Hi. I am a Sexual Health Outreach Worker, mainly working with and for South Asian & Middle Eastern men, who may identify as gay, bisexual, or who are unsure how to self-identify.
The men I work with already experience isolation, and the current situation is not helping with this. But I would like to remind you that we are all in this together. We are all doing our bit to help society and consider those who may be more vulnerable than us, by making sure we are: social distancing; shopping sensibly; washing hands properly; staying in touch through the phone, instant messaging and video calling; and refraining from instant ‘hook ups’ and the temptations of party and playing.
In the sexual health and wellbeing one-to-ones I do, as well as in the monthly social support group I run (RANG), I am often reminded of people who are displaced from their own countries, cities, towns, and communities, in relation to religion, faith and culture. They are often unable to use their own language, and find themselves in new surroundings or dwellings which are often not LGBT-friendly, which adds to their exclusion. Some have families who cannot accept their gender expression, identity or sexuality. In the current situation, some people have no choice but to live with their families, and may be experiencing further stress from siblings, parents, or other family members.
But there is hope: more South Asian/ Middle Eastern men, and men in general, are coming to us to talk about their concerns. Group members of RANG feel less isolated and have an opportunity to express themselves in a way that connects them to others.
So, in what ways can we all practice self-care?
- Good hygiene – Obviously, washing hands properly is very important, but it’s also helpful to generally try to stick to your usual daily cleansing routine. This includes having a bath/shower, brushing your teeth (before bed encourages a better sleep), and manicuring and looking after your hands and feet.
- Eat well – Although it is very tempting to comfort eat (I admit it’s been tough but I have decided to cut our crisps and chocolate for now), try to have a balanced diet where possible. Remember your ‘five a day’ – mine are bananas, especially in banana cake. Stay hydrated – water is best, but try mixing water with some cordial if that helps! And less alcohol, as it can dehydrate, and while it might make you feel good it can often leave you feeling not so good. And it doesn’t count as a five a day!
- Exercise – This is something I am struggling with at the moment, but I am trying to do 15 minutes of cardio every other day. Unfortunately for some people, it’s even harder to exercise if you have no garden space and are unable to venture out for your daily one-hour walk. There are lots of videos on YouTube on alternative exercises to try at home. Always make sure you are not over-exerting yourself, and start off gently.
- Stay in touch – It’s very easy to stay in touch via instant messaging and social media, but perhaps try video calling (Zoom, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc), or sending a sound file, writing a letter, or perhaps phoning a friend, neighbour or family member. Most people will be thankful that you have made contact.
- Take up a hobby – Personally I have started to read again, and it is probably the most relaxing thing I have done for some time. So, how about reading, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, games (actual and online), knitting, collaging, writing your thoughts, planning for the future, brushing up on that tired CV, potting plants, cooking, and perhaps listening to your favourite music and compiling a playlist for others?
- Ask for help – It is very common at the moment for people to be experiencing higher levels of anxiety and stress than usual. So, try to ask friends, neighbours, and family for help if you need it. They may be able to help with food shopping, picking up medicines, or taking time to talk with you. You also may be able to support others too. Just keep in mind social distancing and, where possible, staying at home.
- Screen time – This is another one I struggle with, but do try to discipline yourself to limit the amount of time you are spending on your mobile devices, and of course online TV. Have a break every two hours to stretch your legs and make a drink.
- Sleep well – At this difficult time, our sleep will likely to be affected. I’m certainly having strange dreams of late, but I realised I was watching far too much TV just before bed. So now I switch off my telly two hours before bed, and so far this is helping. Try to stick to a good sleep routine and this may help.
Thank you for reaching out to us here at Birmingham LGBT. We are here for you.