Self-care crucial to enduring the pandemic, LGBTQ experts say

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Staying present, keeping in touch with loved ones, getting exercise and cutting back screen time are among the ways that LGBTQ Atlanta experts recommend to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Therapist and pastor Josh Noblitt suggested a four-fold way to address the anxiety and depression people may be feeling: talk therapy, medication, physical exercise and a contemplative practice like meditation, prayer, journaling or yoga.

“I think that’s just kind of good standard practice in regular times, but especially during times like this where our worlds have kind of shrunk and we might be looking back on the days when we could all get together and sort of feeling sad about that, or looking ahead and not knowing where the light at the end of the tunnel is for all this,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

The comments came during Friday’s episode of Q Conversations, Project Q's live virtual Q&A series. The episode also featured fitness instructor Sitha Lam and therapist Hanna Rodgers.

LGBTQ people can be more susceptible to the hardships of the pandemic, according to Rodgers.

“So many of us have created families around our social network because maybe we do not have the closeness of genetic families or the people who raised us,” she said. “So I do think that that puts us at risk potentially for having a harder time.”

Being “robbed” of signature LGBTQ Atlanta events makes that even tougher, Noblitt said. Joining Hearts and SouthEast Leather Fest were canceled, Atlanta Pride will be completely virtual this year and other events are in a holding pattern.

“There’s just been a number of markers throughout the year that sort of mark the gay calendar for me at least, that have all kind of evaporated and that’s been really hard,” Noblitt said. “Because that’s how we see each other, that’s how we draw strength and draw confidence from each other being in those spaces.”

“We had to fight for that to publicly be in social gatherings together, or to be seen, and now that everyone’s feeling like we aren’t seen or we have to go back into our little corner again, it’s hard,” Lam added.

Find out more about the July 31 Q Conversations and register now.

Self-empowerment, simplifying are key

LGBTQ people can use the lessons learned from the HIV/AIDS epidemic to get through the coronavirus pandemic safely, Noblitt said.

“In the early days, once we were able to kind of determine how the virus was spread, then that gave some clear guidance on activities that are safe and activities that might be a little riskier,” he said. “And I think the same is true during times of COVID.”

Rodgers has advised her clients to empower themselves by finding things they can control, like what to wear each day.

“Even the small choices, when we focus on them, help remind us that we are not being controlled by our environment as much as we can,” she said.

And people can still date or meet with friends, they just have to get creative. Do an outdoor walk-and-talk or have small outdoor gatherings with neighbors, Lam said.

“We find ways and find the creativity to still do what we used to do in close quarters outside, spread out and of course with masks,” he said.

Staying active and exercising will produce endorphins to distract people from pandemic stress, Lam added. Noblitt agreed.

“Moving one’s physical body helps to keep depression and anxiety at bay,” he said. “It may not be able to get rid of it but at least it helps to manage.”

And if pandemic stress is causing a lack of focus, Rodgers recommended cutting down and simplifying to-do lists.

“What I learned was that my lists were too long and I was bogged down and didn’t have the motivation to start, which fed procrastination,” she said. “So I had to learn how to make very specific, bite-sized measurable accomplishments, and then my lists were only five things long.”

This story is made possible through a grant from Facebook Journalism Project's COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.

Screenshot clockwise from top left: Lam, Rodgers, Project Q Atlanta founder Matt Hennie and Noblitt

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