The Urban Epidemic: Stress in Hong Kong

Part II  – Unwinding the daily grind 

There is no miracle shortcut way to combat stress in the city. We all know we’re trapped in the daily grind, but we have to break that monotomous cycle! Make time (not find it) for simple activities that will make a positive difference to your life. Lifestyle changes such as:

  1. going to bed earlier
  2. eating a balanced diet
  3. going on holiday instead of accumulating your statutory holidays
  4. regular breaks like 20 minute naps or split shifts

Managing your time and seeking professional help are great ways to do start. I recently read a friend’s insight into Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer’s encapsulation of stress. The mind-body unit theory explains that much of how we feel and behave is dependent on our perception of the context around us. The mind has a lot more control over the body than we realise, and we should embrace this thought, use it to our advantage.

    Give your mind a different perspective to get it thinking outside your usual box:

    • take a different route to work – when was the last you took the star ferry or tram?
    • reading a book – i.e. Alain DeBotton (2016). The Course of Love.
    • visit an exhibition nearby – you’d be surprised how many pop up in Hong Kong

    Its safe to say many of us in Hong Kong are quite mindless, we’re on autopilot a lot. Mindfulness (becoming aware or ‘mindful’ of our context) allows us to climb out of our rigid mindsets to focus on processes and approach the world freshly. We’re taught to streamline our attention away from distractions to tackle problems rapidly and mindlessly to get them ‘done and dusted’.

    However, here’s some food for thought from Langer: Distractions, when approached with the right frame of mind, are sources of opportunity. So the next time you think; I need to get this pile of assignments done over the next weeks or months before I can get that pay rise or promotion, there may be a bubble of opportunity in that distraction that’s always in your head. Example, 3M made a glue that could only adhere for a short amount of time. Instead of putting it in the trash pile and spearheading into their aim of making a super adhesive glue, they used it to make one of their greatest successes: the post-it note. 

    If you’re one to break that rigid cycle, this article makes a fantastic and entertaining read (with obvious benefits to our mind and soul): http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00310?gko=73023

    Alice Pearce is a Final year Psychologist at Durham University. She wrote this because growing up in HK and studying in the UK has made her realise how big the gap is between Asia and the West in psychological and educational understanding

    Sir Lunchalot and the Nights at a Round Table

    This is the story of a brave knight – Sir Lunchalot – who took the time to nourish himself regularly despite having to fight the dragons of the modern world. He decided to be social with loved ones as often as he could and to be alone when he felt the need to be. In both cases away from work.

    His job was: to kill dragons. Doing bloody work, but for bloody good money. Frequently he thought about quitting, but feeding his horse and his crossbow-training were costly. He knew that there were always enough dragons out there. Waiting to turn into bounty. As many other knights, he sometimes lost himself in complacency.

    One day however, he started reflecting upon his recent dragon killings. He found that he was most successful in the morning time and that it usually was the early afternoon dragons that nearly killed him. But why?

    A lunch patron at the Snuggly Duckling it daunted on him that the mutton stew with gravy and duck fries might have had contributed to him feeling sluggish in the afternoons.

    Fights with dragons would then drag on.

    Sir Lunchalot once heard that he could only give to the world, if he took good care of himself. His therapist told him that it was as valuable to watch out for the knees and wands of others as it was for his own needs and wants – as there seemed to have been a misunderstanding. Through guided introspection he gathered an agenda to change his workday in simple and easy to manage ways:

    • He did enjoy meeting fellow cavaliers over lunchtime. Yes, he did lunch a lot. The sense of friendship, mutual respect and talking about what was going on in his life made him feel connected. Yeah happy. He had to admit that he much preferred to meet with the fellows he liked most, but realised that this meant planning ahead. Not everyone was always at call.
    • Also, he found that he needed different places to go to for lunch. He thaught, that he wanted to refocus his eyes after mornings of close and stuffy dragon combat. Looking out into a valley for example or sea views. Lush green. Nature. Fresh air. Sunlight. That’s what he needed. He wanted to have coffee in that tree-house he saw the other day, to sit al fresco at the waterfront and to meditate in that garden where the monks grew hops.
    • With regard to the meals he ate, there was a stunning revelation happening: When he ate the burger first and then the fries, he often found that he did not need to finish the fries, nor did he want to. Then the afternoon dragons often looked smaller and were much easier to handle.

    In addition he decided to change his approach to afternoon knighthood entirely. In the early afternoons, he now read books about dragons and often took time to catch up with his carrier pigeons.

    The End.

    PS: Next time Sir Lunchalot will have to face the replacement of the carrier pigeons. Smaller more effective arrows had been developed that allowed to shoot messages from any place to anyone and much more frequently. … “For every arrow that he chopped off, five more would regrow”