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For many Vietnamese women, Tet is more headache than fun

By Minh An   January 20, 2023 | 11:00 pm PT
For many Vietnamese women, Tet is more headache than fun
People carry their belongings on their motorbikes to return to their hometowns for Tet. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
Aside from all the fun of the reunions and feasts, Tet is also a time of rushed deadlines and responsibilities to be met, making it a cause of stress for many, especially women.

Ngoc, 35, an office worker with a monthly salary of VND15 million ($639.39), lives with her husband, two sons and her parents-in-law in an 80 m2 apartment with three bedrooms.

Her daily life is stressful due to the constant verbal fights between her and her mother-in-law. Ngoc has always considered herself to be a straightforward person, who would "always voice her opinions when there's something wrong," whether it be about shopping or parenting. Meanwhile, her husband, an only child, often sides with his parents, making the relationship between husband and wife strained.

A month before Tet, Ngoc's husband was fired from a real estate firm after his contract ran out. All the family's economic burden then rested on Ngoc's shoulders. Since then, she's been lying beside her sleeping husband on the mattress wide awake at night, thinking about buying gifts for her families, friends and colleagues. Sometimes she can barely breath, she feels fatigued and unfocused, easily irritable and on the verge of tears, preferring to sit alone in the dark

Finally, her insomnia got so bad that she decided to go see a doctor. Doctor Le Thi Thuy Hang at the National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 said Ngoc had high stress levels and anxiety disorder, leading to fatigue and insomnia. She was prescribed medications and taught meditation techniques for relaxation.

Meanwhile, Anh, a new bride, wants a perfect Tet for both sides of her family. One month before Tet, Anh has already come up with a list of relatives, trying to find the most unique gifts for each of them. She's in charge of taking care of all the Tet rituals and meals for both families. Her job at the end of the year is another source of stress, with her boss constantly demanding that she meet targets and deadlines. All the pressure has Anh losing sleep and falling into a negative spiral of negative self-talk.

"People often worry about getting fat during Tet," she said. "But I feel like I'm being exploited and losing a few kilograms."

She said that her husband gives her VND10 million every month and does not share anything more with her when he gets home from work. That means she's the bearer of both financial and household responsibilities.

Nguyen Thi Tam, a psychology expert at the Vietnam Insight center, said she constantly receives calls from people succumbing to the pressure of Tet. Some are so stressed that they lose sleep. Some can sleep, but they dream constantly of getting into fights with their loved ones.

A major cause of stress is the sheer workload as Tet approaches, forcing people to push themselves to finish everything in time before the holiday. Women in particular often also have to take care of household matters and other relations outside of work, and they're drained of energy.

"Precarious financial situations are also a cause for stress for women," Tam said, adding that once a threshold is met, people often become exhausted and anxious.

Stress may cause short-term insomnia, and often gives way once its root causes are resolved.

But unresolved stress may fester into anxiety and depression, affecting people's lives. Some people don't want to go back to their hometown and resort to traveling, just to escape from all the stress. Others may hole up inside their rooms for the entire Tet, not wanting to face all the pressure.

Unresolved stress might also manifest into physical symptoms like quick heartbeats, shivering or diarrhea, Tam added. Those affected by it may also have feelings of loneliness, irritability and tend to isolate themselves from others. Some even abuse substances, making their problems worse.

To relieve stress, experts suggest early diagnoses so people can undergo therapies and regulate their emotions better. They should also avoid substance abuse, like drinking too much alcohol, which could worsen symptoms.

*People’s names have been changed for anonymity.

 
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