Resources

Returning to School: Academic stress + Youth sharing

While returning to school is exciting, transitioning back to on-campus classes presents another change in our daily lives, you might find yourself feeling stressed about school work. This booklet primarily aims to help young people in Hong Kong cope with academic stress it also includes youth sharing about their own experience with returning to school.

Download our booklet here:

Also check out our video with tips to handle academic stress:

Resources

Returning to School

While the improving coronavirus situation is good news, transitioning back to on-campus classes presents another change in our daily lives, which might take some time to adapt to. This booklet primarily aims to help young people in Hong Kong cope with going back to school after the class suspension due to the outbreak.

Download our booklet here:

Resources

The mental health effects of COVID-19

This booklet discusses how teachers can support students and their own well-being during a crisis. It also touches on the role of E-learning and the important role it plays in maintaining communication between students and teachers. In addition, full interviews conducted with teachers in Hong Kong are included to get a first-hand perspective on the teachers’ role and perspective in the current situation.

Download the booklet here:

Resources

Staying Well during the Coronavirus Outbreak

With school cancelled and lots of news coverage on the coronavirus and its effects, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Whether you’re feeling anxious, lost, frustrated, or lonely, know that you are not alone. Experiencing these emotions are an understandable result of the current situation, and there are many ways to cope.

Download our booklet here:

Resources

Social media and teenagers

A practical approach

Dr John Coleman

Is social media damaging the mental health of young people? It’s important to look behind the headlines.

This resource booklet has been localised for the Hong Kong context and translated to Traditional Chinese by Coolminds, a mental health initiative run by Mind HK and KELY Support Group. For more information on Coolminds, please visit www.coolmindshk.com

We would like to acknowledge the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT) UK for these resources and for allowing us to adapt this. For the original version of this resource, please refer to the CWMT website: www.cwmt.org.uk

There is no doubt that today social media is seen by adults as representing a major threat to young people. There is much debate in the press and in public about the so-called “evils” of the digital world, and the [British] Government has tasked medical experts with drawing up advice on the maximum amount of time young people should spend on social media.

Parents and professionals worry about the time spent online, about the content that is seen by teenagers, and about the possible temptations that abound in the online world. Newspaper headlines such as ‘Social media fuels rise in self-harm’ (Evening Standard), and ‘Girls unhappy, stressed and addicted to web’ (The Times) are commonplace.

The striking thing is that this anxiety is not experienced in the same way by young people themselves. By and large they are aware of the risks in the online world and believe that they are able to manage them. In my work with young people I ask them whether they see themselves as experiencing stress. They agree that the teenage years are a time of high stress, but not because of social media. The things they identify as stressful are tests, exams and pressure from school. They also talk about parental expectations, and sometimes pressure from friends. The digital world comes low down in their list of things that create stress and anxiety.

Mental health and social media

As indicated by the [British] newspaper headlines, many adults link the rise in mental health problems to the use of social media but it is really important to note that there is no reliable scientific evidence to support this link. It does appear to be the case that, certainly among teenage girls, mental health problems such as depression are on the rise, but there is no clear link between this and the use of social media.

Of course we cannot ignore the fact that there are teenagers who are vulnerable. These individuals may be isolated, they may have to deal with difficult family situations, or they may have experienced trauma of one sort or another. For these young people the internet may provide an outlet, or a safe place to go for support. The online world may provide a way of sharing experiences with others who are facing similar adversity. These individuals may be less able to manage the risks of the digital world, or they may more easily be drawn to some of the more dangerous internet sites. Professionals should be alert to these vulnerabilities, and do all they can to provide extra support in the use of social media and other internet activities for this group.

Threats and opportunities

It is important to be clear that the internet provides many positive experiences, not just for teenagers, but for those of all ages. These include:

  • Instant access to information
  • Ease of communication
  • A means of sharing and networking with groups of friends
  • A medium for an extraordinary range of creative activities, including art, music, design, and a multitude of other possibilities
  • A way of meeting new people
  • Access to the buying and selling of goods

These are just a few of the many positive opportunities that have been made possible by the internet and the online world. Of course it is also possible to construct a list of the opposites, the threats posed by the digital world. These [may] be familiar to readers, but they include such things as access to pornography, excessive gaming, sexting, gambling, being groomed, and so on. We must be clear that, as with any new technology, there are both positives and negatives. The online world is not going to go away, so the challenge for us is to do all we can to make it as safe a world as possible for our young people.

