Online Therapy – Are there any Benefits?

Online Therapy – Are there any Benefits?

 

Online therapy is shown in research to be just as effective as in-person therapy. (Ref 1) But it gets a bad rap, as it is still quite a new modality compared to traditional counselling sessions, usually face-to-face. However, technology influences every aspect of life in this modern age, and online therapy is now easily accessible. It is not just for use during a pandemic or lockdowns; it is here to stay, so it is worth giving it a go, no matter your bias. How can you say you don’t like it if you don’t try it? 

Online therapy comes in various shapes and sizes, and it can be done via video, audio or text, making it easily accessible and more affordable. Technology has revolutionised our ability to get therapy no matter the geography or the time of day. If you just want to chat with someone or work on trauma and more profound issues, there will be a therapist available at the tip of your fingers. The benefits are many:

  • Accessible and comfortable, it can be done from your home
  • Time convenient for your schedule
  • Private
  • Cost-effective
  • Allows for social distancing if needed.

However, most important of all, the question has to be asked. Is it as good as face to face therapy? YES! It seems it is. Several studies have found that online CBT results in very effective treatment and even that doing CBT online is more effective than in-person therapy. (Ref 2). Online therapy enables you to have a wider choice of therapists. As the therapeutic alliance (how well you and your therapist ‘click’) is an essential part of a good therapy session, online therapy lets you check out therapists and find someone you trust. 

But it is a personal choice that only you can make. But, significantly, so much modern research proves that online therapy is ‘just what the doctor ordered’ for a healthier, happier you. 

AMindset offers online low-cost affordable therapy – if you want to know more about how we can support you go Here

Liz McCaughey

Find out more about Liz Here

Other Articles:

Online Psychotherapy vs Traditional

(Ref 1)

Meredith S. Pescatello, Tyler R. Pedersen & Scott A. Baldwin (2021) Treatment engagement and effectiveness of an internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy program at a university counseling center, Psychotherapy Research, 31:5, 656-667, DOI:

  1. 10.1080/10503307.2020.1822559

 

(Ref 2)

Luo, Sanger, N., Singhal, N., Pattrick, K., Shams, I., Shahid, H., Hoang, P., Schmidt, J., Lee, J., Haber, S., Puckering, M., Buchanan, N., Lee, P., Ng, K., Sun, S., Kheyson, S., Chung, D. C.-Y., Sanger, S., Thabane, L., & Samaan, Z. (2020). A comparison of electronically-delivered and face to face cognitive behavioural therapies in depressive disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. EClinicalMedicine, 24, 100442–100442. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100442

Far from Home: Dealing with Homesickness

Far from Home: Dealing with Homesickness

Homesickness is often dismissed as a childish emotion associated with kids leaving home for the first time. While it is a common experience, it isn’t childish or foolish to be homesick. During this pandemic, the yearning for home has been felt more intensely as travel restrictions made home and loved ones more distant than ever before. Whether you’ve lived in Hong Kong for 20 years or two years, the long spell away from home and loved ones overseas – and the uncertainty of when that reunion would take place – can be difficult.

When homesickness begets bigger problems:
Some psychologists view homesickness as a “mini-grief”, in the sense that, like the experience of losing a loved one, there is an element of separation, albeit temporary, which can feel like a loss of control. Like grief, intense homesickness may manifest as sadness, social withdrawal, appetite changes, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and poor concentration. People who are homesick may feel so much distress that it affects their ability to function in daily life.

The word “homesickness” entered the English lexicon in the 1750s. However, it has been commonly observed long before that in military history. Alexander the Great, for instance, retreated from India in 327 B.C. partly because his men were too homesick to continue. 

While homesickness is a manifestation of one’s deep love for family, it also carries a perception of failure or weakness. Today, homesickness has been seen as an opportunity cost. If a student is too homesick to study at a university far from home, they may lose their educational opportunity and potentially diminish their job prospects. Some students may suffer in silence because of the fear and shame of failing parental expectations.

In Hong Kong today, some expats face the dilemma of staying on in a lucrative job or a promising career path, or going back to their home countries for good. For some, the fear of failure comes from not being able to finish a contract or realise a career goal. Suffering spouses may start resenting their partners whose jobs led them to relocate here, leading to relationship disruptions. The stress of the fifth wave in Hong Kong – panic buying, threat of child separations, and school suspensions – simply add to the yearning for familiarity and the security offered by extended family support systems that are not available to them in Hong Kong, especially when many countries have moved on from the pandemic. This may lead to feelings of depression or anxiety for some people.

Other than jumping on a flight today, what can one do to manage homesickness?

