If your mental health takes a dip every time Lunar New Year comes around, you’re not alone. You see, I’m in the same boat too.

It can be a stressful period, especially if you have not hit the milestones you are supposed to hit. Even the way you look is up for casual, yet hurtful, spoken observations.

I usually feel a bit of dread every time the Lunar New Year comes around. 

I’m fortunate enough to have a family to spend the Lunar New Year with. Yet, it is also the same family that will tend to trigger me with the same statements and actions on a yearly basis. 


Seeing extended family is common during Lunar New Year. Image: Pexels/ Rodnae Productions

While last year’s lockdown provided a great excuse to not meet, this year most of us will probably spend at least a couple of days in the presence of extended family. 

Understandably, this can drain you. Each of us have relatives we just don’t want to meet, and things we do not want to talk about.

Your relatives will probably never change their thoughts or ways. Still, it is important to protect your mental health from unavoidable unpleasantries in the upcoming Lunar New Year. 

Here are 3 common damaging comments you may face, and how to ensure that they do not cause damage to your mental health:

Comments on your appearance

This one is a classic, especially in Asian families. 

Things like triggering eating disorders or body image disorders do not bother your relatives. In fact, it is likely that they do not believe in the existence of such issues at all. 

I had a relative who thought it would be appropriate to shrug his shoulders and make his arms go sideways to indicate that he noticed I gained weight. I was only a teenager. For weeks after that, I refused to eat.

Ironically, comments surrounding one’s appearance is common at the dining table, especially during Lunar New Year. Image: Pexels/ Angela Roma

Luckily, as an adult woman, I am no longer bothered by such comments or acts. Imagine how boring a person one must be to immediately start a conversation about weight. Even the weather would be a better topic.

Now, I simply just nod along and wait for them to talk about something else. I remind myself that comments on my appearance are an indication of their insecurity about themselves. That is their issue to deal with, not mine.

Comments on your love life 

If you have hit your 20s and you are still not married with kids, you might feel like there is something wrong with you.

After all, why would your relatives tell you that you are too pretty/ handsome to be single, or that your biological clock is ticking? 

Inquisitive, well-meaning relatives tend to ask plenty of questions during this festive period. Image: Pexels/ Angela Roma

Being a highly private person who won’t discuss her love life does not help either. I have seen and heard the aunty network in action. I would prefer to not have my other half picked apart in phone calls across the nation unless the relationship is marriage-ready serious.

Remember, it is perfectly fine to be single. There probably are quite a few examples in your extended family that show that being married is not all that great, either. Personally, I would rather be happy single, than unhappy in a relationship.

I would recommend just saying “not yet” and shrugging artfully to let the conversation end smoothly. If all else fails, one can also make up a long-distance partner who is unable to come to your country due to the pandemic this year. Such a pity. 

Comments on your studies/ work 

After your looks and your love life, your studies or work would be the next big topic your relatives would focus on when you see them during the Lunar New Year.

If you are a student, they will want to know your grades and whether you do well in exams. If you work, they will probably ask you about whether the money is great and what your job position is.

The worst is when they start bragging about their own kids or grandkids, and your parents start staring daggers at you for not being as great as your relatives’ offspring. 

It can really drag you down. However, comparison is always a race to the bottom. Besides, if you think about it, you can also compare your parents and relatives to other people’s parents and relatives. Internally, of course, not externally, unless you want to be disowned. 

Image: Unsplash/ Wan San Yip

Most likely, you will find that your parents and relatives also have their faults and foibles. Why should they expect you to be the next Bill Gates, when you were never given the support system and network that Bill Gates was given? Here are some things that Asian parents seem to always do.

The great children and grandchildren who are bragged about probably also don’t lead the great lives that their parents are exaggerating about too. No one’s life is just roses.

Now, if you are responsible for yourself without relying on other people, and know you are working hard in your way, you are doing fine enough. It does not matter what anyone else says, even if these people are related to you.

Finally, if all else fails, just buy noise-cancelling earphones, and smile inanely at everyone during gatherings no matter what they say. They will learn to leave you alone soon enough.

Have a happy Lunar New Year.