Hong Kong people are known for our diligence and high efficiency. Working long hours with stress from all sides, many are simply ‘too busy to get sick’, not to say taking care of their mental health. According to the Mental Health Survey 2010-2013, almost 1 in every 7 persons aged between 16 and 75 at any one time had mental issues, a situation that required full attention.
The chain reaction of emotions, thoughts and behaviour
Many misunderstand that mental issues only lead to negative emotions such as anxiety, sorrow and anger. Emotions, thoughts and behaviour, however, are all chained up and affect each other, and may even cause physical problems. For instance, if your boss knows that you are already overloaded but still asks you to finish extra work by end of the day, you might have the following reactions:
Thoughts – You think you don’t have enough time to complete the additional task.
Emotions – You are discontented, worried and anxious.
Behaviour – You become agitated and disoriented and can’t sit still for work or handle the work on hand.
Body – You have stiff muscles, sweating palms and quicker heartbeats.
A lot of people overlook the signs of emotional problems until they trigger physical problems and have to seek medical help. There once was a busy company owner who underwent colonoscopy due to gastric discomfort. Although nothing abnormal was found, his desire to defecate continued for a month with unsolved gastric problems. He was then referred to psychological counselling which let him realise a relationship issue was indeed the cause. By discovering and facing up to the anxiety caused by this real culprit, his physical problems were solved accordingly.
4 steps to manage our emotions
Managing our emotions doesn’t mean we should let it all out, deny it or hold it back. Proper management should include these 4 steps:
Here is another case to share: A man furthered his study abroad and came back to work, get married and have kids. But due to the recent uncertainties in the business environment, he was deeply worried that all his efforts and accomplishments would go down the drain. After getting psychological counselling, he realised and accepted the cause of his unease. He also understood his strengths and abilities would not die away with the economic downturn, and a new chapter in his life would come along with continuous effort ahead.
How to avoid the reappearance of negative emotions
Emotions, thoughts and behaviour are only the tip of an iceberg and negative emotions are often caused by contradiction below the surface, such as the difference between expectation and reality and the impact of the present situation on our values, which can lead to far-reaching influence on our emotions. To avoid the comeback of negative emotions, we must have a thorough understanding of our expectations and values. But Hong Kong people are just too busy to care for our inner needs. When you are asked to work overtime just before you get off work, you may be enraged and put the blame on those extra hours, neglecting the values of work-life balance.
So what should we do? Here’s the third case for reference: A self-confident man used to perform well in his career, and also put a lot of effort into his family life after his baby was born. However, things didn’t work out as perfectly as he expected and his stress increased as days went by. With the help of psychological counselling, he realised he was a person who believed respect could only be earned when everything is done to perfection. Anything his baby did beyond his control, however trivial, would have had an impact on his values. So he took the advice to face his inner self and adjust his perspective, and was able to take things calmly and live a more mentally-healthy life thereafter.
Dr. Li Chi Kwan, Carole