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Are you dealing with gender dysphoria? 7 tips for getting your groove back
By: Cairo Levias (they/them)
Today's guest blog is brought to you in collaboration with Plume - in support of Trans and Nonbinary Health and Wellness:
Dealing with gender dysphoria can be a difficult and isolating journey, but there are ways to cope. Jecca Blac is partnering with Plume to support transgender and nonbinary health and wellness. We know that your well-being is more than skin deep. Loving your body, gender presentation, and whole self is key to your journey. This article shares some tips for discovering your gorgeousness and getting relief from gender dysphoria.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about dysphoria, it’s that dysphoria comes at the randomest of times and can be one of the hardest feelings to move through. It’s a feeling that your body doesn’t belong to you or feel right. Dealing with gender dysphoria can be a difficult experience, but with the right self-care, it is possible to get through it.
Gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT, sometimes also called hormone replacement therapy or HRT) can support folks who struggle with gender dysphoria. However, these feelings can affect people who are not using GAHT too! Gender dysphoria is a common experience for trans and nonbinary people. Since hormones aren’t part of everyone’s gender journey, it’s important to have plenty of options to help yourself cope.
Seeking out supportive people and communities, practicing self-care activities, and accepting yourself for who you are can help you manage your gender dysphoria in a healthy way. It’s so important for your overall mindset while you’re experiencing dysphoria to find what brings you joy.
1 Discover new paths to your natural creativity
From trying a new makeup vibe to dancing to music, creative activities can be a healthy outlet for dysphoric feelings. For some folks, writing things out on a page makes it easier to find the words than sharing out loud would. Even painting in colors that represent the feelings and emotions can be helpful.
Singing can be a good outlet, although it can be quite discouraging if you know you aren’t Alicia Keys. Sing your favorite songs at the top of your lungs, dancing and singing it out. It’s actually backed by science that processing stress and trauma through sound and movement can lower cortisol levels. Singing helps the thoughts and feelings flow through and out of your body as a huge release.
2 Speak kind and loving words to yourself
What you think becomes what you believe, and what you believe is what you become. When healing from dysphoria, it’s more about the journey than the destination, I think. The words we say about ourselves and to ourselves have a massive impact on our mental health.
In some cases, repeating affirmations helps self-love develop naturally. It might not feel like much is happening, but over time, it can help you feel more aligned. Here’s some good starter affirmations I’ve used. These are just suggestions! You can dress up an affirmation for whatever you need in the moment.
- “I am beautiful and handsome. My body does not define my gender, and my gender does not define my body.”
- “I adorn myself to reflect how beautiful I am inside.”
- “I choose beauty and joy because I bring beauty and joy through my existence.”
- “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Having friends and chosen family members who are understanding and supportive of your journey can make a big difference in how you feel. If you need more help than your community can give you, seek out professional help. You may want to work with a therapist who specializes in gender dysphoria.
3 Self care can be transformative and healing
Self care is deeply personal, but it should always be at the top of your to-do list. For some folks, it might mean bubble baths and face masks or manicures. It can mean engaging in spiritual practices and religion(s) that help you feel safe and seen. You might want to get lost in your favorite novel, explore fresh films and shows, or linger in a local bookstore.
For some people, self care looks like eating foods that make your body feel good. Depending on your energy level, your self care might be exercising. Even if you don’t feel motivated, try to move your body in a way that feels nurturing. Movement can help by releasing endorphins—feel-good “happy” hormones that can boost your mental health and banish negative feelings.
Touch, self-affirmation, and beauty care are all helpful, too. Maybe you feel better after asking a friend to style your hair or apply a wing-tip eyeliner. Connecting, talking, and feeling seen are powerful defenses against gender dysphoria.
4 Kiss stress goodbye and show yourself some love
What does the term ‘self care’ mean for you, and what does it look like? As you explore what works for you, you will learn so much about your body, your amazing spirit, and the inner community that circulates throughout your nervous system. As you practice self care, you’ll be able to show up for yourself in new ways.
If gender dysphoria is stressing you out, seek healthy distractions. (Emphasis on the word “healthy!”) Stimulating your senses until you feel calm is an easy, relaxing way to practice self-care. Puzzle games, have been proven to reduce stress. Crafts, coloring books, doodling, or just playing with beads can also help you detach from dysphoric feelings.
5 Have some compassion for your poor nerves
Stressed nerves and exhausted senses can make it easier to fall into gender dysphoria. If you feel frazzled, try smelling your favorite perfume or herbal mix. The sense of not feeling present in your body might also lessen if you hold a crystal, quilt, or stuffed toy against your chest.
I personally use a weighted blanket or big books to help regulate my nervous system. There are also free audio links on YouTube that help me relax. I listen to healing tones, bells, nature sounds, and white noise. Those can be grounding and calming for me when I can’t seem to turn off my mind.
6 Breathe, breathe, breathe
Different breathing patterns and breath-guided meditation can slow down racing thoughts. If your mind feels out of control in moments of gender dysphoria, try to pause and focus on your breath. Panic and gender dysphoria can go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, I think too hard about my body or my gender. That knocks me off-balance, but meditation can bring me back.
Breathing is beautifully simple, yet can change patterns of my emotional responses.
If you’re really struggling, you might feel like you’ve forgotten how to breathe. Stress relief is something we must practice. Even if you’ve done breathing exercises before, gender dysphoria might make you feel like a beginner all over again. That’s alright! Use one of the free videos or apps that can help guide you through your breathing.
7 Pick up your pencil and put it on paper
Journaling is a self-care tool that might help you align your mind. Writing anything on paper, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, helps move the struggle out of your body. If you don’t feel like writing a diary entry, try making a gratitude list. This might include things, people, or experiences you can feel grateful for. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on all you have accomplished. Here are some prompts:
- People, places, and pets that make you smile
- Memories that affirm your beauty, worth, and being
- Remember some of the moments you’ve felt at home in your body. What did that feel like?
As a trans-identifying person, you are a pillar of strength. Once you’ve written your list, reflect with gratitude on your journey. You’ve made it this far! You are still here. You’re more magical than ever. Despite the struggle, you’re living in your truth—living your dreams.
Finally, it is important to remember that gender dysphoria is a valid experience. You don’t have to run from it. Gender dysphoria doesn’t mean you are “less” or imperfect. It is simply part of the process of learning to be happy and comfortable in your own skin. This journey is worth it!
Cairo Levias (they/them) is a model, stylist, muse, and mystic. From walking the runways of New York Fashion Week to designing seasonal narratives for fashion brands, Cairo’s expansive vision extends beyond gender to life’s possibilities. They live with their husband and two perfect kitties.
As the largest provider of gender-affirming care for the trans and nonbinary community, Plume is committed to providing information about many types of information, including questions about hormones like estrogen and testosterone, gender transitioning tips and experiences, and guidance on social transition and self care.
While we strive to include a diverse range of voices and expertise, not everything will be for every person. Each individual’s experience is unique, and the information Plume provides is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Always first seek the advice of your primary and/or specialist physician, the Plume Care Team, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, your mental health and emotional needs, or your health care needs regarding gender-affirming hormone therapy. If you are experiencing an emergency, including a mental health crisis, call 911 or reach out to Trans LifeLine.