Avoiding Stress at the Holidays

Posted In: The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity

Published: Dec 06, 2022

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By Monte Ephraim, LCSW-C
The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity

The holidays can be a particularly stressful time of year for LGBTQ elders, from dealing with their families or families of choice to budgeting their time, energy and finances.

Tips for managing this stress and avoiding its negative health effects will be presented at an upcoming LGBTQ Community Connection hosted by The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity. The virtual session is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For more information on this session, and to find out how to join, click here.

Here’s a preview of tips for a healthy, happy holiday: 

Why are the holidays so hard for LGBTQ individuals, particularly elders, both mentally and physically?

The holidays can be stressful for all of us. As an LGBTQ elder, I can say that holiday stress can be intensified by an individual’s lack of social and emotional connection. Some of us may have few family or friends to share the holidays with, either through rejection or physical loss. Feelings of social isolation can increase anxiety and depression, which in turn can have an impact on our physical well-being.

What can individuals do to manage the mental challenges of the holiday season?

The holidays can be a difficult time of year. Since about one in four Americans experience some type of behavioral health challenge every year, it’s quite likely that you may be or know someone who may be facing an emotional or behavioral health issue such as depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder.  

  • Be thoughtful with your invitations. It may be fun to go to a Holiday or New Year’s Eve party, but others may prefer smaller activities.
  • Remember that people are more than you see.  Acknowledging one’s challenges conveys your compassion for their experience, but it doesn’t have to be the only topic of conversation. When you meet or chat on the phone, ask about work, sports, pets or other topics they’re interested in. 
  • Reach out regularly. Research tells us that a supportive network is priceless on many levels from social, emotional to physical. Call and check in on a regular basis. A gesture as simple as sending a holiday card can be significant.
  • Allow for individuals to bow out gracefully. Someone experiencing anxiety, depression will likely know their triggers and the best ways to manage their environment in order to stay healthy during the holidays. Don’t pressure them if they decide to opt out of holiday gatherings or choose to leave an event early. Doing the things that makes them feel alive and well is what is most important and your understanding will be greatly appreciated. Don’t take it as a sign they don’t want to engage.
  • Consider safety and comfort. Evening activities may be too late or too dark. The weather may be too cold or icy. Are there too many steps, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to engage it may mean they are considering how they can engage.

What can people do to maintain their physical well-being during the next few weeks?

Reach out, connect, and check in. Invite an elder to share a holiday with you, or you with them. The stories you can hear, the lessons you can learn, and the memories you can share and create go far beyond a simple activity or meal together, and could impact you and them for a lifetime.

What present would you like to give your patients during the holidays?

If I could, I would like to give every person an opportunity of inclusion where they can feel safe and supported. The amount of resources is slowly expanding, but we need more. For every organization and person this season, and every day thereafter, I encourage you to think about how we can be more intergenerational and supportive in our care.

For or more info about LGBTQ elder care, visit ChaseBrexton.org/LGBTQ.