Franziska Neumeister/Flickr (CC-BY)
It’s OK to unplug from the news cycle and practice self-care.
And the news that came out of Washington this weekend feels especially anxiety-making and monumental, bringing on a widespread, near-paralyzing panic. On Sunday, the New York Times revealed the Trump administration is working on a memo that would define gender by a person’s sex assigned at birth. If the White House goes forward with the policy, then it would effectively erase federal recognition of trans men, trans women, and nonbinary individuals across the U.S., and it would wipe out Title IX federal anti-discrimination protections for trans people.
The Trump memo’s impact will be devastating for trans people across the nation, especially those most vulnerable to abuse: impoverished trans people, trans children, trans women of color, and transgender individuals living in states without any anti-discrimination policies on the books. Without protections, the most marginalized people in the trans community could lose their homes and livelihoods at any moment.
If you’re like me, you’re probably scared out of your mind for your future. That’s more than understandable. It’s OK to not be OK. We need to give ourselves the time, energy, and self-love necessary to process what’s going on. We have to take care of ourselves if we want to survive.
If you need help figuring out a self-care routine, here’s where to start.
Take a break from the news
Stop what you’re doing. Close out every news tab in your web browser, and come back here when you’re done.
Better? I know it helps me. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other “bottomless” apps give us a mindless dopamine rush from getting new content on our timelines; we’re wired to keep checking our phones. While that can feel good in the moment, staying too plugged into the news can be traumatizing. Even if you aren’t immediately impacted by the proposed policy’s changes, your body still recognizes a threat and responds accordingly.
“We are hardwired to have physiological responses to anything we perceive as a threat or danger,” Dr. Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist, told Bustle. “This is our ‘fight-or-flight’ response. As humans, we learn vicariously—that is we can learn without having to directly go through the threat or danger.”
So go ahead and give yourself a break from social media. Hop off Twitter, mute your Apple News notifications, delete Facebook from your phone for the day. Do whatever you need to unplug yourself from the news cycle. We highly recommend using Screen Time if you’re on iOS—Apple’s latest self-policing feature lets users disable access to social media apps, so you don’t have to worry about getting sucked back in. If you’re on Android, there’s AppDetox, and PC has FocusMe for blocking certain websites.
Nurture your body
Once you’re unplugged from the ‘net, take a moment to pause and think about your day. Did you eat breakfast yet? Have you had a glass of water recently? Did you remember to take your estradiol and spironolactone this morning? Your body may feel particularly rundown if you aren’t maintaining it, and when your body isn’t happy, you aren’t either.
Sometimes self-care isn’t ordering a pizza and binging Parks & Rec; it’s taking a shower and brushing your teeth. So grab some water, eat a quick snack, whatever it is, do what you need to do to make sure your mind and body are in sync.
Don’t just wolf down a slice of pizza and run back to Twitter. Take these moments away from social media in stride. Focus on what you’re doing, be aware of yourself, your posture, your feelings, and what it feels like to chew, swallow, or breathe. Grounding yourself in the present is a great way to calm down, and sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.
Practice mindfulness by meditating
A huge part of self-care is mindfulness, or “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us,” as Mindful describes it. Mindfulness lets you be in tune with yourself and your surroundings, and it’s a great way to put the outside world into perspective. It also makes everyday life much more enjoyable, because you’re actually paying attention to what you do. It’s the difference between ruminating on the president on your train ride and enjoying the view as your train rolls on to the next stop.
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is meditation. By meditating, you can learn the skills you need to be in touch with what you’re feeling and figure out when your mind is straying from the present. It’s a great way to manage stress, anxiety, and conflict, too. If you’re looking for guided meditation over a prolonged period of time, Headspace features daily meditation sessions on everything from managing anxiety to dealing with grief. You can try out the service’s first 10 sessions for free. There’s also Calm, which teaches users meditation skills, lets you listen to stories to help you fall asleep, and even features video lessons on mindfulness through stretching.
Read a book by a trans writer
There is nothing in the world like a book written by and for trans people. Be it fiction or non-fiction, trans stories can be healing experiences that make you feel seen and heard. Oh, and buying a trans author’s book helps you support another trans person, so you’re giving back in the process.
While we could write an entire article on some of the best books in transgender literary history, we recommend Nevada by Imogen Binnie and A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett for their unflinching looks at dealing with your past and building friendships with other queer and trans people. There’s also Julia Kaye’s Super Late Bloomer, which explores her early transition experiences in a way that’s all too funny and way too real. We also recommend the trans sci-fi and fantasy fiction collection Meanwhile, Elsewhere and the trans comic anthology We’re Still Here, which provide plenty of short stories perfect for a train ride, lunch break, or late night reading session.
Open up to a loved one
Now more than ever, it’s incredibly important to share how you feel with people that you love and trust. Be they other trans folks or cisgender friends, family, and lovers, talk about your fears, concerns, anxieties, and hopes for the future. If you’re scared, it’s OK to admit that. If you’re not sure how you feel, that’s fine too. Wherever you are right now is real and valid, and there isn’t one “right” way to experience the news. But by opening up about your feelings, you can start to understand them better, and you may find out that you’re not alone. Feeling alienated is the last thing any of us wants right now in a world where trans people are actively under attack.
Let your voice be heard
Protest in NYC at WSP over Trump’s anti-trans policy leaked today pic.twitter.com/UYM2VUzObC
— Ana's On Break, Read Pinned Tweet (@SpaceDoctorPhD) October 21, 2018
If you have the means and energy to do so, now is the perfect time to go out and make a difference politically. There are many ways to do so. If you’re in high school or college, you can get involved with your school’s local LGBTQ organization and help set up events or organize campus protests. Meanwhile, anyone can volunteer for an LGBTQ organization like Trans Lifeline or Lambda Legal, and give back to other queer and trans people in need. Most of all, you can attend local protests and march in solidarity with other activists fighting back against the Trump administration. Yelling, “We won’t be erased,” is incredibly cathartic, to say the least.
If you’re looking for a nearby protest to join, we recommend following your local LGBTQ center, campus queer organization, or trans advocacy group on Facebook. Major organizations like the ACLU, Democratic Socialists of America, Stonewall Democrats, the Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal will also point you in the right direction for protests, so make sure to check out their pages on Facebook and Twitter. When in doubt, you can always just search “trans rights protest” on Facebook and see what pops up.
- What it means to be transgender
- Everything you have never understood about being nonbinary
- Breaking down the difference between gender identity and sex
- Trans and nonbinary people explain what gender dysphoria feels like
Times are stressful right now, and in a crisis situation, you need to be kind to yourself. So go ahead and make yourself feel comfortable. Order Chinese food and watch anime all night. Play video games all Saturday and Sunday. Take out a new book from the library and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Buy a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte with extra whipped cream and not give a shit. Or just drop by your partner’s place and smoke weed until you pass out in each other’s arms. Whatever it is, go do it.
Life is too short and the American political climate too fucked up; you deserve to treat yourself nicely. The outside world will be here when you come back.