Cohabitation conflict – Relationship tension during a lockdown.

cohabitation conflictEven if you love your partner truly, madly, deeply, you may find that spending time together, in virtual lockdown, has you feeling more well and deeply, truly mad.

The Coronavirus pandemic is challenging relationships and changing family life. The WHO estimates that 1.4 billion children are out of school without access to their regular activities. Parents are under additional pressure to maintain their jobs and employment opportunities, whilst caring for children and conducting or overseeing home schooling. This has serious implications. Evidence indicates that violence and vulnerability increase during periods of health emergency (1,2). The media in Britain has recorded 2 cases of femicide during lockdown. According to the French media, reports of domestic violence have increased by 36% during the lockdown period.

Even without the serious element of violence, conflict between couples appears to be increasing whilst individuals spend more time together during stay at home instructions. There are numerous social media comments indicating that even regular relationships are under renewed pressure because of the siege. According to some news reports, divorce applications in China spiked after their lockdown, and in New York, divorce lawyers claim an increase in calls regarding inquiries regarding divorce.

Perhaps you might be seriously considering divorce, and if you are, I recommend that you read our article on preparing for divorce in the references below (3).

If your desire to split is, perhaps, created by intensive time together and extreme focus on your partner’s habits or behaviours, here are some potential cohabitation conflict busters that might be of help.


“What was that?” The power of distraction.

Some of the arguments that you may want to have, or personal shortfalls that you might like to highlight, do not need to happen. Hit “Pause”. Eject the tape. winston c WordsLeave the room. Go for walk. Distract yourself. You don’t need to have a fight that you will possibly regret. The best fight you had, was the one you never had.


“Is it me?” Reflections that might help you hit “Pause” when you want to blow up.

If you are feeling particularly frustrated with your partner consider the following 5 questions to help you reflect on your position.

Question 1. Timing: Does this discussion have to happen right at this time? Would there be another time be more constructive to have this discussion? For example, if you don’t like the way your partner is caring for your child, is it better to shout at them at the time that they are conducting child care, or might it be better to wait until later in the evening when such a conversation may be held without the child present, and in terms of shared goals and expectations?

Question 2. Collaborative Partnership: Do you want your relationship to be a partnership? Do you feel that you and your romantic partner collaborative or more as rivals? Does one partner encourage change or demand change of their partner? If you think behaviours of your partner need to change, is this possibly based on your personal preferences rather than real necessity? If you have an irritation that you would like to highlight to your partner, is there a method that you could use that highlights your desire to be seen as a partner that is without judgement or threat?

conflict can not survideQuestion 3. Status You: What is your emotional state right now, and will this be the same way you might feel later? If you are tired, hungry, feeling unwell, or coping with pain, you might feel differently after a nap or a visit to a doctor.

Question 4. The villain: Are you portraying your partner as some type of Disney-villain rather than a person who is a work-in-progress? Are their shortcomings, or issues, a big problem to your life, or rather, a small problem that you have become oversensitive to?

Question 5. Control: Is it possible that you are trying to control your partner rather than simply being irritated by their actions? This might include your response to Covid-19 precautions or to tidiness requirements within your home. Your standards may be different and you might feel that your partner should adhere to your standards, but is this fair?

comflict is inevitableYou may like to journal written responses to these questions. Remember, that whilst conflict may be inevitable during increased time together, combat remains optional.


“It’s not me, it’s you”. If you are going to fight, fight fair.

We have a recent article below about the key aspects of fighting fair (4) This includes understanding that people have different values, and this is to be expected, accepted, and respected. Compromise and understanding are the goal or any discussion, rather than winning control over your partner. You need to own and take responsibility for how your feelings. Avoid name calling or threats. Focus on listening to your partner rathe than what you want to say, and waiting for the gap to insert your opinion. If you find yourself using terms such as “always” or “never”, I feel almost certain that you are exaggerating your arguments. Try to be specific. Remember. kindness is king.


“It’s not you, or me, its us”. Is it time for you to update your relationship operating system?

Companies regularly explore business continuity exercises in order to navigate possible problems which could derail delivery of their services. Various scenarios are explored, pitfalls identified, and the company responds with temporary or permanent changes in the operation of their business.

Perhaps it time for you to update they way that your marriage operates during this crisis, and potentially beyond.

Zoning: During the Covid pandemic there may be cyclical periods of “work from home” required.

