Young trans man shares simple but effective Christmas self-care tips

Charlie Middleton, a young trans man, taking a mirror selfie

Christmas can be a wonderful time for many people – however for some, it can be a struggle. But small changes can make a positive impact on your wellbeing, writes Just Like Us ambassador Charlie Middleton.

As a transgender man I have struggled immensely with my mental health because of bullies throughout school and the negativity I received for being LGBT+ as a youngster.

Growing up, I was not as carefree as I would’ve liked to be, and it was tremendously difficult trying to process how I was feeling at times. I lacked confidence, and the stigmatisation and hurtful actions of those around me stuck with me.

As I moved through those dark times and I grew older, I began to find healthy and helpful coping strategies. One thing I find helpful for self-care is switching the news off. There is a lot happening right now with coronavirus and Omicron, but sometimes it can be good to take a break and focus on the here and now. Watching the news is also particularly difficult for trans people – media portrayal of the trans community is not always the most inviting and there is often misjudgement and underrepresentation of such a diverse spectrum of unique people. It’s OK to switch off the TV or turn off notifications on your phone. Don’t doomscroll anti-trans tweets either. Having fresh air and taking a stroll outside also helps to clear my mind. Even if it is just 10 minutes a day, a little time outside may help you as well.

Taking care to not read comments on social media is also part of my self-care strategy. On social media, comment sections even on positive posts can contain lots of bigotry, and hurtful negative opinions. Instead, I recommend joining local or online support groups where you may be able to build positive friendships and have like-minded people to talk to. A place that I found sanctuary in was a local LGBT+ youth group which was the place I first discovered what it meant to be trans.

At this time of year, I spend time with my family. Family doesn’t have to be biological relatives – you can connect with your chosen family, people you feel safe and comfortable around. Reach out to people you trust and who appreciate you for you. You should never have to feel obliged to ever change yourself. Living authentically is not being selfish, it is part of our identity and part of being human. Make the plans you need to so that this holiday is easier on you.

Spending time with pets – your own, or one that’s borrowed – can be a great such a great comfort, especially when coping with loneliness. Pets will love you unconditionally and will never judge you because of your gender, sexuality, or the way you are – and that’s one of the things I love about them. My dog, Alfie, is honestly my best friend. I find whenever I am stressed, anxious or having a really bad day I can always go to him and give him a good stroke. He is loyal, affectionate and wears the best little Christmas jumpers.

Alfie, Charlie's dog, wearing reindeer antlers

Alfie, Charlie’s dog. (Supplied)

Something that I found really takes my mind off negative thoughts is exercise. I’ve always enjoyed being active but in more recent years have been inspired by my grandad, who passed away last year and used to be a bodybuilder. Keeping a regular fitness regime not only makes me feel good but helps relieve my stress levels.

Usually, I attend my local gym but when my dysphoria (an uncomfortable feeling of my body not aligning with my gender, one that I experience regularly) is at its worst, I tend to do home workouts. In general, sustaining existing hobbies and even taking up new ones is a great distraction technique – have fun and enjoy yourself.

Getting stuck into something rewarding can really help too. Volunteering at Just Like Us, speaking in schools about allyship and being LGBT+, has given me confidence. I have been encouraged, supported and given the platform to help young LGBT+ people including trans people like myself. Being a volunteer is also a great way to find community and feel less alone.

I’ve overcome many challenges over time and I want other young trans people to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Christmas is a time of year to get together with loved ones, show kindness and love, and be there for one another. Caring and being kind to yourself is the best superpower anyone can have. It’s about rejigging your thinking and turning low self-esteem into confidence. It may be a long journey but I hope these tips will help you along the way.

Be kind to yourself this Christmas, you deserve it. Let it be your superpower.