Acknowledge your feelings

  • It’s okay to feel homesick. It’s okay to feel sad and cry.
  • However, be mindful of negative coping strategies. Excessive rumination or constantly thinking about it may feed anxiety and cause sleep disturbances. Some may also choose to suppress reminders of home or avoid home triggers (for example, socialising with people from your home country), which may not be helpful as well.

Accept the uncontrollable

We could get frustrated about the ever-changing travel rules in Hong Kong, but these policies are simply beyond our control. Like in grief, there’s a need to come to terms with the current reality.

  • Strengthen the supportive forces around you — friends, office colleagues, a parent group, etc.
  • Practice self-care. Be kind to yourself. Find time to relax, meditate, and do something that’s enjoyable. 
  • Stay connected with family and friends overseas. Set aside a certain day/time for each loved one. Do something together virtually – cooking a family recipe with mom on FaceTime, watching a Netflix movie at the same time.

Revise the narrative

Now that your time in Hong Kong has stretched, use it to your advantage.

  • Be active, learn something new. This could be the time to learn Cantonese or embrace a new hobby. You could also expand your knowledge of Hong Kong by picking an MTR stop to explore or visit once-crowded spots like the Big Buddha or Tai O (whilst following current safety measures).
  • Lend a hand to many charities that need volunteers and get a broader perspective of Hong Kong society. 
  • Clarify your core values to plan your long-term personal and career goals.

Everyone copes differently with homesickness. Should you feel that you need help coping, please don’t hesitate to seek the help of the AMindset team.

References:

1. Stroebe, M., Schut, H., & Nauta, M. H. (2016). Is homesickness a mini-grief? Development of a dual process model. Clinical Psychological Science, 4(2), 344–358. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702615585302

2. Matt, S. (2007). You can’t go home again: Homesickness and nostalgia in US history. Journal of American History, 94(2), 469-497.

3. Strauss, A. (2003). Alexander: The military campaign. In J. Roisman (Ed.), Brill’s Companion to Alexander the Great(131-157). Brill.

 

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Heda Bayron

Find out more about Heda here

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A Quarantine Survivors Guide

Mindfulness – Dealing with the Chaos

Spiralling: Breaking the Cycle of “What Ifs”

Spiralling: Breaking the Cycle of “What Ifs”

During particularly difficult times, people can find themselves feeling stuck within a cycle of worry. Thinking about the worst-case scenario and asking yourself, “what if this really happens?” can trigger a never-ending list of follow up worries and doubts. This is known as catastrophising and is a common way for anxiety to manifest.

These worries can stem from many different aspects of life, from worries about missing workplace deadlines and the consequences these may have for employment, to concerns relating to health and the impacts this will have in both the short and long term. In essence, fear can breed more fear, causing the spiral to grow.

As we get deeper and deeper into the spiral, the body’s response to stress becomes more evident, with increased levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – among other physical symptoms. But what causes this spiralling effect?

When we interpret our fears and worries (the “what ifs”) as real, tangible threats, we initiate the fight or flight mechanism in our bodies. But when there is no actual threat to face, and we have nothing to respond to, there’s nowhere for that fear to go. This can cause it to grow and, consequently, spiral.

Physical ways that we can experience anxiety include a tight feeling in our chest, a racing heart, and sweaty palms. Emotionally, it can feel very overwhelming, almost like your mind is swimming in thoughts, and result in a lot of negative self-talk and self-criticism. But while it can feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle, there are things we can do to step outside of it.

Learn to recognise it

Bringing awareness to our thoughts allows us to develop a deeper understanding of them, separating the real fears and threats from the “what if” worries. Guided meditations are a great way to recognise thoughts and are widely available through apps like Calm and Headspace, and on YouTube. Keeping a journal or a notepad to list these thoughts down can also help bring a new perspective as we observe our thoughts.

Get grounded

When you feel like you are spiralling, grounding exercises can help bring you back to the present moment, giving you an increased sense of calm. Taking slow, deep breaths, notice the rise and fall of the breath through your body and you may find the tension slowly leaving with the exhales.

For a more structured grounding exercise, the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique helps us refocus by bringing a heightened awareness to each of our senses. First, start by noticing five things you can see around you. Next, acknowledge four things you can touch and feel the textures as they run through your fingertips. Next, notice three sounds around you, and then two things that you can smell. Finally, notice one thing that you can taste.

