Coping With Gender Dysphoria

Coping With Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria can be the experience of distress or discomfort with your body's sex characteristics or the gender role assigned to you. Check out some ideas that could help.


Gender dysphoria - different things work for different people

Gender dysphoria or gender incongruence can be the experience of distress or discomfort with your body's sex characteristics or the gender role assigned to you. It's something that everyone experiences differently and can change over time. There's no one way to deal with dysphoria and different things work for different people.

Ideas that can help you cope with gender dysphoria

Here are some ideas that could help trans, nonbinary and gender diverse people cope with dysphoria. Some are specific to gender dysphoria and some are more general coping strategies that may help.

Try some out and make a list of ones that work for you. Remember, what works at one time may not be the same at another time, so trying out different strategies at different times can be useful too.

Express your feelings

Express your feelings - share your feelings in a notebook or blog, or express how you feel through an art, craft or music project.

Talk to someone and listen to others

Talk to someone who understands - talk to a supportive friend, find an online trans community you feel connection with, or call Outline 0800 OUTLINE (688 5463) between 6pm and 9 pm to talk to a trained volunteer from the LGBTIQ+ community.

If you have a counsellor or therapist you feel safe talking with about your gender dysphoria, make time to bring this up with them.

Listen to someone who has similar feelings to you - talk to friends who also experience dysphoria, or* watch a Vlogger who you relate to.

Use items that help you express your gender

Find or use items that aid in expressing your gender and makes you feel more confident in yourself - binders, packers, STPs (stand-to-pee devices), breast forms, panty girdles, padded underwear, makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories, hair removal items, hair styling products.

Affirm your gender

Affirm your gender - do small or big things that affirm your gender; whether it's wearing a small accessory that is affirmative for you, re-styling your hair, or emailing your teachers to tell them your preferred name and pronouns.

Take steps towards your transition goals

Make plans, research, or take small steps towards your long-term social, medical and or legal transition goals.

Try everyday things that reduce your dysphoria

Find ways to do everyday things that reduce your dysphoria - steam up or cover the bathroom mirrors, use a big sponge or loofah for bathing, cuddle a pillow to cover your chest when you sleep, or master makeup contouring.

Remember to be easy on yourself and on your personal image

Tell yourself, out loud, that your body does not define your gender.

Take a moment to point out a few positive things you love about your body more generally - things you are great at, or things you like about yourself.

Remember to be easy on yourself and on your personal image. Remind yourself of the diversity of all people's bodies and gender presentations to give yourself a reality check.

Explore what feels right for you

Take time to explore what feels right for you when it comes to your identity and expressing yourself and your gender. Forget beauty standards and gender stereotypes: what expressions and identities feel right for YOU.

Exercise to improve your mood

Exercise - a healthy amount of exercise can improve your mood. Do what you like - dance your heart out in your bedroom, do some yoga, ride a bike, go to circus classes, use the local park gym equipment, or look up exercises that will shape your body in ways that could reduce your dysphoria.

Remember to be proud of yourself

Remember that your trials and struggles in life can make you stronger. You've made it to this point. You
should be proud of yourself.

Stimulate your senses

Use all your senses

Smell something (perfume, a flower), taste something (something strong flavoured or something you really like), listen to something (nature sounds or music), touch something (fabric, a furry pet, a teddy bear), stimulate your vision (by looking at a colour you like or pics of baby animals).

Try self-soothing activities

Self-soothing is a quick and effective way to reduce the intensity of emotions and anxiety.

Here are some ideas for self-soothing activities.

Sight: Low lighting. Soothing colours. Nature views. Sleeping masks. Colouring books. Art. Pinterest collages. Favourite movies. Video games.

Sound: Calming noises. Videos. Headphones. Nature sounds. Guided meditations. Binaural beats. Laughter. Your favourite music. Audiobooks.

Touch: Massage. Soft cuddly things. Stress ball. Hot or cold showers. Heated or weighted blankets. Slime. Fidget spinners. Kinetic sand.

