Some of us enjoy family gatherings and festive occasions. But the end of the calendar year is also a time when many gay people find themselves in uncomfortable situations with family or alone or isolated.

Not everyone has family who have come to reasonable terms with gay sexuality. In many families Christmas, for example, is geared towards children and gay adults whether partnered or not can feel left out of celebrations while their brothers and sisters take a lead role as parents and care providers.

It might be that you find yourself responsible for hosting the gathering and ensuring others have a good time. Or perhaps you do not receive an invite and are on your own while others are getting together. These end of year family gatherings can often be a source of stress and pressure for gay men, lesbians and other LGBT folk. Here are some tips suggested by counsellors to help you through this difficult time of year.

  1. Find out who will be at the get-together and make an early decision about whether to attend or not. It's okay to change your mind later.
  2. Locate a support person in advance and explain to them why it is a difficult time so they can look out for you.
  3. Be aware of your stress levels and devise some strategies for dealing with these if they go too high. This is something you might want to discuss first with a gay counsellor.
  4. Have a Plan B (and Plan C or Plan D if it helps) in case it all gets too much. This might be, for example, escaping to a friend's house, watching a favourite DVD, meeting up with some people who are in a similar situation or calling a support service.
  5. If you are organising things, avoid cramming too much in to one day. Tell yourself to have time out on your own or with a friend. Whatever works best for you.
  6. Plan time for yourself to do exactly what you want and let your family know that you will not be available at this time. It might be a morning or afternoon, a day or even a whole week.
  7. Do something different for yourself to get yourself out of the routine.
  8. Avoid 'self-medicating' with alcohol or drugs if you don't want the after effects. Look for other ways to escape or wind down that are not destructive and can lead to new possibilities. Sex can be good if it leads to you feeling good about who you are and you protect yourself. If not, develop another type of safety net. 
  9. If you are on your own or just want to be around other gay people, give some thought to how meet up with some other gay people or you can try taking a gay holiday.
  10. The end of year can be a time when there is a lot on. Give yourself permission to skip a few things and space out family get-togethers with other activities and interests that feel good.

Remember: it is okay to be you. Also spend some time with people who remind you of who you are or do things that give you a good sense of yourself.