Mental Health Tips for Thriving in a Cisheteronormative World

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Worldwide, reports of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For LGBTQ+ people, navigating day-to-day life in a cisheteronormative society brings about additional challenges and pressures, which can affect your well-being. Thankfully, there are ways in which you can look after your mind. Read on to find out more!

Understanding the root of your problems

The best thing you can do about preserving your mental health is to be proactive. You know yourself better than anyone, but still, there are general signs that your mental health is declining:

  • Your favorite activities no longer bring you joy.
  • You’re isolating yourself from friends, family, and community.
  • You feel more tired than usual.
  • You’re using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress.
  • You’re having suicidal thoughts or considering harming yourself.

What you need to be happy

There are certain things every person needs to feel happy. For queer people, there are nuances in how these needs may manifest.

Perhaps the most crucial of all is self-love. Choosing to love yourself unconditionally is a radical act when you don’t fit society’s norms. Whether you’re gender-nonconforming, transgender, or anything but heterosexual, you may have dealt with feeling othered, being bullied or mistreated. Although support from loved ones is important, without acceptance for yourself, it’s hard to push through adversity.

Minorities such as the LGBTQ+ community rely on connection. It’s easy to feel lonely and disconnected when you don’t have people who understand you around you. Spending quality time with people who you can just be yourself around is not only important, it is essential.

It is also important to have a sense of security and safety. We all need stability in our lives, from being able to afford basic needs such as housing and food, to having a support network to fall back on. For queer people, these support networks are often called “chosen families”.

Mental & physical well-being are both factors that influence mental health. LGBTQ+ people may find it more difficult to stay active, for example, by being excluded from certain gyms and sports groups. Societal and political pressures relating to gender or sexuality can also cause someone a lot of stress.

Lastly, feeling stimulated and motivated occurs when you are actively pursuing your interests and feel a sense of purpose (professional or other).

How to look after your mental health

These tips should help you improve and manage your mental health. If you feel you are in a critical state, please seek out professional help urgently.

Engage with the LGBTQ+ community and allies. Surround yourself with people who understand you on a deeper level, both offline and online. From gay, lesbian, trans, and bisexual dating apps (yes, let’s not forget the B in LGBTQ+) to queer supper clubs, there are multiple ways to connect meaningfully with people.

Seek help. Therapy is recommended for anyone, however, it can be expensive to access. Depending on where you are in the world, you can access free or discounted therapy sessions through a charity or national health service. Other options include mental health support groups, counseling in the workplace/place of study, or simply opening up to your friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Don’t hesitate to cut people out. They say blood is thicker than water, but you shouldn’t tolerate abuse from family members. The same applies to toxic friendships. If you feel emotionally drained or uncomfortable around someone, and you don’t think there is a way to fix this, distance yourself from them.

Assess your lifestyle and surroundings. Your body requires rest and nourishment to thrive. Heavy drinking, a poor diet, a hectic lifestyle and an uncomfortable living space will lead to burnout. Being at home should spark joy - clean your room, paint your walls your favorite color etc. Eat plenty of veggies, take a break from wild nights out, and look after yourself.

Move your body. Exercise in a way that you enjoy so that it doesn’t feel like another chore you should be doing. Find an activity that brings you joy, whether it’s training with weights at home, running with a friend, or dancing freely in your bedroom.

Reconnect with nature. We live in an increasingly digital world, so it is important to go for a walk in the park whenever you can. Walking in nature could have a positive impact on your mental health, as opposed to walking through the busy parts of the city.

Find a creative outlet. What would you like to take up? Are there any interests or curiosities you left behind? Could you take up sketching, dancing, learning an instrument, drag? Don’t be afraid to explore.

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