The role of parents

The first thing to say is that parents do have a role, and this role does not stop when the child moves to secondary school. Many parents believe that once the teenage years kick in, they are no longer important. This is partly because the young person appears to be more interested in their friends than in their parents, and partly because it is more difficult to find a role if a teenager

is being rude, disrespectful and uncommunicative. However, the parent’s role is as significant during the teenage years as it is in the early years; it is just significant in a different way. All the evidence shows that outcomes for teenagers are better when the family remains involved, continuing to offer support and guidance during these sometimes difficult years.

There is another reason why parents are especially important at this time, and this is because it is not just the teenagers who are using social media! Parents too want to look at their phones at all times, they want to share images, purchase goods online, and generally access all the good things that the internet provides. Parents are digital role models, and their online behaviour is going to have an effect on the behaviour of their children and young people. You cannot expect your teenager to manage the digital world well if you are constantly looking at your phone!

Consider what is age appropriate

It goes without saying that the needs of children and young people will vary depending on their age. As a parent you are not going to treat a 16-year-old in the same way as you treat a 10-year-old. Broadly speaking we can say that the younger the child, the more support and guidance they need. However appealing online activities are, do try and restrict the use of screens for all ages, but particularly for the younger age groups. Do find alternative, non- technological activities, for children to enjoy.

It is useful to consider that there are particular ages where extra support may be necessary. One such group is the 10- to 13-year-olds as they first start to negotiate the online world on their own. Professionals have pointed out that the pressure to be popular, and to obtain as many “likes” as possible, is hard to resist at this stage when peer relationships are becoming especially important.

Although older teenagers may attempt to push adults away, it is critical that parents keep an eye on what is going on for this group. New and tempting games, sexual or violent content, pressure from certain websites, all these can in some circumstances lead to excessive use of the internet. Parents may feel it is hard to monitor online activities in this age group, but this should not hinder proper oversight. Even the most mature teenagers may sometimes find themselves pulled into behaviour that is not helpful. Parents should remain alert for any signs of inappropriate use of the digital world.

Screens at night

One of the most difficult challenges for parents relates to screens at night. However much the teenager protests, all the reliable advice is for parents to make sure that phones and other devices are switched off at night. In the best of circumstances all devices will be left outside the bedroom, and turned off about a half hour before bedtime. This gives the teenager time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Scientific evidence shows clearly that good quality sleep is hugely important for young people. We now know that sleep is a time of memory consolidation, so that the quality of sleep will be directly related to the individual’s capacity to learn and memorise. We have also learnt that the body clock works slightly differently in teenagers than in adults, so many young people become sleepy later in the evening than their parents. Yet sleep is essential at this stage. The more parents can do to encourage good sleep routines, the better for the young person’s health and school work.

“Scientific evidence shows clearly that good quality sleep is hugely important for young people.”

A family digital strategy

Any approach by parents to the use of social media by young people has to involve the whole family. As I have noted, parents are role models, and it is no use making rules (such as no phones at mealtimes) if parents do not respect the rules themselves. It can be extremely helpful if the family as a whole works out some rules that everyone can get behind. Children and teenagers are more likely to accept structures that have been negotiated than ones that have been imposed.

Parents will make more progress if they accept that the online world has many opportunities to offer. Parents should work with their children to manage it sensibly. Many families find it helpful to have some non- technology time, sometimes called “digital detox”. Do try it – you may be surprised by the results.

Finally, remember the phase “digital resilience”. Too many adults think about the digital world as a threat. Yet this is not how it is seen by young people. It is the responsibility of adults, both parents and professionals, to help children and teenagers develop the skills they need to navigate the online world in safety. They need help to develop digital resilience. If we try we can all contribute to this. Good luck!

“It can be extremely helpful if the family as a whole works out some rules that everyone can get behind.”

Ten top tips for a digitally healthy household

  1. Remember – the younger the child, the more support and guidance they’ll need
  2. Be aware that extra support may be needed at certain ages, such as 10 – 13
  3. Find non-technological activities for children to enjoy
  4. Stay alert for any signs of inappropriate use of the digital world
  5. Make sure devices are switched off at night and for half an hour before bedtime
  6. Work out some rules together…
  7. …and respect the rules yourself!
  8. Be aware of the positives as well as the negative side of technology
  9. Have a regular family digital detox
  10. Aim for ‘digital resilience’

Dr John Coleman is a distinguished psychologist and co-author of the book ‘Parents and Digital Technology’.

