How to Navigate Stress as a Queer… | Counseling | Therapy

How to Navigate Stress as a Queer Teenager

Dyonna — Intern therapist

How to Navigate Stress as a Queer Teenager

Navigating personal relationships as a teenager can be hard. Classes, friends, and extra curricular activities can be overwhelming on their own. As a queer identifying teenager, that is, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, navigating those social networks can be even harder. Connecting with people with your shared experience can be a difficult road to navigate, and it can create tons of stress.

Understanding Stress In Queer Teens

Stress is something we all live with in one way or another. When coupled with our complex lives and social identities, stress can look very different for everyone. Individuals that identify as queer also have unique struggles that can create even more stress on top of the daily stress we encounter. Adolescence can be a time where you are coming into your own, and exploring what meaningful relationships look like to you. In addition to learning about yourself, there can be pressure from others to label your sexuality or gender and define it in very clear terms. Even after that, you may run into individuals who do not agree with your identity.

The negative effects of continued stress that members of the queer community face are very real. Lowered immune system, higher rates of depression, and a negatively skewed sense of self-identity are all potential effects of stress experienced by queer people. Juggling one or all of these effects can make it hard to navigate stress as a queer teenager. This stress may come in the form of homophobic comments from loved ones, heteronormativity (lack of representation of your identity) in media and society, and fear of being ostracized. The minority stress model illustrates the ways in which stress from the surrounding non-queer society uniquely affects members of the queer community. From discrimination to harassment, members of the queer community are at higher risk of encountering more rejection from surrounding society. The risk is further increased when members of the queer community hold more marginalized statuses such as being a member of a racial or ethnic minority. When thinking about how to take care of yourself when those stressful situations happen, a few coping strategies go a long way. So how can you begin to navigate stress as a queer teenager.?

Coping Techniques

There are lots of different coping techniques out there, and it is important to find what works for you. First, try to reflect on what has worked for you in the past. Recall a time that you felt particularly stressed or overwhelmed. What helped you feel a little better? When stressed, do you tend to need alone time to reflect and recharge? Or, do you prefer connecting with others by talking to a friend? Having a list in mind of the different ways you can help yourself destress is a powerful step in learning to navigate stress. You can treat that list like a “self-care menu” and refer back to it when in times of stress. If you feel stuck or can’t remember how you helped yourself feel better, keep reading! The best way to find coping techniques that work for you is by setting aside time in your busy life to try different activities and exercises, even if for only ten or fifteen minutes. When thinking about a specific event that caused those stress levels to rise, it can be helpful to think about what in the event made your stress rise. Did a once close friend reject you? Did you hear a negative comment about queer people on the bus? Whatever it may be, it can be important to recognize what you need at that moment.

Recognizing High Stress Levels

When thinking about dealing with that overwhelmed feeling, it can be hard to see it in yourself. Stress looks different for everyone, and as a member of the queer community, it can look really different. Common ways stress shows up is lower energy, low self esteem, and lower overall life satisfaction. These abstract ideas can manifest in spending more time away from things you previously enjoyed doing, needing more frequent and longer naps, and negative thoughts about yourself. Recognizing that you may need extra support is half the battle, and a difficult one at that. Taking a few moments to consider how your habits have changed can be helpful and do not always need to be lengthy. A great way to start is by thinking about what has changed in the past few days. Have you been sleeping more? Having difficulty focusing? Not enjoying your past hobbies? All of these and more can be indications of higher stress levels. So, what do we do when trying to deal with that overwhelmed feeling? While it can be great to remove yourself from that stressful situation, if that situation is school or a family member, it can be complex and maybe even unsafe. When we have less control over our surroundings, there are still things that we can do to lower our stress levels and feel less overwhelmed. Even if we don’t change our surroundings, there are multiple ways to address stress, but it can be helpful to first try practicing gratitude. By practicing gratitude, we can bring to the front of our brains what makes us feel good, what we enjoy doing, and what keeps us motivated, all of which can be useful when navigating stress as a queer teenager. By writing about what we are grateful for, we put these feelings into a physical medium that we can reference whenever we are feeling overwhelmed.

Journaling and Gratitude

One favorite tool for de-stressing is writing about stress. Giving yourself a designated time and space to process stress is a great step towards lowering your stress levels because it can help make reflection feel more natural.

Oftentimes, we forget about the things in our lives that help us through difficult situations and when we are really stressed out, it can be hard to remember times that we felt better. A gratitude journal can be a great place to reflect on our strengths and support systems. Journaling is a flexible tool because it has no length or time requirement. Additionally, by writing words down in some form (the notes app on your phone works well), you’re able to take the thought, feeling, or experience out of your brain and onto a page. This can create some breathing room to lower those stress levels and reduce the symptoms of feeling overwhelmed. After getting the stressful experience out onto the page, reflect on what you’re grateful for. By taking the negative experience out of your head and onto a page, you’re able to spend more time reflecting on what some positive experiences are in your daily life. In writing about those positives, you have something to refer back to in the future if a similar situation comes up. Some great prompts to get started are:

  • Write about someone’s company that you enjoy

  • Write about something beautiful you saw this month

  • Write about something you’re excited for in the future.

A key part of navigating stress as a queer teenager is to practice it regularly, even if you don’t feel particularly stressed that day. This helps us build a habit of setting aside some time to focus on ourselves, our feelings, and how the day has impacted us. For more general daily questions try this prompt:

  • Write about 3 good things that happened today.

These good things can be a pleasant conversation, a high grade on an assignment, and anything else that makes you feel thankful. By writing about the things that bring us peace, we can remember those events more quickly in times of great stress. Building the habit by setting aside five, ten, or fifteen minutes a day to reflect on some positive parts of your day can make it easier to pay attention to the positive parts of your day. Maybe you didn’t notice you walk by a beautiful garden everyday, now you anticipate it!

Whether you use one of these prompts or others, it’s important to allow yourself to reflect on the question before writing. Give yourself time to explore your past experiences before choosing your journal topic. Try to allow yourself to speak honestly in your journal, and remember that this is your practice and for no one else. Navigating stress as a queer teenager can be daunting, so it is important to remember that you and your contributions to your loved ones are valuable, irreplaceable, and are worthy of being celebrated. As you continue to explore your identity, it’s important to remember that your journey is uniquely yours to experience.



Navigating stress as a queer teenager can be a difficult thing. Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community can come with added stress from surrounding society. If you are feeling like the stress is too much to handle on your own, journaling can be a great lifeline. If you are still struggling, remember you are not alone and professional support is always another option. At the Center for Growth we have therapists that focus on counseling for adolescents and can provide more support as you navigate through your own personal journey. If you would like to begin counseling please reach out to 215-922-5683 x 100 or schedule directly online. For your convenience, we have five in-person offices and can also provide counseling and therapy virtually.

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