Ways to beat the blues

For some people, the Chinese New Year period can be unpleasant and stressful.

Keeping up appearances at gatherings can create anxiety, said Ms Leow Lilyn, a principal clinical psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health.

She said: "Some people ruminate about their life and wonder why it is not perfect. That can be a reason that they are feeling low."

Regardless of the cause of your unhappiness, there are ways to overcome it and feel better, Ms Leow said.

She gives tips on how to make it through the festivities.

1 BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE

Gratitude has been found to be helpful for mental health.

This applies to everyone and it also works for those who are in pain.

Finding a positive thing to be grateful for can be very powerful.

For instance, if you have to attend a reunion dinner with people you do not like, you can be thankful that someone else has taken care to make the meal or that you do not have to be alone at home.

If you have an aunt who keeps asking when you are getting married, you could try being thankful that she is healthy enough to be a busybody, or appreciate the goodies she is serving.

You cannot change her behaviour but you can change your reaction.

Gratitude is something that you need to work on. You may not find something to be thankful for immediately, but just seeking it out will lift your mood.

You do not have to be thankful for major things either. It could be something small but positive, like finding a convenient carpark space.

2 KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND

If you do not enjoy attending family reunions or visiting relatives, bear in mind that it is only for a few hours or, at most, a few days.

Seeing the big picture can also help you to be selective about what you do. You do not have to visit the homes of every single relative, for instance.

3 REWARD YOURSELF

After attending a reunion or meeting people that you do not wish to see, do something for yourself.

Go to the cineplex and watch a movie, have a workout at the gym or treat yourself to a massage.

4 HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

You do not have to buy into the idea of perfection that pervades social media, which often offers an idealised picture of what festive holidays are like.

Tell yourself that it is not a bar you have to reach. The food does not have to look amazing and your home does not have to be picture- perfect. You can then focus on the family and on what is truly important.

Joyce Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Ways to beat the blues'. Print Edition | Subscribe