Talk to someone

Experiencing anxious thoughts and that spiralling sensation can be an isolating experience – you might feel like you’re the only one that’s felt like this, or that other people wouldn’t understand. But talking to someone may help remind you of your ability to navigate difficult situations and of your toolbox of coping skills, as well as serving as a reminder to practice self-compassion and kindness.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Amanda Sheppard

Find out more about Amanda here

Other Articles written by Amanda:

Mental Health While Working from Home

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Negative Emotions can be Good for You

Negative Emotions can be Good for You

“How can I get rid of those negative feelings and just be happy?” I have often heard this question asked by clients. We live in a culture that tells everyone to pursue happiness by eliminating negative feelings, staying positive. If you feel depressed, society will see you as somehow defective or weak. In fact, each emotion is a very useful signal, especially those negative emotions, because they send us information and try to tell us what we really desire. Anxiety and anger are only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is the core need that wants to be heard. For example, if you feel angry, maybe someone has encroached on your boundaries. Anger helps you to fight for yourself or others. If you feel guilty it might mean that you have done something wrong and you want to correct your behaviours. If you feel fear, it’s warning you to look for danger and activates a fight or flight response to deal with the threats. If you feel sad, it tells you that you might lose something very important in your life and you need support and understanding from others. If you feel bored, maybe it’s because you are not getting the challenges and stimulation you need. All the negative emotions are our protectors, giving us clues to pay attention to what is important in our lives and the things we need to change.

Sometimes people might say that if we don’t feel any emotions then we won’t have any painful feelings. However, numbing your emotions might allow one to block out the pain, but it also disconnects you from joy and love. The reality is that all the things that make life meaningful come with pain. For example, in a relationship, you will enjoy wonderful feelings like excitement and joy and you will also experience disappointment as well as frustration.     There is no such thing as the perfect relationship and life always gives us things that we don’t want, such as illnesses and injuries. The aim of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is to help people effectively handle the inevitable pain while living a rich and meaningful life.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy describe thoughts and emotions with weather metaphors and the self as a sky. The weather changes constantly, but no matter how bad the weather is, even the most destructive tornado can not hurt the sky in any way and the sky always has room for it. Sometimes we can’t see the sky because it’s shrouded by the darkest clouds. But if we rise high enough above those clouds, sooner or later we will reach a clear sky. However, when emotional storms come, people tend to adopt an autopilot mode. For example, when anger shows up, people might yell or lash out, say hurtful things or storm out of the room, but feel guilty after the emotional storm has passed. Those people are allowing anger to push them around like a puppet on a string. Self-awareness is the first step to switching off the autopilot. Next time, when any of the difficult thoughts and feelings come up, just take a moment to acknowledge, to accept, and make room for them, say to yourself, “here is anger” or “I am having thoughts that I am not good enough”. By labelling thoughts and feelings, it can help to switch from autopilot mode and consciously choose how one would like to respond to the challenges of that situation. Anxiety or anger may still persist but the emotional storm is no longer in control.

If you look for changes in your life, start with welcoming and accepting all the parts in you including the darker parts you always try to avoid. Carl Rogers, one of the most influential psychologists in the 20th century, once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

By Cecilia Yu

Find out more about Cecilia here

Other Articles Written by Cecilia Yu:

Befriend your Nervous System

Say No to Emotional Blackmail

Trauma & EMDR Therapy

Nonviolent Communication

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Dealing with Negative Emotions

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How To Fight Your Fear and the Inner Demon

How To Fight Your Fear and the Inner Demon

 How To Fight Your Fear

There is good in every human being, no matter how bad the nightly news reports demonstrate.  There is good in you and me. Although at times we may doubt that to be true. We should stop thinking about how to fight your fear and inner demons, but detach ourselves from any vulnerabilities.

If we were so good:

  • Why don’t we do more for charity?
  • How could we have acted the way we did with a friend or partner?
  • Why don’t we give more time and money to help people?
  • How could we have been so cruel to another person?
  • Why do we always act like a coward and run away from discomfort?
  • Why do we justify our vicious actions or words?
  • How can we live with so much self-deception?
  • Why aren’t we crusading for betterment for the world instead of shying away from anything that we might find unsettling.

Our inner demon (sometimes referred to as ‘the lower ego’ or ‘ego’) tells us we are not a good person, We are constantly exposed to this inner chatter and it makes us afraid that maybe we really are a bad person.  Perhaps the Catholics have it right: “We are guilty until proven more guilty”. We cannot escape our badness so forget about forgiving yourself and anyone else, just work hard to free yourself from your own guilt. And the best way to stop feeling guilty, outside of the confessional, is to detach yourself from the feelings that might make you vulnerable.

 

How to fight your fear: Understanding Yourself

It seems that to get by we try and harden ourselves against compassion or those soft spots that put us at risk of feeling bad. We try to stop ourselves feeling too much, so we put up barriers that generate prejudices, judgements and selfishness. These barriers hide the genuine caring part of our natures, we can all pretend to be kind, but sometimes, wittingly or unwittingly,  we are doing the opposite. The barriers we put up are entirely false and out of place. Fortunately, they only hide the real, caring person, they do not destroy the compassionate part of our persona. Our genuine nature is always there, just veiled by delusion and our own lower ego which promotes separation, selfishness and survival of itself (the false you) above all else.

