Advice / Health & Wellness / Life

Spring Cleaning for Queer Mental Health    

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It is finally Spring! The season of redemption and rebirth, family time, and Seder and Easter tables. Spring is the time we deep clean our homes, gather all that we no longer need or use, and expunge the clutter that holds us back.

At this time of year, is it not also appropriate to spring clean our queer minds as well? Please allow me to suggest some mental “spring cleaning” ideas:

1. Out with old pain, in with new love

Research has shown that chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can actually be hazardous to your long-term mental and physical health. Spring is a great time to say a final goodbye to painful situations or relationships that might be dragging you down, and to embrace a new love – an activity (volunteering for a Pride celebration for June?), a friendship, or just increasing your self-love!

2. Help another, help yourself

Nothing helps to clear your mind of your own problems as helping others around you. You may not realize the impact that you might be able to have on younger generations by sharing your experience and knowledge. Local organizations like the Hetrick Martin Institute, the Trevor Project, or Big Brothers Big Sisters all offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities.

3. Decrease your substance use now

LGBT adolescents and adults are at a greatly increased risk for substance use and abuse. Perhaps you have been having one or two more drinks than you feel you should, or you’ve engaged in a riskier behavior than you would have if you hadn’t been using a substance. Treating that pain in healthier ways can have far-reaching effects in your life.

4. Improve healthy eating/exercise habits

Lesbian women have higher rates of obesity than heterosexuals, contributing to our higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Starting small with a change in cooking habits, increasing quality and quantity of exercise, and if you have a spouse or partner, inspiring them to do the same can make a huge difference in the long run.

5. Decrease the parenting pressure 

Let’s face it, LGBT parents have a lot of pressure to be “successful” parents raising healthy “typically developing” children. We put pressure on ourselves and on our children to show the world that our families are just as successful as any others. We definitely don’t need to waste our mental energy judging the parenting choices of others or allowing the judgment of others to cloud our own parenting practices.

6. Re-charge your sex life

See#5. The job, the kids, the mortgage, and the daily grind can all take the spark out of even the wildest bedrooms. That being said, for most of us, having great sex is an essential part of achieving mental health. Spring would be a great time to find something, umm, seasonal to increase the fun that you are having, either with a partner or without. And what could be more seasonal than a Rabbit?

In a time of year famous for rainbow-dyed eggs and freedom from oppression, I encourage you to think about how you can take that first step to spring clean your mind and improve your mental health and outlook. You, your family, and the queer community will all benefit from a happier, healthier you!

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

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7 Comments

  1. I feel better just reading this list. Imagine how good I feel when I put some of these into action! Thank you for a list that I am looking forward to sharing.

  2. Just a second, I’m putting on my rainbow queer health work hat. From my work in LGBTQ health equity, I would also strongly encourage queer folks who smoke to make a quit attempt this spring. In Minnesota where I live, around 30% queer folks are current smokers, about twice the rate of the general population. And that percentage of LGBTQ smokers is even higher in other states. Our community smokes and drinks at higher rates because of stress, but also because our liberation movements were born in the bars and because we are hella targeted by tobacco and alcohol corporations. Our communities are too vibrant and fabulous to not take care of each other and ourselves.

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