Resources

Perfectionism: when striving for excellence becomes unhealthy

By Professor Roz Shafran

This leaflet is based on work conducted by Prof. Roz Shafran in collaboration with Prof. Tracey Wade and Dr Sarah Egan.

This resource booklet has been localised for the Hong Kong context and translated to Traditional Chinese by Coolminds, a mental health initiative run by Mind HK and KELY Support Group. For more information on Coolminds, please visit www.coolmindshk.com

We would like to acknowledge the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT) UK for these resources and for allowing us to adapt this. For the original version of this resource, please refer to the CWMT website: www.cwmt.org.uk

Some years ago Jessica Lahey wrote in the New York Times: “We all know perfection is an unreasonable burden to place on our children but we also reward them when they strive for that perfection.” Her article was an attempt to understand the complex nature of perfectionism in today’s world where achievement is valued at almost any price.

So what does unhealthy perfectionism look like and what is the distinction between such perfectionism and ‘healthy striving for excellence’? People with a healthy striving for excellence have very high standards but the standards are potentially achievable; when they do not reach their goals, people with healthy striving for excellence are able to stand back and reflect objectively on their mistakes so that they can learn from them. They are able to tolerate uncertainty and don’t react to their failure with intense self-criticism.

“People with unhealthy perfectionism react to mistakes in an extreme and highly self-critical manner and are very uncomfortable with uncertainty.”

“People with a healthy striving for excellence have very high standards but the standards are potentially achievable”.

‘Tyranny of the Shoulds’

People with unhealthy perfectionism often have the same very high standards but the standards are not realistic or only attainable with significant negative consequences; such people react to mistakes in an extreme and highly self- critical manner and are very uncomfortable with uncertainty. The self-esteem of such perfectionists is almost exclusively dependent on striving and achievement but they constantly perceive themselves to have failed and live in fear of such failure and what it means for them. Such perfectionism was described almost seventy years ago as the “Tyranny of the Shoulds” (Horney, 1950). A few years later, Hollender (1965) painted the following clinical picture of perfectionism:

“The perfectionist finds it difficult to sort out items in order of their importance or to maintain a sense of proportion. A small detail that has been missed may deprive him of gratification from a job otherwise well done. He is constantly on the alert for what is wrong and seldom focuses on what is right. He looks so intently for defects or flaws that he lives his life as though he were an inspector at the end of a production line.” (p. 95)

Spotting unhealthy perfectionism

It is not always easy to detect this unhealthy perfectionism and very often people themselves do not consider it to be a problem. Instead, it can cause difficulties for those around them. The area in which the perfectionism is expressed is also very important.

Unhealthy perfectionism applied in the domain of work may lead to someone being labelled as a ‘workaholic’ but the same type of perfectionism applied in the domain of dieting and weight loss may lead to an eating disorder. Typically such perfectionism is applied across many areas of life and can cause multiple difficulties. We know that perfectionism of this sort is associated with depression as well as other difficulties such as eating disorders, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and low self-esteem. Unlike depression, ‘perfectionism’ is not a diagnosis and it can sometimes be difficult for an outsider to spot. Some questions to help spot when perfectionism is a problem are:

“Unhealthy perfectionism applied in the domain of work may lead to someone being labelled as a ‘workaholic’.”

  • How hard are you pushing yourself to meet your goals?
  • Do you tend to focus on what you have not achieved rather than what you have achieved?
  • Do other people tell you that your standards are too high?
  • Do you feel a failure as a person because you have not succeeded in meeting your goals?
  • Are you afraid that you might not reach your standards?
  • Do you raise your standards after meeting them?
  • Do you judge yourself on your ability to meet your standards?
  • Do you repeatedly check how well you are doing at meeting your standards (for example, by comparing yourself to others?)
  • Do you keep on trying to meet your standards even if you miss out on other things?
  • Do you react to small mistakes with intense self- criticism?
  • Do you avoid tests of your performance in case you fail?

These questions can help detect when perfectionism is interfering with functioning and is likely to be associated with low mood and anxiety.

Other types of perfectionism

There are other types of perfectionism that might also be posing a problem such has having high standards for other people and constantly feeling let down. Similarly, some people erroneously believe that other people have high standards for them and that they feel they are constantly letting other people down. In some cases, people are focused on the need to appear perfect and in others their perfectionism may predominantly be focused in an area such as sport or religion.

