not always feel this way.
It may be helpful to write your feelings down in a journal or on a piece of paper. The act of writing out a thought sends a message to your brain that it’s being addressed. You don’t have to read it or share it. You don’t even have to keep it. In fact, throwing it away can be a way of releasing it.
Likewise, many people feel better when they are able to express themselves creatively, through art, music, poetry, or another outlet. What do you enjoy? Take some time to engage in it.
Need some inspiration? Join our Free2BeMe virtual art party! It’s the perfect opportunity to express what’s in your heart: your LGBTQ+ identity, your hopes, dreams, strengths, fears, and feelings. There are no rules — your heart belongs to you. Get creative with this. ‘What would you tell someone struggling with their identity? What did you want your loved ones to know about you when you came out?’ Only you define you and we invite you to share what’s in your heart with your Free2Luv family. We are here to support you!
Right now, it feels like a lot is out of our hands. Yet we are not completely powerless.
Now is the time to prioritize healthy habits. That means getting enough sleep, eating nutritious and enjoyable foods, exercising, and so on. All of these things boost your immune system, but they also boost your mental health. You are a whole, integrated system — body, mind, and spirit. What you do for one, you do for the others.
Self care is not all massages and bubble baths — not that there’s anything wrong with those. But sometimes, good self care is simply remembering to eat, drink, shower, or rest.
You are important, and your personal needs matter. Don’t minimize them. Check in with yourself periodically. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or sad, ask yourself what you need. Have you been drinking your water? Do you need a snack or meal? Can you open the curtains and enjoy some natural light?
And don’t feel bad about taking some time to play. Play is an important part of self care. Whether you have a hobby like drawing, knitting, or writing, enjoy video or board games, or simply feel like binging on your favorite Netflix show, playing helps relieve stress, boosts positive feelings, and recharges your batteries.
If you’re stuck in a home with people who don’t support you or the LGBTQ+ community, good self care is imperative. Don’t let anyone convince you that you don’t matter, or that you aren’t worth the effort. You are worth it.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. A lot of people equate mindfulness with meditation. Meditation is certainly one way to practice mindfulness, but it’s not the only way.
Anything that engages all five senses can help center you in your body and in the present moment. Consider putting together a self care kit filled with things that make your heart happy. Having your favorite items together in one easily accessible place relieves some of the pressure when you are feeling anxious or upset.
If you’re physically cut off from LGBTQ+ supportive friends and groups, include things that remind you of them, like photos or keepsakes. If you don’t have any, consider journaling about happier times or creating a piece of art — when you need to center yourself, you’ll have something to look at, touch, hold, and feel. All of these things can help you manage anxiety.
Yes, it’s good to be informed. But with access to 24-hour online and cable news, and the onslaught of social media information — and misinformation — it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Information is empowering, but too much information has the opposite effect.
It’s okay to turn off the TV, computer, and phone for a while. You won’t miss out on something important just because you unplug for an hour, an afternoon, or even a day. You’ll actually be doing yourself a favor.
If you can get outside in nature, that’s even better. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light and landscapes boosts mood and interrupts perseveration (obsessive thoughts). If you can’t be outside, there’s evidence to suggest that just looking at pictures of beautiful places can have positive effects.
It’s important to connect with supportive friends and loved ones. You may not be able to do it in person right now, so do it on the phone or over Zoom or Skype. It’s easy to fall back on social media to communicate with friends and family, but social media is no substitute for actual conversations.
If you’re looking to make new connections, consider joining a virtual group like TrevorSpace, a safe and affirming online community for LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 to 24. This is a great way to help you manage your anxiety during coronavirus.
If you don’t have anyone you trust, you can get free, confidential support over the phone. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Call a lifeline or text a crisis counselor. They’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When you face adversity, you come out stronger. That’s what “I Define Me” stories are all about.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Anxiety, fear, loneliness, and isolation are widespread. But at the same time, we have opportunities: to find new and healthy ways to cope, to step into our power, to accept ourselves and others, and to make the world a more loving place for all.
If you could use some encouragement, check out our “I Define Me” stories. Many are from people in the LGBTQ+ community who describe coming out, overcoming bullying, or rising above negative circumstances — and coming out stronger as a result.
Regardless of where you are today, no one has the power to define you but you — not now, not ever. These are unusual times, but they are also defining times. You are strong.
And if you feel inspired, consider sharing your own story. Your experiences and perspectives are important, and may give others a much-needed boost of encouragement!
With everything that we have collectively been experiencing, it’s easy to feel isolated. If you’re LGBTQ+, you may feel especially alone right now. But we are all in this together. Fear of the unknown, anxiety, and uncertainty are universal.
Right now, things may feel scary, overwhelming, and strange. It may seem like there’s no end in sight. But feelings — and circumstances — are temporary. We’ll get through this.
Today and every day, your Free2Luv family is here for you. We care about you, we support you, and we stand with you. We invite you to become a part of our community. We have a ton of great resources in our blog as well as inspirational stories from our LGBTQ+ community. Connect with us on social media and join us online. Your voice matters. Join the conversation!
Because love conquers fear – always.