5 Ways To Protect Your Mental Health When The World Is Falling Apart

Find beacons of hope. 

Every morning it’s part of my job to browse the internet for the latest in LGBTQ trending news. And it’s been bleak for a while — our community has been going through not only a rollback of basic human rights but also a swift increase in physical violence. It’s as though people with homophobic and transphobic beliefs are feeling suddenly emboldened by the political shift that has been happening since Obama left office. That’s not to say that things were perfect when Obama was in office, they weren’t. LGBTQ people, specifically BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), face staggering impacts of daily aggressions and oppression — regardless of who is in office.

Our community is filled with people of every background, race, religion — and these intersecting identities impact us in different ways, especially under #45’s administration. Undocumented people are facing stark conditions with his latest “zero tolerance” policy which is ripping families apart. There’s now an open seat in the Supreme Court, that will likely be filled with a judge who mirrors #45’s policies back to him. Our country has never been perfect, but where we right now feels sort of like a dumpster set to flames. And we’re all the trash bags filling it.

While we can all be out here doing our part to resist these oppressive structures — the reality is that existing in a world that wasn’t built for us is exhausting in it of itself. And we have to set aside intentional time to take care of and love on ourselves. Self-care itself has in a way been commodified and turned into a multi-billion dollar industry — and while it’s absolutely *okay* to participate in that industry because it can help to release stress by getting a massage or a pedicure; sometimes self-care is a little more inward. That kind of self-care takes work and can challenge the very core of your being. However, in that challenge, is where the magic happens.

So how exactly do you go down this road of intentional self-love and care and check-ins? Here are 5 tips:

1. Check in with yourself regularly. 

Ask yourself the following three questions as frequently as possible! The goal is everyday but life gets busy so that’s unlikely. But coming back to these questions will help you remember that it’s vital you check-in with your own well-being and how you take care of your needs.

What have I done to care for myself today? (i.e. drank enough water or meditated)

What have I done to love on myself today? (i.e. masturbation or cooked a yummy meal)

What have I done to value my self-worth/value today? (i.e. said “no” when I didn’t want to do something or stood up for myself when someone wasn’t respecting my boundaries)

When you ask yourself these questions, it can be helpful to have a word bank to work off of — create a comprehensive list of all the things you do to take care of yourself. That way, you can just glance at the word bank and remember “Oh yeah, I drank lots of water today and I feel good about that” — rather than getting frustrated and feeling like you haven’t done enough for yourself. The small things make all the difference when it comes to mental health.

2. Find beacons of hope. 

Underneath all of the depressing headlines are small beacons of hope. Beyond all of the violence that exists in the world against marginalized people — there are also small movements forward towards a brighter future of not only less violence but a place where we can thrive in joy and success and liberation. Taking time to focus on these moments can give you hope, and it’s not false hope. We need to find places to read these news stories that empower us so that we can remember that not all is lost.

Hopefully GO can be a place where you can find some of that.

3. Set boundaries for yourself. 

Understanding your boundaries is vital so that you don’t consume media that will cause you to panic or be triggered. A lot of these issues may not impact you in your day to day life — but if hearing the news of another attack of trans identity will cause you to have a panic attack in the middle of your workday, then maybe it’s time to turn off all news notifications during work. If you find there’s always the same person on your Facebook newsfeed who is sharing news that’s triggering to you, maybe it’s time to unfollow them.

You can also set boundaries in how and who you communicate with about all the issues impacting our world right now. Often time when there are big rape cases in the news, I have to set boundaries with people around talking about these cases. As a sex educator and vocal survivor — people are always wanting to process with me. And I know there are certain people whom I’d rather not hear their opinions. As a white person, I’ve also had BIPOC friends set boundaries with me around talking about racial violence, they’ve set that boundary for themselves that they don’t want to talk about radicalized police violence with white people — which is valid and I respect that!

Having these deep conversations with our friends and loved ones is so important. We can let them know our boundaries around these kinds of issues — and we can also check in with them about theirs. This is radical love and compassion and care. This is holding your community with intention and accountability. By allowing yourself to set your needs with people, you’re also opening the door for them to do the same.

4. Stick to your plans, even when it feels too depressing. 

The impulse after a hard news day — whether there was another school shooting or news of another trans woman murdered or children be taken away from their parents — is to cancel everything and crawl under your covers. And while that can feel nourishing and healing in the moment, it can actually be harmful to isolate out of fear.

By sticking to your dinner plans with friends or a date night with your partner, you’re not acting like everything is okay and ignoring the resistance. What you are doing is allowing for there to be some semblance of normalcy in your life. After dinner, do you want to join a letter-writing effort to trans inmates? Before date night, maybe you commit to calling your representatives. Having these normal, everyday aspects of your life is invaluable and important to keep your mental health intact when everything around you is falling to pieces. They allow you to keep going in the movement against #45.

If you were to just sink into your bed every time there was bad news and cancel all plans, we would be there all too much. And we’d be sinking deeper and deeper into depression. Yes, there are times when you need to take a step back and just binge Netflix and ignore the news — that’s valid. But pay attention to when you’re doing that as an immediate response to every piece of bad news or when you’re doing it simply when you’re too burned out. Binge with intention, babes.

5. Remember that you are held by community. 

I know that so many of these policies can feel like violent attacks on our identities and bodies. It can be scary and isolating to wake up in a world where you don’t feel safe as soon as you leave your house. But remember that we have each other and as cliche, as it sounds, we can lean on one another when we need it. And these times call for a little leaning. When we come together in community, not only do we remember that we’re held with love and care — but we’re also reminded that we, as a people, do have collective power. We can revolt and resist and move mountains. And now is the time to do just that. Call on our queer and trans ancestral powers, we’re going to need them by our sides as well. We must remember to hold one another up as we continue to fight back.