By Graeme Bradshaw
Stress, an all-too-common problem for many Hong Kongers, can be very depleting over time. Whether it’s regularly working late, travel commitments, financial worries or relationship conflicts, our fast-paced lifestyles mean that most of us feel stressed at some point or another. The onset of stress is related to your ‘metabolic reserve’—the long-term capacity of your cells and organ systems to withstand repeated physiological and mental demands. Think of it like a battery. We usually deplete our metabolic reserve in five ways:
1. Perceived stress: The impact of emotional and psychological stressors such as financial, relationship or job-related issues—anything that provokes a response of anger or worry.
2. Lack of sleep: 97% of us need 8 hours’ sleep regularly. Any less than that and we start to lose energy and resilience.
3. Inflammation: Whether caused by infection or diet, inflammation is an internal stress that disrupts how energy is made in our cells and can cause depression and disease.
4. Blood sugar swings: Sugars and excess carbs put stress on our reserves and can cause blood sugar highs and lows, as can skipping meals.
5. Lack of/ too much exercise: A triathlon camp is not a holiday! For most busy people, anything over six hours’ exercise a week is depleting. It’s important to get a balance.
So how do you combat stress? First of all, make sure you are getting enough sleep. If you wake at 6am, make sure you go to bed by 10pm. Avoid screen time after 9pm. Try an evening stroll after dinner or a tepid bath. A suitably cold, dark bedroom can help your sleep habit as well. Fortunately here in Lantau we tend to have less noise and light pollution than elsewhere in Hong Kong.
Another aspect is having the resilience to ‘feel’ less stressed. Find an activity that works for you—make the most of Lantau’s hiking trails, practise mindfulness or try yoga. Take a proper break and get away on holiday. Remember that perceived stress is often under your control.
Those suffering from inflammation and blood sugar swings may find it more difficult to address things themselves, but there are simple tests that can identify chronic problems and natural treatment plans available to address them, so call on professional help if you need it.
Whatever the cause of your stress, the key is to get to the root of it and to take action. It’s up to you!
Graeme Bradshaw is the founding director of Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI). For more information, visit www.imi.com.hk.