It’s a simple fact that whenever something happens that we don’t like, we rush to mentally escape it. This can take the form of a drink, exercise, verbal criticism, housework,  justifying our actions or thoughts, writing or even some simple shopping therapy.  Like most of humanity, we have developed a myriad of distractions to stop ourselves from feeling uncomfortable.

Simple feelings of mild anxiety, restlessness, guilt are immediately pushed aside as we find a distraction to make us think in another direction. And the emotionally painful ‘biggies’ of betrayal, unworthiness, loneliness have us sprinting in the opposite direction, or buying shares in a brewery.

How to fight your fear by dealing with it directly something that we willingly do, as that might result in us coming face to face with ‘Despicable Me’.

Although we may try to believe we are a good person, the way we constantly display our ‘horrible’ personal traits has us, backed-up by the ego impulses, thinking the opposite. We harden ourselves to ourselves and everyone else which results in barriers being put in place that attempt to keep everyone at a distance.

The person that stares back at you each day in the mirror becomes a survivor who will not be afraid. This means hiding the vulnerable and caring nature which could potentially expose you, thus leaving your emotions defenceless. And if this thoughtful, kind-hearted you does escape, there is a momentary lapse of defences as you lose control and have a break-down.

This loss of control feels uncomfortable, during the emotional wailing and for some time afterwards. The ego sends the signal, ‘this is something to be avoided at all costs.’ And in an attempt to constantly avoid a repeat of the discomfort or pain you become even more frightened. The classic double-bind of a Catch 22 situation. The more you try and stop the pain or fear, the worse it gets.

As a result, we try to think ‘tough’ and put a hard shell or barrier around our emotions. This is particularly prevalent when you have opened up to someone who then causes hurt. Despite your best endeavours, this person is unconsciously on your ‘revenge’ to-do list. Until you are honest and face up to what you are really thinking, you will not know if this is true. Unfortunately the barriers not only block people from getting to you, they block you from being honest with yourself.

Defending ourselves against any possible discomfort but especially against pain which can be physical or emotional, is a natural defence mechanism of the psyche. Rather than face whatever makes us frightened, we fear it and the defensive barriers are erected.

But these false barriers as ways of defending the psyche only work in the short term, they are not sustainable. The fear will return, because even with the defensive barriers in position, we remain afraid. We want to have certainty in our life and try to do everything right in the vain hope we will find that safe place to hide and be happy for the remainder of our lives. But life isn’t that kind, the uncertainties and sorrows of it are a reality we all have to face, which results in our being afraid of living.

Eventually many people, paralysed by their own fears, which are fears that are often just a part of their imagination, stop living. Life to them becomes just an existence with no joy or hope.

There is no-one alive who can avoid sorrow, pain or fear. If you don’t believe me, have a think about dying, does it worry you at all? The reason I mention death is because it is the one thing that will happen to every living thing on this planet.

Fear is a part of life and has to be faced, erecting defensive barriers will not work in the long term so why not try to do things differently?

This, of course is easier said than done. Our habitual way of thinking and doing is hard to break especially as your lower ego is not interested in you changing at all. Indeed it is the great deceiver and although you may believe you are in control of your life, you are being duped by your ego.

The ego wants to avoid pain at all cost. As most of you have lived with the ego in charge of your thinking and doing, it takes effort, pain and hard work to wrestle back the control.  You will only be able to take back that control when you choose to find a long-term more permanent solution to your fears. This involves choosing to face and experience the fears and the pain, instead of running away.

It may seem a bad idea to choose to feel the pain and the intensity of that fearful feeling, but once you have done it, you have a chance of softening or moulding the emotion, even letting it go. If you do not allow yourself to do this and instead suppress the feelings, you are more likely to break, make rash decisions even cause pain to someone you love, under the weight of these repressed emotions.

Thinking tough to the extent that you suppress the feelings of pain, anxiety or discomfort makes you a more brittle and delusional person.  This type of thinking feeds the lower ego who in an attempt to protect itself wants you to think you are separate from other people, correct in your thinking and invulnerable. This ego part of you likes you to be isolated and it feeds you with delusional thoughts.

I am sure you have all experienced this in your life when looking back you have thought:

  • What the hell was I thinking?
  • How did I allow that to happen?

Those past moments where when the ego was firmly in charge. You were its puppet acting out its selfish, delusional madness.  If you want to live a balanced, truthful, less fearful and guilty life, you have to face your fears and in so doing, challenge the ego.  You have to go to those places that make you frightened or uncomfortable. You have to accept that there is suffering in the world and although you cannot fix it all, you can attempt to change yourself so you can be a better, stronger and more balanced person.

