Health Mental health How to get through a family Christmas "Christmas can be tough if you're LGBTQ+" Complicated family relationships, drink, arguments, financial worries, and the family home pressure cooker can make the prospect of Christmas a mental minefield. Whether your relatives still haven't accepted you, or being in old surroundings brings back difficult memories, for a lot of queer people Christmas is about survival. Unfortunately we can't wave a wand and make everyone's Yuletide gay (if only), but we can offer some practical advice on how you can get through the period in a way which supports your mental health. Below you'll find tips on how to keep yourself safe, and where to find help this Christmas. Create a "Christmas survival" group If it all gets too much, there's nothing quite like your bestest besties to listen to your woes and hopefully, make you feel better. Lend each other some festive emotional support via the miracle of the internet. Try setting up a Christmas Survival WhatsApp group (or Facebook Messenger thread, the platform doesn't really matter) and checking in on each other regularly. Share the classic "I'm not racist but"... one-liners from Aunt Linda, or Uncle Dave's annual "are you still.... y'know?" check-in. Laughter is the best medicine. Take regular self-care breaks No one wants to feel like a Scrooge at Christmas, but it's OK to spend time by yourself. I repeat, it's OK to some time alone. You're not ruining the holiday spirit if you choose to retreat into an empty room or go out by yourself. By taking a short break from the non-stop family social, you can re-energise yourself and get some emotional breathing room. Think about the things that make you happy or relaxed. Are you a bookworm? Head to the bedroom and devour a couple of chapters. Love videogames? Play some Fortnite. You could even just head to the tub for an extra long bath. Whatever works for you. It's also important not to neglect whatever self-care you usually practice all-year round. Mindfulness, exercise, and writing a daily diary can all help you have a happier, more stable Christmas. Don't rely on drink If one thing's for sure at Christmas, the booze will flow freely. For those of us struggling to get through the holiday, it can be tempting to drown our sorrows to make the whole thing more bearable. As plans go, it's not a great one. Alcohol may make us feel uninhibited, and maybe a little more festive, but it can also make our depression worse, lead to quick tempers, and leave us feeling drained - not the best idea when emotional reserves are already running low. Keep an eye on your intake, and try to spread it throughout the day rather than binging all at once. As with all drinking advice, make sure you're having water or soft drinks regularly. And if you can feel yourself becoming morose or withdrawn, stop drinking and have yourself a minced pie. If you're worried about your alcohol intake, at Christmas or any other time of year, then try reading this. Pets are your friend At no other time of year is this quite as true. Many of us will be going home to the family dog or cat, or are taking our own furry friends with us across the country. Dogs are particularly useful at Christmas time as they're happy to be lavished with attention and give you unconditional love with zero judgement (Aunt Linda, take note please). They're also a great way to kill two birds with one stone: walkies can take you out of the house for some breathing room and give you a good dose of exercise at the same time. Family allies can help Sometimes it can be hard to let family members know that we're anxious about the Christmas period. But by talking about your feelings, others can support you more easily throughout the holiday. This could involve covering for you whilst you go to spend time by yourself, or redirecting the conversation when it goes somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable. Arrange to see friends Unfortunately this one isn't possible for lots of people who'll be travelling to the far ends of the country with only their family for company. However, if you're fortunate enough to be headed somewhere near friends, it's a good idea to plan to see one another over the Christmas break. You don't have to be away from your Christmas house for long, but seeing friends, even for a little while, can remind us of our value outside of our immediate family, and give us some of the warm, sane conversations and love that only a good friend can. Remember that you can't change the way other people feel Christmas dinner conversations can be a minefield, and they're different for everyone. There's no one-size-fits-all solution here, but it's worth remembering is that you're not going to change your family member's mind about anything over Christmas dinner. What's far more likely is that you'll get into an argument and very little will change except a rise in tension. This doesn't mean, however, that anything goes. Under no circumstances should you be forced to endure: Homophobic, biphobic or transphobic insults Constant questioning about your sex-life or body Social exclusion These are 100% not okay. How you choose to react is entirely up to you, but think about what's best for your mental health first and foremost. If that means removing yourself from the situation then do it. Christmas can be triggering Being around family can bring back a whole host of difficult feelings, especially for LGBTQ+ people, so it's important to keep yourself safe, whether you're experiencing self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Try reading our resources on both which give advice on how to ensure you're taking care of yourself. All of the above can be extremely challenging but there are places you can seek support even over the holiday period when many services are closed. What Next? Support If at any point you feel like you're not safe or are in an emergency, the number you should call is 999. From here you can ask for an ambulance or the police. You can also head down to your local A&E department if you're self harming or are having suicidal thoughts. Switchboard is a support line run by LGBTQ+ volunteers that will be open across the holiday period 10am - 10pm (0300 330 0630). They're there to talk about your sexuality, your mental health, or anything else that may be bothering you. You're not alone. Mind - the mental health charity has a whole suite of online resources to help you through the Christmas period, these include managing loneliness, eating problems, the rise of old, uncomfortable feelings, and places where you can find support. Samaritans dedicated support line will also be there to listen over the Christmas period. All calls to them are confidential and they'll be open over the entire Christmas period. Call on 116 123 (UK), 116 123 (ROI).