Treating perfectionism

Until relatively recently, no treatment for perfectionism had been developed, partly due to the suggestion that perfectionism was an unchangeable personality characteristic. However, in 2002 the Oxford Centre for Eating Disorders (where I was fortunate to be working) proposed a cognitive-behavioural approach to perfectionism (Shafran, Cooper & Fairburn, 2002). Although it was controversial, it paved the way for research and multiple studies have now shown that the treatment based on this approach is effective both in terms of reducing perfectionism but also with respect to the impact that the treatment has on other difficulties such as depression and anxiety.

The treatment can be delivered individually, in groups, using a self-help book or over the internet. Some of the key treatment strategies are:

  • Understanding what maintains the perfectionism. It is helpful to understand the causes of the perfectionism but, like other cognitive behavioural approaches, the focus is on the factors that keep the perfectionism going.
  • Dispelling myths. For example, many people believe ‘the harder I work, the better I will do’ but there comes a point at which over-working may backfire and cause a deterioration in performance due to tiredness (for example).
  • Conducting surveys to be able to get information about others’ standards to enable benchmarking.
  • Testing out beliefs using ‘behavioural experiments’. For example, if a person thinks that they will fail an assignment if they do less than eight hours work, he/she would be encouraged to do seven hours work and to use that extra hour to do something enjoyable instead; gradually the amount of work would be reduced and the person would learn that three to four hours is sufficient for that type of assignment.
  • Addressing ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking by helping the person realise the shades of grey between ‘success’ and ‘failure’.
  • Trying to rebalance attention so that it isn’t always focused on the negative.
  • Helping with self-criticism by increasing compassion towards oneself and having the same expectations for themselves and others.
  • Dealing with avoidance, procrastination and other related problems such as poor time management; problem-solving strategies such as the ones described by Christine and Arthur Nezu can be particularly helpful (and problem-solving is also an effective intervention for depression!)

The future

We have come a long way in our understanding of perfectionism and in developing interventions that work. However, there remains a great deal of work to do so that we can help people with a wide variety of forms of perfectionism and to see whether the interventions work for children and young people. We also need to make sure that people can access the treatments that they need in a timely way. I am hopeful that such ambition reflects healthy striving for excellence and an achievable goal, but only time will tell….

Further reading

Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., D’Zurilla, T. J. (2007) Solving Life’s Problems: A 5-step Guide to Enhanced Well- being.

Shafran, R., Egan, S., & Wade, T. (2018). Overcoming Perfectionism 2nd Edition: A self-help guide using scientifically supported cognitive behavioural techniques. Robinson.

Shafran, R., Egan, S. & Wade, T. (2012) Changing Perfectionism: This booklet describes ‘clinical perfectionism’ and its link with how people evaluate themselves.

References

Hollender, M. H. (1965). Perfectionism. Comprehensive psychiatry, 6(2), 94-103.

Horney, K. (1950). The Collected Works of Karen Horney: Self analysis. Neurosis and human growth (Vol. 2). WW Norton.

Shafran, R., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C.G. (2002). Clinical perfectionism: A cognitive–behavioural analysis. Behaviour research and therapy, 40(7), 773-791.

About the author

Roz Shafran is a Professor of Translational Psychology at University College London and a Chartered Clinical Psychologist. She is a Trustee of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and founded the Charlie Waller Institute of Evidenced Based Psychological Treatment at the University of Reading.

She is also co-author of ‘Overcoming Perfectionism: a self-help guide using scientifically supported cognitive behavioural techniques’.

Resources

Stress and its impact on you

This resource booklet has been localised for the Hong Kong context and translated to Traditional Chinese by Coolminds, a mental health initiative run by Mind HK and KELY Support Group. For more information on Coolminds, please visit www.coolmindshk.com

Thank you to the Black Dog Institute for donating their resources and for allowing us to adapt this. For the original version of this resource, please refer to the Black Dog Institute’s website: www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

What this fact sheet covers:

  • What is stress?
  • Physical and mental health impacts
  • Factors that impact mental health
  • Recognising and managing stress

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s response to a demand placed on it. Stress is often confused with anxiety, but stress is not a diagnosable mental illness.

Stress is a normal condition, experienced by everyone. It involves an emotional, physical or mental response to events that cause bodily or mental tension. It can be thought of as a state of readiness – the ‘fight or flight’ response.

A small amount of stress from time to time is not a problem, it can even motivate us to get things done. But when stress is intense and ongoing, it can start to impact our physical and mental health.

Experiencing stress

When stressed, you might have thoughts like “I can’t cope with this”, “this is too much pressure for me”, “I don’t have enough time” and “how am I going to get this done”. In essence, your mind has decided you have ‘more on your plate than you can chew’.