We all want to be happy, we all want to be free from fear and pain but that will only happen when we accept that they are a part of a normal life. Life will always have its ups and down and every day we are subject to new and unexpected experiences. Life’s situations, people you meet and your own reactions will be unpredictable. It’s time to accept the feeling of fear and life’s unforeseeable adventures as just a part of living. Stop trying to control the impossible.

There is no certainty in life and being uncertain makes us more afraid. Accept this makes you feel uncertain and insecure and then look at the bigger picture of each incident and see if you can see the lesson that is being presented to you. Usually there is a  valuable lesson that you need to learn contained within each scenario. This may cause you more fear and pain in the beginning but as you face it, you fix it. Every time you face up to a fear and overcome it, you become emotionally stronger. A coward remains a coward by running away instead of facing the music. Eventually, when you are able to handle the good and the bad days with equal assurance you can proclaim yourself a warrior.

When you stand up to the bully, he tends to run away, but if you run away he tends to run after you. The emotion of fear is like a bully, when you face it, it loses its strength and potency. That is the time you are firmly taking back control of your life from your internal bully (the ego) and a more balanced and happier ‘you’ will emerge.

Once you are able to do that for yourself, you can look to the bigger picture and see what you can do for others. Even that person who has caused you the most pain and you wished to repay tenfold.   You can genuinely help others once you stop feeling the need to defend yourself. in this instance, helping others is not a distraction but an act of kindness coming from a person who has experienced pain and fear but who has learnt how to manage it through bravery, truthfulness, wisdom and strength.

As you help others you learn more and help yourself and over time you will notice that something is missing from your life.  Something you have carried around with you for aeons.  And that something is the emotion of fear.

You may think that allowing vulnerability and compassion into your life will be dangerous and fearful, but the opposite happens. Externally showing the real inner you, as opposed to the false ego, will bring you more peace because compassion is what makes you human. This is the best way on how to fight your fear and inner demons in life.

We all have fear and it comes in different forms and at the most unexpected times. Facing each fear, one at a time, with no barriers is the way forward. Instead, allow truth and vulnerability to be present plus compassion towards ourselves and others. This  will bring about a liberating and positive change in how we experience life.

It is what you do in the present that will shape the remainder of your life.

So look to yourself and see how you are thinking and reacting:

  • In fear or in peace
  • Defended or vulnerable
  • Harmful or Harmless

How to fight your fear by facing your fears and being truthful to yourself is a process that will have to be repeated throughout your life. It is a mental process that will become second nature after a while.

“If you want to know what will happen to you in the future, look at what your mind is doing now.”

The Dalai Lama

Trauma & EMDR Therapy

Trauma & EMDR Therapy

Traumatic and stressful events in everyday life are very prevalent. Quarrelling with friends, being scolded by others, parents divorcing, emotional neglect, domestic violence, loss of loved ones, natural disasters, serious injury, and major illnesses are all situations that may cause different degrees of psychological trauma. Although the medical term for trauma is narrowly defined for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), it does not mean that other seemingly “minor” experiences are not traumatic. When an event or series of events overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, they can cause a person to become unable to process the events emotionally, cognitively and physically, causing trauma to occur. There are many treatment methods for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One method is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has emerged in the United States in recent years. EMDR is one of the more effective treatment methods, but it should be offered by mental health clinicians with recognized professional training.

How did EMDR start?

Thirty years ago Dr Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, discovered a connection between eye movement and persistent distressing memories. Dr Shapiro invented the concept of “bilateral stimulation.” She started with guiding the patient with particular eye movements. As a result, it helped the patients feel less overwhelmed by strong emotions, while the brain reprocessed the memory, which is similar to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles during sleep. Nowadays, research has shown that other kinds of bilateral movements, such as through ears or hands, can also relieve emotions and restart the brain’s reconsolidation abilities.

How does EMDR work?

Here’s an example. Mr Wong witnessed a car accident while crossing the street. He saw a pedestrian get hit by a car and was covered in blood. Since then, he couldn’t take the same road again. He would constantly have flashbacks of the scenes and feel panic whenever he sees a car driving fast or whenever someone is jaywalking, triggering him to re-experience the trauma again. Usually, the human brain has the ability to process emotions and memories, however, traumatic memories are different from regular ones. The cognitive brain knows the event has happened in the past but the emotional brain thinks the person is still in danger as a result of activating the “Flight-Flight-Freeze” stress responses. When the brain’s processing is blocked, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions seem frozen in time, causing the patient to be constantly in pain.

