8 Tips for Managing Dysphoria and Mental Health Stuff

1. Know your triggers – they might be certain activities, mirrors, words, and/or situations – and try to avoid those as much as possible.

If you’re not certain what they are, be alert to when your mood sours.

If everything feels overwhelming, start by envisioning what you would need to do your morning routine without mentally crashing. Maybe it’s about putting your binder right next to your bed so you can put it on before doing anything else, waking up to a song that affirms/validates your sense of self/gender/struggle, turning away/covering up a mirror in the washroom, not putting the lights on while showering (if relatively safe for you to do so).

From there, if at all possible, work up to your sleeping area, room, if not your whole home (pending your living situation) being a safer place for your thoughts and gender.

Break the rest down into small chunks, applying a similar strategy to minimise things that will amplify any internalised transphobia, and/or produce dysphoria and/or transphobia.

2. Dedicate set times to focus on things you enjoy in life. Engaging senses that apply to you such as smell (e.g. aromatherapy, favourite food cooking), taste, hearing, touch, and/or sight around something other than your own body might help to break looping negative or distressing thoughts.  Doing activities that focus on a sense or two can help engage your body in a gender neutral/irrelevant way, and some find it helpful to ground themselves as they often are depersonalising/disassociating. It doesn’t have to be limited to the sense, it could be working out, creating fine or applied art, writing, reading, etc. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, ensure every day includes at least a brief moment replenishing you. If there’s nothing in particular you enjoy doing, try Making Good Art.

3. Make a playlist of favourite songs or save a note of your favourite spoken words, poems or prayers on your phone/tablet that lift your mood, or that help to calm your mind.

This may be coupled with doing some mindfullness breathing.

4. Establish your support network – it can be made up of good friends, pets, and family members who will be there for you. Some people will be better at distracting you from difficult thoughts, others will shine at holding space for you to vent. Few will excel at both. Sort out who’s better at providing which sort of care, and if you find yourself spiraling, try to gauge which you need (distraction or validation) and reach out accordingly.

5. Prioritise positive, accepting, nurturing people – and minimise time spent with people who don’t understand, or are critical of trans and/or non-binary people and/or mental health stuff.

If this seems like artificially creating happiness and thus have a happiness of inferior quality than when we’re “naturally” happy, look into the research finding that synthesised happiness can be as rewarding if not more robust than more hedonistic or “naturally” occurring happiness.

6. If you’re able, in whatever way you can, exercise. You don’t have to train like an athlete, or have a weigh gain/loss in mind. It should be first, and possibly only, about fun. It doesn’t require equipment or a gym membership, body weight and calisthetic exercise can do wonders. It releases “feel good” hormones and can change the way you feel.

If you want, you can focus on building up or toning certain body parts that hormone therapy and surgery don’t alter (or not as much as you would like.)

7. Establish and respect your boundaries. Don’t be afraid to withdraw, or to say “no” if people are saturating you with cisnormative questions and/or “pull yourself by the bootstrap” type of shaming. It’s powerful to know yourself, and when something’s been “enough”.

8. Be gentle, kind and understanding with yourself. The rest of the world doesn’t need your help in putting you down. Always be on your side.

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