At the same time, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Your nervous system is activated, and hormones are released that enable you to react quickly. For example, when stressed you might notice your heart rate increases, pupils dilate, breathing rate increases and muscles tense. You might also notice changes in mood or emotions. These changes enable you to deal with the situation.

Stress has also been shown to affect the body’s immune response. This change in immune response and increased inflammation is a possible link between various physical diseases and stress, including cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes.  

Impact of stress on daily activities

Initially increasing stress, or arousal, increases performance; this is explained by the Yerkes- Dodson Law.

The ‘comfort’ zone allows you to work under stressful conditions.  Levels of stress arousal above the ‘comfort’ zone can however lead to impaired performance, reduced concentration, and fatigue.

If not addressed, prolonged chronic stress can lead to structural and functional changes inside the brain. These changes can play a role in the development of or trigger several physical and mental illnesses, such as:

  • Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia
  • Autism spectrum illnesses
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Sleeping problems

How much stress is too much?

Stress is personal. What someone thinks is stressful, you might find satisfying and fun. For example, some people may find working 10 hours a day for long periods does not cause stress; for others, it will. Some people enjoy public speaking; for others, this is too stressful. There are many things that can cause stress. When they do, we call them ‘stressors’.

Potential stressors include:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Work issues
  • Life changes (e.g. marriage, separation, retirement, moving house, starting a new job, being retrenched or becoming unemployed)
  • Illness
  • Study demands
  • Event planning (e.g. holidays and family events)

And the list goes on. Your stressors will also change over time as your life demands change.

Recent studies have found genetic differences in the genes that direct the production of stress hormones, and that there are differences in the way stress impacts on these genes. This may be the reason why people respond differently to stress, and why some are more vulnerable to the effect of chronic exposure to stress.

Stress and mental health

There’s a common misconception that there is a direct correlation between stress levels and mental health. There has been an assumption that if we want to improve mental health, and particularly mental health at work, we need to reduce stress. However, the research shows that the factors affecting our mental health are much more complex and interlinked than this simplistic model.

Our mental health and wellbeing are impacted by:

  • Individual factors: personal resilience, genetics, early life events, personality, mental health history, lifestyle factors
  • Home/work factors: conflicting demands, significant life events
  • Workplace factors: the design of our jobs, the teams we work in and the culture of an organisation

Managing stress

It’s important to remember that stress is more than just feeling overworked. We have become accustomed to feeling high levels of stress and hence are often unaware of or may not even know what it feels like to be relaxed. You need to be able to recognise stress to deal with it. By repeating these 4 steps regularly, you may start to recognise your stressors.

  1. Event: Describe to yourself one event this week that you found stressful. Consider where you were, when it was, who was there and what you were doing.
  2. Rating: On a scale of 1-5, how stressful was this event? (1 = mildly stressful, 5 = extremely stressful)
  3. Thinking: What were you thinking about this event? For example, were you thinking of the worst possible outcomes? Were you focusing on the stress itself?
  4. Feeling: Where did you feel the stress? For example, as a physical ache, or an emotional response such as being irritable? Did it change the way you were thinking, e.g. less able to concentrate or change your behavior, such as disturbing your sleep?

It is helpful to develop a range of responses to stress. Some tried-and-true strategies for dealing effectively with the stress that shows up in our lives include:

  1. Recharge activities: When we get stressed, we often stop making time for things that are nourishing, satisfying and refreshing to do.
  2. Daily routines: The human mind likes predictability and certainty. When life gets stressful, we can restore some order to the chaos by ensuring that we continue with simple daily routines.
  3. Circles of concern and influence: The problems, issues and difficulties we face generally fall into two ‘circles’:
    • Circle of concern contains things over which you have little direct control
    • Circle of influence contains those concerns that you can actually do something about – focus on making changes in this circle

Reality check: As mentioned before, stress has a large ‘thinking’ component, and certain types of thinking are likely to trigger stress and/or make your stress worse. Thought challenging is a useful strategy to ensure the way you are thinking about a situation is more balanced, realistic and helpful.

Key messages

  • Stress is a normal condition, not a mental illness
  • Everyone experiences stress, but we experience it differently and this changes over time
  • Prolonged stress can negatively impact physical and mental health
  • Learn to recognise your stressors so you can deal with them

Contact Us

Coolminds

Email: hello@coolmindshk.com

Black Dog Institute

Email: blackdog@blackdog.org.au

Where to get more Information and Support

The following resources have been produced by the HK Department of Health:

Joyful @ HK

Student Health Service – “Stress Management”

Student Health Service – “Exam Stress Management”

Additional resources:

MyCompass: an online self-help tool to keep track of and manage your mental health (English only)

Mind Hong Kong – “What Is Stress?”

