Most of us will associate the Lunar New Year with a time of celebration, joy and spending time with family and friends. But for some people it can instead be a time of worry, dread, or loneliness.
Traditionally, the Lunar New Year necessitates a time for friends and families to gather together as its customary to visit relatives, share big meals, or invite visitors into our homes. However, for those of us with strained relationships or for those who have lost loved ones, this time of year can be particularly challenging, as feelings of sadness, grief and disappointment can creep in.
Similar to some of the other major holidays in the annual calendar, the Lunar New Year celebrations can also bring with it various financial and societal pressures that can quickly accumulate, as there may be expectations to socialise with relatives who we don’t get along with, expectations to go out for expensive meals, or to fork out on numerous gift exchanges and lucky red packets. Furthermore, dealing with the pressures of having to attend multiple gatherings and being in the firing line of relatives who may lack respect for our boundaries, can further add to this being a stressful time of year. To find out how to keep our mental health in mind during the Lunar New Year holidays, we explore some simple tips and ways of coping below.
Plan ahead and be kind to yourself
If you anticipate a busy few days of gatherings and big meals, ensure to also schedule in opportunities to pause and slow down. Even for the most outgoing and extroverted individuals amongst us, taking time out to recharge can be crucial for our mental health. Similarly, if you foresee this time of year to be a challenging one because of strained relationships or because you’ve lost a love one, making a point of taking extra care of yourself could make things a little more bearable. Practicing self-care by starting with the basics, such as adequate sleep, moving your body, replenishing with well-balanced meals and staying hydrated are all essential, but it can be as equally important to plan in opportunities to do things that are meaningful to you. Engaging in activities that matter to you or are purposeful are considered ‘valued activities’, as these are usually aligned with what we value most in life (for example our families, friends, relationships, or our hobbies, passions and community involvement). What you consider to be a valued activity will be unique to you, as what you find meaningful may differ to someone else. For some people this may mean taking time out to engage in sports and physical development, but for others, this may mean increasing opportunities to learn something new, or to engage in acts of giving and kindness. Whatever it is that you consider to be a valued activity, creating opportunities for this over the coming holidays could really help to boost wellbeing.
While the opportunity of getting together with family and friends can be exciting and fun, it can also open us up to the dreaded bombardment of unwelcomed questions or comments, which can be typical during this time of year. Comments about your appearance or weight, or invasive questions about your career or relationship status are often made without malice, but can sometimes come across hurtful or critical, particularly if this is an area you’ve been struggling with. If this is something you can relate to, it may be helpful to arrive a little prepared. Resist the urge to respond too quickly without much thought, and allow yourself to pause and decide how you’d really like to reply. Allow yourself to respond assertively, or to express your discomfort if you feel your boundaries are being pushed. There is a key difference between being assertive and aggressive in how we respond (which are two things that are often confused). When our boundaries are being crossed, it is perfectly acceptable to exercise assertiveness and express how we feel, whilst still taking into account the other person’s feelings. For example, it may be appropriate to interject with something along the lines of “…that’s a tricky question, I can’t answer that right now, try asking me again in 5 years.” But of course, this is not always easy, particularly if there is a chance someone misinterprets your boundary setting as being impolite or disrespectful. If this is the case, a non-committal or indefinite answer may be a preferred option, as is an attempt to politely change the subject. Remember that boundaries are about respecting ourselves as well as those around us, so it is equally important to make space for your own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of others too.
Remember you’re not alone
Many people may struggle with some form of ‘holiday blues’ and the Lunar New Year holidays aren’t an exception to this. It’s therefore important to remind yourself that regardless of what you might see as you scroll through your social media feed, you are likely not the only one feeling overwhelmed or dreading the next big get together. Find someone you trust who you feel comfortable talking to, as the opportunity to connect and share how you truly feel could help offset some of the stress you may be experiencing.
Of course it can be natural to feel uncomfortable about expressing how we feel, or we might feel it’s inappropriate to express our true emotions during a time when everyone is supposedly feeling cheerful. But burying our emotions isn’t a healthy solution and can potentially serve to make us feel worse. If you’re having difficulty coping or would like to learn more about anything mentioned in this article, reaching out to a mental health professional could be a good place to start. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us to arrange a free telephone consultation.
Wishing everyone health and happiness in the year ahead!
If you are interested in scheduling a session with Teresa Chan or have further queries, please contact us today.