Every time the traumatic memory is retrieved, it comes up the same way in its own neural net as an isolated and dysfunctional stored memory. As we activate the trauma network while adding the bilateral stimulation which will stimulate both sides of the brain, more neurons light up, even those that have never been fired before. Therapeutic changes are the result of the processing of these traumatic memories within larger adaptive networks, which allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. Once these processes of reconsolidation are completed, the memories are still remembered, but the emotional charge which is connected to the experience will be reduced or alleviated.

Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?

EMDR can be applied to children and adults of all ages. EMDR therapists address a wide range of issues, including but not limited to the following challenges:

– Anxiety, Panic attacks, and Phobias
– Depression
– Eating disorders
– Grief and loss
– Trauma and PTSD
– Sexual assault
– Sleep disturbance
– Substance abuse and addiction
– Violence and abuse

Our negative experiences in the past affect us all. We feel pain because of losing someone, we may have low self-esteem because of emotional failures, we lose self-confidence because of embarrassments or rejections, we need to be perfect because of high expectations from parents, and more. These distressing events affect memories, and memories affect our emotions, physical sensations, and how we perceive ourselves. EMDR is an evidence-based treatment that can help people reprocess memories, restore positive beliefs and enable resilience in life.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

By Cecilia Yu

Find out more about Cecilia here

Other Articles Written by Cecilia Yu:

Befriend your Nervous System

Say No to Emotional Blackmail

Negative Emotions Can Be Good for You

Nonviolent Communication

Related Articles:

Dealing with Negative Emotions

Trauma

Understanding the effects of Early Memories

Mental health while working from home

Mental health while working from home

10 tips to boost your mental health while working from home

By now, it’s a common concept to many of us, and while it has its obvious positives, working from home can throw a spanner in the works for many, and take its toll on you both physically and mentally. These are some of the best ways to tackle working from home

1. Get changed – While there’s no need to get suited and booted, wearing separate clothes during the working day can have a big impact on your outlook. It might sound like an obvious piece of advice but getting out of your pyjamas before you start the day keeps a separation between work and home even when there may be no physical distance or commute.

2. Clock in and out – It can be tempting to log a few extra hours of screen time, particularly when we’ve gained time by cutting out a commute. But the extra hours add up over time, and you may find them eating into time you had previously spent exercising, socialising, or practising other forms of self-care. 

3. Create boundaries in shared spaces – whether you live with a partner, flatmate, or young family, it’s important to create boundaries to minimise interruption during working hours.

4. Schedule regular check-ins – Video and phone calls with your team and line manager can help foster a sense of community when you might be spending an increasing amount of time alone, and counter feelings of isolation or disconnect. 

5. Stick to a routine – Avoid the temptation to have a lie-in when there are no morning meetings booked. Keeping to a regular start and finish time, as well as lunch break or scheduled short breaks, can have a marked impact on productivity.

6. Stay connected – Where possible, try and arrange Zoom and phone calls with your colleagues instead of relying on instant messaging and emails. The added face time may help combat feelings of isolation and help foster more direct communication with your team.

7. Keep a separate space – Hong Kong homes aren’t always conducive to an entirely separate workspace but, wherever possible, try to carve out an area that’s separate from the bedroom. An association between your bedroom and alertness, productivity and working can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle.

8. Make time to move – Make small but regular movements and schedule frequent intervals to stand. Gentle stretches can combat tired shoulders, while strained eyes and tired minds will benefit from a change of scenery and a short walk.

9. Get outside – Spending time outdoors can foster feelings of calm and help boost concentration. Whether it’s a brisk walk along the harbour, a jog around your neighbourhood or a morning hike to one of Hong Kong’s many accessible urban trails, time spent outdoors can work wonders on mental health. 

10. Learn to say no – Working from home can exacerbate that “always-on” mentality. Learn to check in with yourself and watch for signs of burnout. Taking time to rest, recharge and unwind can be just as important as the bullet points on your to-do list. 

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Amanda Sheppard

Find out more about Amanda here

Other Articles written by Amanda:

Spiralling: Breaking the cycle of “What Ifs”

Other Articles:

Tips for parents of kids studying online

Positive Thinking

Positive Thinking

One of the many possibilities of ways to improve ourselves, our well-being and our outlook on life is to stop the negative thinking that often pervades a large proportion of our daily thoughts

Positive Thinking

But we can’t just turn off the negative thoughts. They need to be replaced with an air of optimism leading to Positive Thinking. Studies have determined that optimism or pessimism can affect our health in respectively positive and negative ways. We all know people who we regard as ‘glass half full’ and others who are ‘glass half empty’. Which type would you prefer to be? Isn’t there a brightness and energy about the ‘fullers’ and a sense of misery and hangdog’ about the empties?