Resources

Getting active + young people

This resource booklet has been localised for the Hong Kong context and translated to Traditional Chinese by Coolminds, a mental health initiative run by Mind HK and KELY Support Group. For more information on Coolminds, please visit www.coolmindshk.com

Thank you to Orygen for donating their resources and for allowing us to adapt this. For the original version of this resource, please refer to Orygen’s website: www.orygen.org.au

Being active helps maintain your health. We tend to think that the mind and body are separate, but what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental health. And it’s easier to feel good about life if your body feels good.

As well as reducing the risk of physical health problems, like heart disease and diabetes, some of the potential benefits of being active are:

  • less tension, stress and tiredness
  • a natural energy boost
  • improved sleep or sleep patterns
  • a sense of achievement
  • less anger, irritability or frustration
  • meeting other people at gyms, clubs, etc.

Physical activity leads to chemical changes in the brain, which can improve your mood and lower anxiety. Being active may also lead to changes in how you view yourself and can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Being active and mental health

Being active is important for everyone. It can be hard, though, if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties. Evidence shows that getting active isn’t only great for physical health and fitness, but also can positively influence mental health.

Symptoms

Symptoms of some mental health difficulties include lower energy, problems with motivation, loss of enjoyment in activities, and problems with sleep. These symptoms can really get in the way of staying fit and healthy.

Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, feel and look better. Physical exercise, in conjunction with psychological therapy and medications, is an established treatment for depression and is effective for anxiety.

Physical activity leads to chemical changes in the brain, which can improve your mood and lower anxiety

Treatments and medications

Some treatments for mental ill-health may effect energy levels. Exercise can help improve functioning and physical health, prevent recurrences, and manage the side effects of some of these medications or treatments. Exercise is one way to ease the symptoms of psychosis, such as blunted emotions, loss of drive and thinking difficulties – it is, though, less helpful for delusions and hallucinations.

For some mental health difficulties, exercise is actually part of the problem. Excessive exercise for someone who has an eating disorder can be harmful. And increased exercise can sometimes be an early warning sign of a manic phase for those with bipolar disorder.

Before starting to exercise, speaking to a GP about a pre-existing medical concern can help find the best kind of exercise

Some things to think about

Regardless of mental health, everyone should be aware of the other factors that play into exercise. Here are some of the key things to keep in mind

Other medical conditions

Be careful if you have another medical condition. New exercise can effect that condition, like making asthma worse. Before starting to exercise, speaking to a GP about a pre-existing medical concern can help find the best kind of exercise.

Young people who smoke will generally be more puffed out when first starting physical activity. It’s important to keep at it – in only a few weeks the puffed-out feeling will get less and less.

Be practical

Plan exercise around a budget and support system. Is travel required to a sports centre? Who could take you, or how would you get there otherwise (car, public transport)? How much does the activity cost? Can someone do it with you? Does the activity require special equipment?

Get some support

Starting a new sport, joining a new gym or trying exercise for the first time can be a little intimidating. To help with nerves, have a chat to some friends, family and other supports who can help with ideas, encouragement, and motivation.

Tips to help you get active

Start small

Some activity is better than none. It’s as simple as walking or riding somewhere instead of driving. Or, if you take public transport, getting off one stop before your usual stop and walking the rest of the way. You can even take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift.

Make a plan

Planning a routine can help you become more active. Make sure some form of exercise is included each day. Try to stick to the plan as closely as possible, but be flexible because sometimes things comes up.

Choose something you’ll enjoy

… or at least something you won’t hate! Don’t go to the gym if you’ve never liked the gym. Instead, try walking, riding a bike to a friend’s place, throwing a Frisbee, or playing football at the park with some friends.

Choose a time of the day or week that works for you

Everybody is motivated at different times – morning, afternoon or evening. Just be careful about exercising too late in the evening because you may have problems getting to sleep.

Gradually build up physical activity

Increase the amount of time you exercise in a day, or the number of days in a week that you’re exercising. Aim for 30–60 minutes a day.

Ways to help you stick with it

Getting warm, sweaty or a bit puffed out doesn’t feel that great, but it means you’re working hard and getting fitter –it will get easier as you go! Here are some ways to help you stick at exercise in the long run.

Set achievable goals

For someone who hasn’t been exercising at all, exercising once a week for 20 minutes might be a good start. If you feel like even 20 minutes is too much, then start at 5 minutes and gradually build this up.

