How Changing my Environment Melted my Stress

Silvermine BayHere’s the view from my ‘gym’ – it’s from the top of the hill I climb most mornings as part of my daily exercise.

Living on Hong Kong Island as I did for 19 years, my stress levels had been rising steadily for some time to the point that my fuse was so short the slightest irritation would send me into a rage of frustration.

Some days I didn’t even want to leave my flat because to go out would expose me to the very high ambient noise levels and people walking into me as if I was invisible (a peculiar and frustrating characteristic of local Hong Kong people).

My sleep patterns were atrocious: patchy, fitful and restless – I certainly didn’t feel refreshed when I woke up each morning.

It got to the point where I was consciously saying to myself that I had to make changes in my life because I couldn’t continue as I was. It was threatening my health.

I didn’t have a clue as to what change I should make – I just knew something had to change.

And then, out of the blue, I was offered an opportunity to move to one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

It was the furthest thought from my mind because I had always believed I needed to be in the city so I could respond to meeting requests quickly and get to different locations easily. But I went and had a look at the place anyway.

It was like moving to a different country. I could literally feel the stress melting away as soon as I got off the ferry.

The quietness. The lack of crowds. People nodding or smiling in greeting. Nobody walking into me.

So I started working out how I would have to re-organise my life if I moved out of the city and, long story short, I moved here 3 months ago.

Has it helped? Absolutely: my health and general feeling of well-being have improved in almost every way possible.

Yes – I have to organise and plan meetings more carefully than before and I can no longer respond at short notice to either a meeting request or a spontaneous invitation to meet for a coffee or a drink.

But my tolerance levels have returned to normal, I’m sleeping like a baby and I no longer dread leaving my flat to go to the shops.

And the scenery is spectacular – here are some pictures:

View from my officeView from my gymOn the way up Lantau Peak

And the moral of the story?

Apart from being a potential killer in its own right, stress is also one of the triggers of inflammation – and inflammation itself is at the root of many of the serious illnesses we face today, including some types of cancer, heart disease, some types of arthritis and more.

It’s easy to ignore stressors, especially when they build up gradually, until one day you suddenly realise that you’re living a very unhealthy life.

So take a self-inventory of your life – are you building up un-healthy levels of stress?

Remember, stress is a cause of inflammation and inflammation is at the root not only of serious illnesses but of minor ones too: difficulty breathing (inflammation of the respiratory system) and minor stomach upsets (inflammation of the digestive system), to name just two.

If you’re concerned about inflammation you can read some more facts about it on this page.

And, based on my own experience, if you’re getting to the point where stress is affecting your sleep patterns or tolerance levels take steps to change your environment – sooner rather than later :).


Martin Malden
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