No matter if you celebrate it or not, Chinese New Year is typically a season that brings family and friends together for steamboats, ang bao exchanges, yushengs and more. However, for some, this period is a time of incredible stress, anxiety and discomfort.
From dealing with the pressures of having to attend parties with strangers who may not respect your boundaries to dealing with emotional issues such as loneliness and stress, there is no shortage of problems that tend to crop up during the new year season.
To find out how to better manage and navigate these tricky situations, we speak to a number of licenced therapists to find out how you can cope with these often overwhelming feelings and pressures that may come and go.
Here, we tackle some of the most frequently asked questions.
How do I set boundaries?
A key feature of any new year celebration includes family parties and get-togethers among friends or colleagues.
While this is fun for most of us, it does cause a lot of stress for many who may worry about invasive questions asked by some family members.
“Take a deep breath before you answer so you can decide how to respond. We tend to say ‘Yes’ so quickly without thinking more about what we really want to do so this helps,” suggested Anita Barot, a marriage and family therapist from Lotus Psychotherapy.
If you really cannot shake this person off your back or feel you need to be more assertive, you can try politely changing the subject or expressing your discomfort.
Of course, this is not always easy especially in Asian families where a great emphasis is placed on respecting people older than you.
There is a chance that someone may think you are being rude or disrespectful if you try to stand up for yourself. In cases like this, a non-committal answer or vague one is probably your best bet. You can then attempt to change the subject.
“You can say, ‘Wow, I don’t know. Check with me again in 10 years’ or ‘That is a tough question. I don’t really have an answer for you’,” suggested Padma Jairam, a counselling psychologist at Padma Jairam Counselling.
Remember that boundaries are about respecting ourselves and those around us and that it is not an attempt to kick anyone out of your life. Rather, it is an attempt to keep them there.
According to Jae-Mie Yiew, a clinical psychologist at Psychology Blossom, focusing on yourself and not putting blame on the other person is the best way to go.
“Try using ‘I’ statements that focus on stating your feelings, needs and thoughts in a non-accusatory, non-blameful way to communicate your boundaries. For example, you can say, ‘I feel uncomfortable when talking about this topic. Let’s change the conversation, I’d love to hear more about how you’ve been doing’,” said Jae-Mie Yiew, a clinical psychologist at Psychology Blossom.