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心理輔導系列 過年前緊張 失眠又忟憎 正視節日引發抑鬱焦慮警號

Feeling Anxious, Agitated, and Experiencing Sleeplessness Before Lunar New Year?

Feeling Anxious, Agitated, and Sleeplessness Before Lunar New Year?

Do not Overlook These Signs of Depression and Anxiety Triggered by Holidays

As the Lunar New Year approaches, many eagerly start preparations like buying New Year goodies and cleaning up their homes, getting ready for the festival. However, some do not look forward to it as the celebrations and numerous family gatherings are a source of stress and anxiety to them. Instead of feeling joyful, the festivities can make them feel lonely, and can even trigger symptoms of depression!

Counsellor Fiona Tsang points out that traditional and detail-oriented women are more likely to experience stress during the Lunar New Year holiday. “Women in the family are usually responsible for the detailed holiday preparations. Traditional parents-in-law can have strict notions of etiquette and can be “face” conscious, hence requiring their daughters-in-law to follow traditions closely. This includes doing everything themselves, such as baking and cooking the New Year goodies. Before the festival starts, these daughters-in-law are already physically and mentally tired. Hence, they get anxious and lose sleep, become grumpier, and are easily agitated or angered.” Managing the hard preparation work for the festivities, the challenges in arranging reunion dinner schedules for their parents’ family and their in-laws’, the various expenses from the preparations, and feeling alone in shouldering all the responsibilities are some examples of what worry these women.

Seek Help, Create a Space for Yourself, Learn to Relieve Your Stress

Fiona states that mild anxiety symptoms such as crying easily or keep wanting to fight with others should not be underestimated because they can build into explosive outbursts. “If these symptoms are not addressed and managed, they can develop into aversion, resulting in tensions within the family and thus affecting the relationship between husband and wife.” We had a client who did not know of ways to relieve her Lunar New Year holiday stress, therefore causing it to build up. Feelings of aversion gradually developed, which deteriorated her relationship with her mother-in-law. She became uninterested in her in-laws and even chose to move far from them. Although she stopped visiting them, she could not avoid them at Lunar New Year gatherings, during which new unpleasant feelings would develop. Ultimately, her accumulated negative feelings reached a tipping point. 

Fiona suggests the following ways to manage stress when preparing for the Lunar New Year. Before starting preparations, work out a checklist. Make adjustments to your role and seek help from others to share the workload. Do not neglect your relationship with your husband during this stressful time. Remember to create some space and time for yourself to regulate your emotions and relieve stress.

Depression Peaks Before and After Lunar New Year

Research from overseas shows that there are 40% more suicide cases at the hospitals’ emergency departments before and after Christmas. Despite the joyous holiday season, some people are negatively affected by the festivities. From her years of clinical experience, Dr. Vinci Cheung observed that depressive and psychosis symptoms are easily triggered before and after Lunar New Year and during the exam season. “People with depressive or anxiety symptoms are likely to be triggered during festivals and holidays as they feel lonely and miserable. To avoid the festivities, they tend to isolate themselves, at the same time loathing the joy that others are experiencing. Some may choose to work as they cannot cope with the loneliness. However, they can feel conflicted at the same time, questioning why should they be working during the holidays. Those with severe depressive symptoms can even resort to self-harm to alleviate their distress.”

One of our clients, who had depression for many years, could not stay alone during festivals or the death anniversaries of loved ones. The client would make appointments with a counsellor on those days, even on the day before the eve of Lunar New Year and the second day of the Lunar New Year. Alternatively, the client would choose to admit to the hospital or find other ways to avoid celebrating these festivals.

One should seek professional help if he or she experiences depressive or anxiety symptoms during the Lunar New Year holidays. A counsellor can work with us to identify the underlying causes and guide us in managing our emotions. Signs of depression and anxiety should not be overlooked. They should be addressed promptly and appropriately.

Ways to Manage Emotion in Festival seasons 

  1. If you do not enjoy family gatherings, consider spending less time there, or skip them. Plan according to your preference to avoid over stressing yourself.
  2. Find time to volunteering. It can help reframe a more positive meaning on festivals and holidays.
  3. Incorporate ‘sunlight’, ‘exercise’ and ‘nature’ in your vacations.
  4. Plan early to manage the hefty holiday expenses.
  5. Avoid dependence on alcohol or drugs to manage distress because this leads to a greater inner void.

The Companions
Fiona Tsang
Counsellor