Categorise yourself honestly and face up to it if you are more to the pessimistic side of things. But, don’t worry, there are ways to improve your positive thinking and they are worth doing if you consider these possible benefits:

  1. Longer life
  2. Enhanced immune system
  3. Reduce Depression
  4. Reduced Stress
  5. Improved heart health
  6. Increased happiness
  7. Improved ability to cope with the ups & downs of life
  8. Better relationships
  9. Emotionally stronger and more stable

It takes time, effort and practice but you can change. First, become an observer sitting metaphorically on your own shoulder. Watch out for these common examples of negativity:

  1. Polarising: Seeing everything as black or white. If it isn’t perfect, it’s bad
  2. Personalising: Assuming anything that is ‘bad’ is your fault
  3. Catastrophising: Assuming that the worst will happen
  4. Filtering: Filtering out the positives and magnifying the negatives

If you are honest with yourself, you will soon get an idea where your efforts should be aimed. How do you start to change? Without being too dramatic, remember the old saying of ‘fake it and you will make it’. This means that, by acting as you would like to be, you actually start to change until you are not acting anymore. Here are some things that you can do:

  1. Try to stay among positive people – identify with them
  2. Smile more
  3. Listen to that observer on your shoulder
  4. Exercise and healthy living encourage a positive energy
  5. Identify areas in your life where you are exposed to negativity – avoid, or approach with a positive perspective
  6. Practice this every day

Permanent changes will not come overnight but you will soon see the advantages of living life on the bright side of the street. Just remember not to be negative when you catch yourself still occasionally slipping to the dark side.

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Tips for parents of kids studying online

Tips for parents of kids studying online

 

Tips for parents of kids studying online

 
Here we go again, just as if we are stuck in the Groundhog Day scenario; Hong Kong schools (just primary for now, but who knows what will happen next) are back to learning online.
For most parents and children, it was not a welcome decision. Yet we are where we are, and at least for the next three weeks, we need to get back to the home-learning routine.
 
 
Check Five tips below to help you and your children to “go to school online”:
 
 
1. Keep the routine going
It is a “normal” school day, so make sure kids follow their usual morning routine, including getting up at the set time, getting changed and ready and getting through their regular morning tasks. If the usual school journey is long, you can agree to shift the wake-up time by thirty minutes or let them read before the first online class.
 
 
2. Look for motivation
Adults procrastinate and struggle with getting things done, which is even more the case for children. Have a chat with them about why and how studying at home is as important as it is in school. Kids are different, so look for specific things that motivate your child.
 
 
3. Help them with time management
It is easy to get distracted at home, so one of the ways to help your kids to manage time is to use the Pomodoro technique.
Set the timer for 15-25 minutes depending on your child’s age, and tell them that after the timer rings off, he can get a reward in the form of his favourite song/healthy snack or play with you or a dog. Set a few Pomodoros each day.
 
 
4. Allow time for energy release
Children need to physically burn energy, especially when they are stuck in front of the computer for most of the day. Make sure they exercise at least 30 minutes each day and play outside after school, especially as the weather is nice at the moment.
 
 
5. Believe in your child
It is your child who is studying, and the teacher wants to check your kid’s results, not yours. Get involved if he asks for help or advice, but do not do his work for him. Praise the effort and notice progress no matter how small.
 
At the end of the day, the period of home learning will eventually pass. But the relationship between you and your child is for life. Don’t forget that you are a parent first and foremost.
 
 
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Right Thinking & Awakening the Mind

Right Thinking & Awakening the Mind

Where you focus your attention, your energy will flow in that direction or you may know this saying better as: ‘Energy follows thought’. These days, staying focused on any thought is no small achievement. We live in a time of emotional and mental instability and no sooner do we attempt to complete one project another one pulls us in different direction. The world is full of things clamouring for our attention; even setting the sound and haptics of our smart phones is a full-time endeavour. And as if that is not enough as we watch the news on TV there is a ticker tape of breaking news distracting our thoughts from what the anchorman is showing or telling us on the screen.

Technological Advances

Each and every day we sit back dissatisfied and stressed as very little seems to be accomplished to our full satisfaction. It seems the key to getting things done is being able to concentrate for more than a few seconds on one object. We have to relearn how to concentrate our thoughts without the modern-day distractions that keep us busy doing nothing. The great technological advances which have made instant communication and global connection possible are a wonder and very useful and convenient for business and communication. But there is a flip side, these wonderful technological advances keep us so busy we fail to keep our attention on one thing for longer than a few minutes as we rush to answer another email or post on Facebook. It takes a very special person not to become overwhelmed by the demands and distractions that are presented to each and every one of us throughout the day.

