“Spooky Season” has arrived and the beautiful autumn finds us all…STRESSED.

Truly, this has been one of the most stressful periods in many of our living memories. The pandemic has been a game-changer, even for those who have not suffered COVID-19 illness or the loss of a loved one. Tragically, many of us have lost someone, often under heartbreaking circumstances where we didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. Every one of us who survives 2020 will have scars to show for the remainder of our lives.

The adjustments our culture has made are remarkable. But they’re also causing us long-term damage. The way we work, learn, and socialize online naturally leads to screen fatigue, and many have found our capacity to concentrate getting shorter and shorter. This phenomenon is especially complicated for parents, who may be trying to work from home and shepherd their nervous, lonesome, frustrated children through the continually shifting demands of school, either navigating virtual learning or attending lessons in strange partitioned classrooms. Many of our Elders are feeling the strain of months of social isolation or are struggling with unfamiliar technology to try and stay connected.

Our homes have become the capsules we need to stay safe, but they keep us safe by keeping us as alone as possible. The walls may start to feel like they are closing in, especially when winter comes, and no one is at their best when they feel trapped and helpless.

There are other reasons we may be struggling with our mental health right now. LGBTQ people are twice as likely to work in one of the five industries most affected by the pandemic: health care, hospitality/entertainment, retail, K-12 education, and colleges/universities. Prior to the pandemic, LGBTQ folks were already more likely to live in poverty than others. Pile on a lack of health insurance and the medical mistrust that comes from dealing with a lifetime of discrimination, and it is easy to understand why our community’s health is suffering more than others.

And yet, the novel coronavirus is just one demon released in 2020. The nation grappled with police violence against Black communities that has continued unabated for more than 200 years, engaging in a new moment of necessary and painful reckoning with our history and our future. Within that tension, we continue to see horrifying reports of Black individuals and communities being degraded and destroyed.

Then there’s the election. As the rhetoric heats up, explicit threats to the well-being of LGBTQ people are coming from powerful voices. We can expect more of those attacks, and there’s a good chance queer and trans lives will again be a political football to kick around in the run-up to the election and beyond. It hurts to be used as a pawn in service of someone’s political ambitions, and it’s frightening to think about our rights sliding backward. LGBTQ people across the political spectrum have a lot riding on the vote this year. Now is the time to make your plan for How to Emotionally Prepare for the Election.

STRESS IS SO REASONABLE RIGHT NOW. Many of the forces grinding us down are completely outside of our control.These forces are affecting everyone, but a recent study found that depression and anxiety among LGBTQ Americans has worsened at more than twice the rate of others.

Stress is a condition we can manage. If you don’t know where to start, try a decision tree tool like How Right Now that asks how you are feeling and offers practical ideas about managing those feels. If you find help in articles, here’s a wonderful collection by the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. For those who like a workbook approach, try FACE COVID or the Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook. Podcast fans, looks to the Coronavirus Sanity Guide for a library of short broadcasts about coping skills.

If you’re an avid mobile user, why not try a stress-busting app? My Life is an app and a micro-video series designed to address anxiety, trauma, and offer coping skills (there’s also a version just for kids). Headspace, Smiling Mind, and Calm are apps that help with meditation, sleep, and simple mindfulness exercises. PTSD Coach is designed to interrupt trauma-trigger anxiety when it’s got you in its jaws and is shaking you around.

When you look for support resources, seek out organizations that target their work to your identities. The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, Therapy for Black Girls, and BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health) all serve Black folks specifically. Take a look at Rest for Resistance, a gorgeous zine made by and for QTPOC navigating 2020. Gender diverse people might want to consider The 7 Best Online Transgender Support Groups or go directly to Trans Lifeline. Youth are wonderfully supported by The Trevor Project, and Elders by SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Hotline. There are targeted resources out there for children, trauma survivors, emergency responders, people in recovery, funeral directors, and many other groups. The pandemic has bloomed some incredibly creative sources of support. Find the help that fits who you are.

Please don’t forget that Chase Brexton Health Care offers LGBTQ-affirming Behavioral Health services including psychiatry, as well as individual, family, and group therapy via telehealth. Call 410-837-2050 for more information.

Your mental health is important, and it’s important for more than just your own well-being. As the darkness grows deeper, now is the time to shore up your coping skills and prepare for what lies ahead. We have a collective duty to stay mentally and emotionally balanced. Everyone is needed. We are all in this together.