sshutterstock_1519169459_2Ag6OEn.jpeg (ssshutterstock_1519169459.webp)The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are falling, and the sound of Mariah Carey’s seminal hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You(opens in a new tab)” is jingle-jangling in the air. The holidays are here, and for some, that’s cause for great cheer -- but for others, the holiday season brings up unpleasant feelings, memories, expectations, and scenarios that make it difficult to stay mentally healthy.

At PrEP2Me, we know that the holidays are complicated for many of us in the LGBTQ+ community, and many of us are facing mental health struggles without additional stressors(opens in a new tab). We want to remind you that your mental health is worth caring for, so here are four suggestions from us for treating your mind well this year:

Set Boundaries With Family

For many people celebrating the holidays, family gatherings are essential, but they can also become an expectation that induces unusual amounts of anxiety. Different LGBTQ+ people have different levels of comfort with their family members, as well as different levels of support for their identities and orientations: in your reality, you may feel pressured to go by a name you no longer use, omit information about a romantic relationship, or be subjected to ideas contradictory to your own values. If this is your situation at any degree, know that it’s okay to set boundaries with your family. These may be boundaries related to length of contact: let them know you’ll only be in town for a short amount of time, or get a hotel instead of staying the night at your parents’ house. They may also be boundaries related to topics of discussion. If your situation is one in which it isn’t safe to advocate for yourself, don’t be afraid to remove yourself from the area -- take a bathroom break, text a buddy, whatever you need to do to minimize your distress.

Spend Time With Those You Love

Whether this describes your biological family, your chosen family, your romantic and sexual partners, or just your current friend group, there’s nothing better to do during the holidays than spending as much time as you can celebrating with those closest to you. Staying connected to your friends and the LGBTQ+ community in your area isn’t just fun, though -- it’s also beneficial to your mental health. Biologically, humans are a social species, and face-to-face contact has been proven to release neurotransmitters(opens in a new tab) in our bodies that mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Don’t hole up during the holidays, especially if they’re a tough time for you. Reach out!

Seek Out Mental Health Therapy If You Need It

Holiday anxiety and depression aren’t the only mental health risks around this time of year. Many people also struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known appropriately as SAD, which can lead to increased fatigue and symptoms of depression during the winter months. If you also have a mood disorder, such as bipolar (which is more prevalent in LGBTQ+ individuals than others), the season can also be a catalyst for mood shifts and depressive episodes. In this event, it’s important that you seek out a professional you trust to speak to about your mental health. Even if you aren’t going through something extreme, mental health counseling services can be extremely beneficial for maintaining a healthy state of mind when the sun goes down early and holiday thoughts begin to swirl. If you’re in need of compassionate and culturally competent treatment for mental health in Western Pennsylvania, the team at Central Outreach Wellness Center is here for you.

Take Care of Yourself

The end of the year is always a good time to check in on your health, and doing a mental inventory of your body’s needs can be helpful to ground yourself if you’re struggling with your mental health over the holidays. This applies to all aspects of your health, but don’t forget about your sexual health and general preventive upkeep. If you’re sexually active and at risk for HIV, now is a great time to get started with a regular regimen of PrEP, which gives you 99% protection against HIV infection. Additionally, if you haven’t been STI tested in a while, now is the time -- give yourself the gift of peace of mind and show your body some love.

If you’re looking to start PrEP going into 2022, PrEP2Me can help. Our online PrEP services make it easy to receive the medication you need discreetly by mail, anywhere in the country. We’ll send you an at-home STI test, then you’ll be contacted virtually by a real HIV specialist to discuss your treatment plan.

Happy holidays from PrEP2Me, where we make staying safe easy and accessible for everyone!