Mindfulness & Meditation

One of the ways to train the mind is through the ancient practice of Mindfulness. This meditation practice has become increasingly popular in our culture and is used to help focus the mind on the present moment.  It assists an individual to develop a one pointedness of attention that stops the distractions and white noise of the external world.

More and more people are turning to meditation to bring calm, focus and even productivity into their lives. It’s as if people are appreciating, they have a mind and if they can use that mind correctly, they will be a lot happier than they are now.  Certainly, with the mind in control and not the chaotic emotions we do seems to be happier and more balanced people.

Mindfulness advocates that no daily is task is too menial to not have our undivided attention.  With everything we do we use the mind to keep us present and in the moment. If we are daydreaming and allowing the mind to go off on its own journey of thoughts and fantasies we will get nowhere.  Keeping the mind focused takes will power but it gets easier the more you do it. It is not hard to learn to control the mind, we just have to choose to take back control. With the mind back in control, our attention is not divided, and we can achieve all the things we choose to achieve each day. No matter how clever we are, we have to make choices and one of those choices may be to take back control of the mind. This is quite a relevant choice as each and every day we create thoughts by thinking. Now the trick is, we have to decide what we want to think about. Otherwise nothing will get done and our thoughts remain a distracted mess of chaotic emotional and mental reactions.

Right Thinking

Right thinking is not just about accomplishments and doing a good job in the home and office. Right thinking is clear thinking, based on right values and a sense of good will. Right thinking is not clouded with criticism, doubt, worry or fear. Very simply, right thinking raises us up; wrong thinking brings us down. And we are not just pulling ourselves down with wrong thinking, usually we managed to drag everyone else into the pit with us. Who would want to do that to their friends, colleagues or family?   As we focus on right thinking, we help others rise up as they are influenced by our right thinking and decide to think clearly and more compassionately.

As a human being it is a great responsibility to recognise and appreciate that energy follows thought. If the energy behind the thought is negative, then we are having a negative affect not just on our own psyche but also on the people within our environment.

Thoughts are things and with each thought, and indeed each word, we are building, creating something. Thoughts are creative because energy follows thought and on the mental plane something is created and will grow if fed. Once it is created, it leads and conducts energy according to its qualities of right or wrong thinking. Our whole system (mental, emotional and physical bodies) respond to these energies. The nature of the thoughts we have determines the kind of energy that builds our life.

This reminds me of that story about the wolf you feed.

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,

“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,

“The one you feed.”

Pause for a moment and consider the thoughts you have about yourself. What wolf are you feeding? Are you raising ourselves up or pulling yourself down?

What Do We Want to Build?

The next consideration is; what do we want to build? What do we want to create? And how do we do that? Whether it’s something personal, political, social, or spiritual, we can create a great and wonderful vision and a plan, and we have the ability to hold onto it.  But it may require effort and only we can choose whether we have the right stuff to ensure right thoughts are the ethos we live by.

And of course, as we look to the world there seems to be so many problems that are overwhelming in their magnitude and complexity. We may become disheartened and think what’s the point, what can my little-self do to change things, the world is a mess I may as well join it.

Changing Ourself Not the World

However, we are not talking about changing the world we are talking about changing ourselves. Like each brick that creates the building, if we work at right thoughts, we ensure our particular brick is strong and secure. Our part of the tower will be safe. We will continue to influence the surrounding bricks with our right thinking. Eventually more and more bricks become safe as their quality is good and eventually, we have a solid tower that will stand for centuries because it has been created with the right stuff and is of good quality.

Are we prepared to work towards those solutions? Are we prepared to attempt to do what can be done with our own way of thinking? Are we able to think clearly and critical? Can we think in a detached way and with discernment? Are we willing to support other people, with our thoughts and speech? Will we work with them? There is so much to be done on the personal level. But the good news is this work we do at a personal level is already changing the world for the better.

We need to reclaim our thoughts and eradicate the criticism, fear and judgements that cloud our vision and minds.  We do that through focusing our intention on right thinking and awakening the mind to clear thoughts that are free of judgment. We do not need to meditate to do this, although meditation is a good training ground.

No-one else can do this for us, it requires our daily effort and endeavour to change ourselves. “This will not be accomplished by someone else, somewhere else, nor by any one leader or nation.”[i]

People believe the problems are too great and they ask, “What can we do?” The answer is simple, start thinking right thoughts and training the mind and the heart to think rightly. This is something we all can do, and we really must do if we want to live in a better world or more importantly leave a habitable world for our children and the generations that follow.

I will close with the wonderful words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

The idea for this article came from the Lucis Trust global Triangles Meditation program to heal the world.

[i] Talk given by Alex Ratcliffe: Right Thinking: August 7, 2019. Retrieved from URL: https://www.lucistrust.org/blog_triangles