Smell: Aromatherapy. Fresh air. Candles or incense. Comforting smells. Herbal pillows. Scented lotion.

Taste: Eating slowly. Nostalgic flavours. Warm drinks. Strong flavours. Your favourite sweets. Trying new foods. Letting candy or chocolate melt in your mouth.

Avoid those who bring you down

Avoid spaces or people that will bring you down.


Escape - to your favourite playlist, game, or show, or a long luxurious bath or shower.

Pamper yourself

Dress in your favourite gender-affirming clothes, or wear comfy clothes to help you relax and feel better; wear your favorite makeup; eat your favourite comfort food; get a haircut; moisturise your body.

Connect with nature

Go for a walk outside, do some gardening, watch the birds, trees or stars, care for an animal, wade in a river or ocean, bask in the sunshine.

Take time out or stay busy

Do whichever works best for you at the time - take time out or stay busy. Slow down and relax, or stay occupied and distracted.

Go to bed early!

Make sure you prepare to sleep by turning off devices, doing something relaxing, making the room quiet, clean and peaceful, and rest well.

Eat the rainbow!

Getting a balanced, nutritious diet with lots of fruit and vegetables will help your mind and body feel its best.

Make time for pleasure

Make sure you are doing things that make you feel good every day. Schedule it in if you have to!

Switch off from social media

Switch off from social media and devices if they are bringing you down.

Practice breathing, meditation etc

Practice breathing, meditation or other relaxation or mindfulness techniques.

Check out inspirational trans and nonbinary people

Consider checking out some of the inspirational trans and nonbinary people from Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.  

Here are just a few of the very many people out there.

Elz Carrad (actor) - NZ Emmy-winning webseries and movie. Rūrangi.

FAFSWAG - an arts collective of Māori and Pacific LGBTQI+ artists and activists. They explore and celebrate the unique identity of gender fluid Pacific people and LGBTQI+ communities in multi-disciplinary art forms.

Shaneel Lal - Fijian NZ LGBTQ+ rights activist.

Georgie Stone - Australian actress, writer and trans rights advocate.

Evie Mc Donald - teen Australian actress and activist.

Elliot Page - American actor.

Hunter Schafer - American actress.

Jin Xing - Chinese Dancer and TV presenter.

Lachlan Watson - American nonbinary actor.

Check out more inspirational trans and nonbinary people

Get support when you need it

If you are feeling really down or thinking about suicide it's important to get as much support as possible, including professional support.

You can contact any of the following.

Call 1737

Call 1737 anytime to speak to a trained counsellor.

Call 0800 688 5463 (OUTLine)

OUTLine: call 0800 688 5463 between 6pm and 9pm to talk to a trained volunteer from the LGBTIQ+ community. Call (09) 972 0054 to talk to the counselling team.

Via the OUTLine website you can self-refer for support for the (free) OUTLine Transgender Peer Support Service.

Contact Rainbow Youth's one to one peer support in some regions

Rainbow Youth provides a one to one transgender peer support service but this is only available in the following Rainbow Youth staffed regions:

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Wellington
  • Taranaki

Call 0508 828 865 (Suicide Crisis Helpline)

Suicide Crisis Helpline, a free, nationwide service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is operated by highly trained and experienced telephone counsellors who have undergone advanced suicide prevention training. Call the Suicide Crisis Helpline for support 0508 828 865

Call 0800 376 633 (Youthline)

Youthline: Free text 234. Call 0800 376 633 email

Call 0800 543 354 (Lifeline)

Lifeline: Free text HELP (4357) Call 800 LIFELINE (543 354)

Watch a video series from InsideOUT celebrating the diversity of the rainbow community

Parents and whānau can check out the KidsHealth page on gender diversity in children and young people


This content has been adapted from Telethon Kids Institute (Australia) as part of the development of
‘SPARX-T’; a serious game designed to prevent depression in trans and gender diverse young people.

This page last reviewed 19 December 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it