Don’t go it alone

Find a friend, family member or local group you can exercise with. It makes it more fun and helps you to keep on track if you know that you have this commitment to others. Letting them know what you’re working towards will help them motivate you, too.

Hang in there!

If you miss a day or a week, don’t give up. Try to get yourself going again.

Notice your progress

You can time yourself walking and try to beat it, or count how many push-ups you can do. Keeping track helps you notice your improvements and work out where you can go next with your exercise routine.

Try something new

If what you’ve been doing has gotten boring, you can try a few things to reinvigorate yourself. Like getting some coaching to develop your skills, getting a friend involved, or trying something completely different.

Find something flexible that you can do when you feel like it

Exercise isn’t just lifting weights in a gym, it involves all kinds of physical activities. Try a Zumba or dance class, go skating or jogging, throw a few hoops, kick a football in the park or go for a walk with a friend.

Use technology

Why not try exercise programs on your gaming console? Or you can try using exercise apps that help you to create routines and monitor your progress.

Keeping track helps you notice your improvements and work out where you can go next with your exercise routine

Top 5 reasons for not being active

  1. It’s too hot/cold/windy/rainy.
    Why not try doing something active inside – play an exercise video, or dance along to some music.
  2. I can’t be away from social media. Instead of connecting with friends on social media, try doing something active with a friend in real life, like going to the park with a ball.
  3. My shorts are dirty. Not all activities need sportswear. You can do yoga in round-the-house clothes, as well as walking in some exercise shorts and a t-shirt.
  4. I’m too busy/tired.You don’t have to spend a long time exercising – try exercising for just 20 minutes, or breaking it down into smaller time periods that add up over the day.
  5. I’ll do it tomorrow. It’s tempting to put off being active, but exercising regularly has so many benefits! If you’re having motivation troubles, try reminding yourself of all the reasons being active benefits you.

Top 5 reasons for being active

In the tough moments when you struggle to get going, here are the top five benefits that exercising has for you:

  • Better mood and more energy.
  • Less stress.
  • Better sleep.
  • More confidence in yourself and how you look.
  • Meet new friends.
Being active on a budget

Joining a gym, taking classes or visiting the swim centre can really add up, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t other forms of activity. If you’re on a budget, or want to watch your finances because you’re saving up for something, here are some of the ways you can still be active without forking out the cash.

  • Getting off one bus or MTR station earlier and walking the rest of the way.
  • Download a free exercise app or podcast, or browse YouTube for a yoga or exercise video.
  • Go to the park with a friend and a ball or Frisbee.
  • Put on some music for a 10-minute dance party in your bedroom!
  • Ditch the lift and use the stairs for less than four floors.
  • Get skipping! Jumping rope is a cheap and quick way to get some good cardio exercise.
  • Go hard when cleaning your room or doing household chores – turn up the music and have fun!
Get online

If you want to do something closer to home, here are some ways you can utilise the internet for exercise.

  • There are some great clubs, classes and groups out there just waiting for you to sign up and get involved. These can help motivate you, and might only be round the corner.
  • Try parks in Hong Kong, leisure and cultural centres, clubs from school or university, your local council, community centre, etc. for activities you might enjoy.
  • If you’ve got a smartphone, search for videos, apps or podcasts that can help you with exercise ideas. You can find apps or websites that can record how far you’ve walked, help plan a run, show you yoga, Pilates or abs workouts, or play an exercise music mix – whatever you’re interested in.
  • You might want to have a look at couch-to-5K www.c25k.com for help with taking up running.

Disclaimer: This information is not medical advice. It is generic and does not take into account your personal circumstances, physical wellbeing, mental status or mental requirements. Do not use this information to treat or diagnose your own or another person’s medical condition and never ignore medical advice or delay seeking it because of something in this information. Any medical questions should be referred to a qualified healthcare professional. If in doubt, please always seek medical advice.

Resources

Sleep + young people

This resource booklet has been localised for the Hong Kong context and translated to Traditional Chinese by Coolminds, a mental health initiative run by Mind HK and KELY Support Group. For more information on Coolminds, please visit www.coolmindshk.com

Thank you to Orygen for donating their resources and for allowing us to adapt this. For the original version of this resource, please refer to Orygen’s website: www.orygen.org.au

Having enough quality sleep is vital to your emotional and physical wellbeing. We sleep so we can be active, focused and feel good during the day.

