This is our second post in our series Navigating Burnout. In this session, we will look at how to handle fatigue in social settings This post-election season brought many concerns around LGBTQ+ wellness under the next presidential administration. We had hoped Health Equality for All and universal human dignity would win this election and continue transparent acceptance and increased the safety of our population. Instead, people are afraid, and with good reason.
Fearful because of the rise in hate crimes and the open calls for harm. Fearful of the implications caused by leaders that diminish the values of LGBTQ+ lives through legislature and public decree. Fear that the loss in hope will make way for stigma and social disparities.
For this election, people prioritized their jobs, homes, families, cities and lives. And for a majority of the population, while respect for our human dignity is important, this was not necessarily the top priority for families focused on stable employment, food on the table and hope for a better opportunity.
How do we communicate with those people in our lives that appoint leaders that heighten our social disparities? How do we deal with differences during gatherings of mixed company? How can we approach social situations without alienating ourselves? Especially if guests are adamant for change that could reverse the improvements made during the last administration?
Before thinking or approaching a social situation that may cause tension, ask yourself if you are experiencing burnout. In our last post on Navigating Burnout: LGBTQ+ Self-Care Planning for Patients and Professionals, we cover the definition of burnout and provide the Three Stages of Burnout chart to help you identify if you are experiencing chronic stress that can lead to burnout.
If you are experiencing burnout, use our Mental Health Resource to connect to a professional. And remember, as we mentioned in our last post, you are your best observer of your health. Be conscious and present, without judgment for the feelings you feel and actions you take.
Start With Health and History
The time may come when you will have to address the pink elephant in the room. Social gatherings are sensitive situations, and the best thing to do beforehand is to prepare. Education is critical for improving the health of our population. And to do that, we must each be knowledgeable about our culture, our health, our causes and our humanity. Read up about our history, including defining moments like Compton’s Cafeteria Riots and events like Bisexual Awareness Week and Intersex Awareness Day.
We can help others understand our loneliness and validate our feelings when we know who we are and how others can improve our health and wellness outcomes.
Engaging in Social Gatherings
You may, or may not want to attend social gatherings. Either one is fine. Be true to your feelings and what activities will meet your needs.
When engaging with people, you might have feelings of apprehension to assert your needs. That’s ok. If you feel comfortable, here are some ways to interact with friends, family, colleagues, and new acquaintances.
Listen with intent.
It’s very hard to stand back and let people express feelings without interjecting a response. Try asking open-ended questions like “Why do you feel that way?” or paraphrase their response to show that you are listening. The person will feel heard.
Engage without judgment.
Different viewpoints are hard to bridge and can be difficult when the topic is deeply personal. Use your health and history information from above to educate, not to persuade or convince others to change. Changing a habit takes time and a very personal reason. And perhaps, in time, you could be the reason.
Plan your support and establish boundaries.
Set a time to arrive and leave and have a way to remove yourself from any heated situation. If you don’t have supportive friends or family with you, talk to someone before the event and have them available through text or a phone call away when you need them. If you need help beyond this, try organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice, or Crisis Text Line, where you can text a counselor to help diffuse a situation.
If you are unsure about approaching social situations, your safety relies on keeping a low profile, or you encounter hostility then here are some ways to maintain your wellness.
Take breaks. Go to the bathroom. Grab your cousin for a walk around the neighborhood. Go into a quiet room for a few minutes. If you are feeling uncomfortable, recognize and honor your needs.
Change the subject.
If the table gets heated, try to interject something that can reunite the party. By redirecting the conversation, you can keep everyone’s energy from feeling stuck and focus on the positive.
Surround yourself with unconditional support.
For some of us, the family we were born into is not the most loving or accepting community. Therefore, chosen family, the people who surround us and love us unconditionally, can be the more important lines of support. Keep your best friend, partner and loved ones informed and at hand for support.
Steer the Momentum
You might be happy or sad after departing. Either way, you will probably be charged with energy. Remember to care for yourself before, during and after. Chances are if your stress increases after the event, you are more likely to increase risk or indulge lowered health habits. Be aware of your choices when combating stress by reviewing the Three Stages of Burnout.
Do you increase your alcohol consumption or smoke? Do you engage in risky sexual habits or isolate yourself in an unhealthy manner?
And remember: educating others is a long-term goal. Our emotions can make it difficult to demonstrate accurate statistics on the fly. Compassion and empathy, however, are great vessels for sharing why we are complacent. It is then that we can teach people what is at stake for our health and humanity.
Be attentive to how you react without judgment so that you can assert your needs and find support. Be compassionate with yourself. And know there are many resources to help you find success.
Paul David Terry, MNA
Co-editor of the Improving OUTcomes website and blog.
Improving OUTcomes coordinator and co-editor of the Improving OUTcomes website and blog.
Edward J. Callahan, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Family and Community Medicine
Chair, Vice Chancellor’s LGBTQI Advisory Committee