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

    The Urban Epidemic: Stress in Hong Kong

    Part I – High-pressure work culture

    Stress is all too common in our lives, especially for those of us living the busy city life. The hectic Hong Kong lifestyle drains our time to cope with stress. According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong people work a massive 600 hours MORE per annum than other developed countries, with many working uncompensated overtime hours.

    It’s no wonder Hong Kong is Asia’s stressed-out city.

    The need for money in this expensive city, fierce workplace competition and social expectations about work and laziness often encourage many of us to stay silent over the large workloads handed to us. Work and familial responsibilities, time pressures and information overload also contribute to burden placed on Hong Kong’s work force. 

    Unfortunately, this high-pressure work culture has transcended to our children and youth who are handed high academic expectations by teachers and parents from a young age. From a mental health and developmental perspective, the local education system needs to become laxer, to allow young children time to play, explore and socialize, rather than placing them on an academic production line.

    Drawing from my own experiences, my two years in a local kindergarten was (personally) not ideal. We had homework every day, and regular assessments. School life was strictly regimented and hugely conformist. When I attended an international primary school afterwards, it was a complete turnaround: we played in the sand and water, did lots of art, show and tell, stories.

    Two educational approaches: ordered and academically focused versus explorative and creative with less boundaries

    Of course, back in the kindergarten we did have fun music classes and fun breaktimes. However, the educational approach was completely different, one was ordered and academically focused whilst the other was explorative and creative with less academic boundaries, with the former possibly stunting rather than enhancing myself. When this burdened young generation grows up, they are channeled into the same philosophy of work and achievement for years ahead, and may collect a buildup of so much stress that it becomes chronic, which affects the immune system and leads to many physical ailments.

    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.