Not being able to get to sleep can be really distressing. If you haven’t been able to rest properly, your body and mind can start doing strange things. Poor sleep can be a vicious cycle – not enough sleep may cause the brain to become more active and an over-stimulated brain is less able to fall asleep.

Sleep and mental health

While sleep is essential for everyone, sleep problems can occur if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties. Some symptoms and treatments of mental ill-health can affect your sleep in a number of ways.

Everyone is different, and our need for sleep changes over time. What’s important is finding a balance that allows you to get the sleep you need as well as achieve your goals and have fun during the day. Having a regular sleeping routine has massive benefits to your physical and emotional health.

Sleep – what’s normal?

The sleep of 15–25-year-olds

Sleep is really important. As you enter your mid teenage years, natural hormone changes shift your body clock. Your body clock regulates many of your body’s patterns, including when you sleep and when you wake up. The shift alters this and causes changes to your sleep patterns.

It’s normal to want to go to bed later than you used to, but because of all the changes happening in your body, you actually need more sleep at this time. Sleep research suggests that young people need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep every night. Yet most young people only get about 7 or 8 hours, with the average being around 8 hours of sleep a night.

Making sure you get enough sleep can be tricky. Finding the right balance of sleep is important because it helps you be alert and energetic during the day, and to feel good about yourself.

Not sleeping well can cause you more stress or moodiness. It can tip your balance and make you feel worse about yourself and others. If you’re having trouble sleeping, this can have a dramatic effect on your life, such as:

  • Drowsiness, falling asleep during the day.
  • Not being able to focus, short attention, trouble concentrating or staying mentally alert.
  • Feeling irritable or angry, anxious and stressed, or depressed or down.
  • Memory impairment, poor decision-making, risk-taking behaviour.
  • Lack of enthusiasm, not going to school, or university.
  • Reduced physical performance, slower physical reflexes, clumsiness.
  • Reduced academic or sporting performance

What helps and what doesn’t?

You have more control over your quality of sleep than you may think. Below is a list of tips a lot of people find helpful in getting good sleep. Some may not work for everyone, but you can give them a go to figure out which ones work best for you.

  • Stick to a routine of waking at the same time every day, and going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes as it interferes with sleeping.
  • Try to reduce your TV or computer time in the evenings – artificial light can trick your body into staying awake.
  • Try not to nap during the day, as this’ll make it harder to sleep in the evening.
  • Exercise, but do it at least three hours before bed. Exercising outdoors first thing in the morning can be useful because it helps reset your body clock.
  • Do relaxing activities in order to wind down, like reading or listening to music softly. A warm bath or shower can also help to make you feel sleepy.
  • Learn relaxation and meditation techniques to help you switch your mind off in the evenings.
  • Create a sleep space that works for you – quiet, dark, uncluttered.
Don’t stress if you find yourself waking up in the night

It’s actually pretty normal, and worrying about getting back to sleep will probably keep you up longer. Try to relax and wait for the next wave of sleepiness to arrive, and if you find yourself staring at the clock, try turning the clock face away from you.

Sleeping in

Long sleep-ins can cause poor sleep. Getting up at a similar time every day can help avoid this, and will make it easier to fall asleep at the right time in the evening.

Coping with stress

If you’re constantly rushed and overwhelmed, you’re likely to feel tired and drained of energy. Allow yourself some unfocused time each day to refresh. Let your mind wander, daydream or simply watch the clouds go by for a while. It is okay to add ‘do nothing’ to your to-do list!

Learning to relax is an important life skill and can help to improve your sleep. It may sound simple, but learning to breathe in a calm and controlled way is an easy relaxation strategy that you can use before you go to bed, or if you wake up in the night and find it hard to fall back to sleep.

Breathing relaxation technique
  • While sitting or lying down, make yourself as comfortable as possible.
  • Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Repeat this once.
  • Close your eyes. Focus your mind on breathing.
  • Breathe easily and gently with no effort.
  • Breathe in steadily over three seconds.
  • As you breathe out steadily over three seconds, say to yourself ‘relax’ while letting all your muscles go loose and floppy.
  • Keep repeating this in a six second cycle (three seconds in and three seconds out) over and over until you find yourself feeling calm and relaxed.

Disclaimer: This information is not medical advice. It is generic and does not take into account your personal circumstances, physical wellbeing, mental status or mental requirements. Do not use this information to treat or diagnose your own or another person’s medical condition and never ignore medical advice or delay seeking it because of something in this information. Any medical questions should be referred to a qualified healthcare professional. If in doubt, please always seek medical advice.