With the pre-rainy season slump well underway, Dana Filek-Gibson offers suggestions on how to keep your cool in Saigon.

As temperatures in the city reach their apex and the lunar new year has long gone, there is a lot less to look forward to over the next few weeks. The unbearable heat of April will break eventually, but what follows is several months of incessant rain, peppered with just enough public holidays to remind us of all the extended vacations we’re unable to take.

Added to these weather woes are other common stresses of city life: the driver who honks at you while the light is still red or the teenager who picks up his cellphone in the theatre. Tragically, there are only so many DVD boxed sets you can watch to escape the frustrations of reality, and before you know it you’ve unleashed a string of obscenities on your workplace photocopier, ranting about how everything is broken in Vietnam while your colleagues pretend not to notice the outburst.

Indeed, the pre-rainy season slump has begun. But by taking control of your own mental health, there are productive ways in which to combat this day-to-day irritation. Thanks to WebMD and my self-proclaimed expertise in the area, I am qualified to offer the following stress management advice:

Take a Deep Breath
In a tense moment — say, the 467th time your motorbike doesn’t start — it’s easy to let your emotions get the better of you. While this usually makes for a great YouTube video — and, later, remixes of that YouTube video — it never pays off in real life. Instead of upending a street cart or rough-talking a vehicle, step back and remove yourself from the situation, preferably to a location that sells cupcakes or alcohol. If such a location is not readily accessible, picture whatever your version of heaven is — mine is currently the cheese aisle at Annam Gourmet — and go there.

Stay Busy
If you’re from a healthy, stable, and well-rounded family like mine, you know that the best thing to do with your emotions is suppress them. Bury those feelings deep inside and take your mind off your troubles by getting a hobby. You can, of course, take up something relaxing and stress-free like tai chi but if, like me, you have trouble resisting the urge to gloat every time your downward dog beats someone else’s, there are other activities which can channel your frustration into positive results, like kickboxing or laser tag.

Alternatively, if none of the above options suit you, there is no harm in taking up food: this city is full of it, and human beings have been replacing feelings with sweets since the dawn of time. Remember, cupcake shops and pastry chefs don’t stay in business because people aren’t emotional.

Find a Secret Psychiatrist
If, despite the cupcakes and laser tag and overly positive delusions, your frustration persists, the ultimate solution to your stress may be therapy. I already know what you’re thinking: “Not me. I’m not going to see a psychiatrist.” Regardless of your opinions on the matter, I am not suggesting you visit a trained professional. Instead, develop your own network of ‘secret psychiatrists’, or everyday people in front of whom you can spontaneously cry in public places. These confidants can be anyone in your life — a hairdresser, a colleague, a total stranger — so long as they’re willing to listen and nod every few minutes. My Vietnamese teacher is so used to this by now that she brings tissues to every class. The key is to cultivate these relationships without the other party realising you are getting in some quality couch time. By spreading your crazy out among many different people, you will keep these confidants mildly entertained without overwhelming anyone with your issues.


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