Therefore, I recommend that you might like to zone your house in order to better support your ability to execute your work, and home schooling. Make changes that you can live with for a few months, rather than a few weeks. For more details please refer to your article on creating tension free work environments at home (5).

Your role or mine? It might be time for you to update your home task gender roles to the 2020 world, especially as you are at home more often. Men can cook?kitchen Women do not need to be the only parent supporting home schooling. Even kids, can step up their level of contribution at this time.

House rules: you might want to update your house rules as well. Given the amount of time we might spend on our screens – in zoom meetings, or google hangouts – our tolerance of the amount of permissible screen time may have drifted upward within in the early days of the pandemic. As we acclimatised to the novelty of all this screen time during the day, the use of screens outside of work and school might also need to be reviewed. Within our family I noticed we had become like workers each in our own silo, but all under the same roof. I have asked to reconstruct everyone’s day in order for us to spend more time together, especially around dinner, or exercise, or game time. This can be the same for couples as well as families. Reconnect in positive ways, and, perhaps, conflict can dissipate.

We want to celebrate our differences. But people who have different values and mindsets make conflict inevitable. Regardless combat is not inevitable. Hopefully these thoughts help you create some distraction, allow you to reflect, and perhaps even consider reconstruction, which might support your partnerships at this time. If conflict continues, and you want outside mediation, consider a counsellor.

Be well. Keep Calm. Wash your hands. Love one another.






Self-Love First

selflovefirstIn the words of Drag Goddess, Ru Paul Charles, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love someone else?” In counselling I see client after client who is dedicated to demonstrating their love of others, but do not seem to love themselves.

So, this Valentine’s Day, and every day, let’s put Self-Love First.


What is self-love?

Practicing self-love means ensuring that you invest enough time and energy in yourself to make sure you have enough love in your life, are kind to yourself, and are grateful for all that you have achieved in life. Sounds easy, right? Now you know this, you can wake up from the trance of unworthiness. Yet it seems so much other to love others ahead of loving ourselves.


What prevents us practicing Self-Love?

Ain’t got time for that.

You are in control of your time, so if you think that you don’t have the time for self-love, I would ask you to challenge how you have chosen to spend your time. How is it allocated? Could you give up scrolling the internet in order to create time for self-love? Could you give up your late-night TV watching?

It is important that you create time for your goals, including the goal to love yourself first. Reallocate your time, delegate tasks to others, challenge what you believe are your priorities so that you create time to prioritise yourself. I remember when my first daughter was born. She was my beautiful dolly. Each day I would take great care in the outfits she would wear out. One day my husband needed to look after her instead. He sent me a photo of them at the playground. Was my daughter really out, in public, in her pyjamas? The horror! In reality she was having fun, and he was being a great dad. The outtake was a gift, relax about her wardrobe. It was a priority which, really, wasn’t important.

Putting others, probably everyone else, first.

Running yourself ragged in order to look after everyone else is a recipe for disaster. Burning yourself out, just so you can have a rest, is a little extreme. An audit of your time may raise if you are performing activities only because of other’s expectations rather than for your own benefit. Are you a people pleaser? I want you to challenge this default. You do not need to be class mum. You do not need to pick up other people’s kids. Say no, move on, let go. Remember that in order to take care of others, you need to first take care of yourself.

Why do we do this? This dedication to others is a trap. People want proof of life that they exist. When people call on you, you may feel recognised, required, even, important. In reality your sense of self-worth can only be filled from within. On their deathbed, the dying do not regret completing that last load of dishes, they regret not pursuing their dreams or spending time with people they love. Not doing the to do list set by others.

Self-love is different from being entitled. When a person feels entitled, they believe that something should be theirs, even without effort or merit. This is not the same as recognising and acknowledging your self-worth and setting expectations accordingly.

Oh, the shame!

You may be embarrassed that self-love could be your goal. People tend not to praise other’s self-care achievements. “Look at Claire taking a break – go girl”. “Wow John, good for you that you got yourself a massage to relieve the stress in your shoulders.” Life is too short for you to be concerned with what anyone else thinks.

We are ashamed when we take care of ourselves – this is a trap. Let go of the belief that if you want to take care of yourself that there is something wrong with you. It is important that you preserve and protect the greatest asset that you possess – you.


When I love myself enough.

I find one way to tackle the topic of self-love with clients is to ask them to articulate some of the things they would do differently when they love themselves enough. Some of the common elements of self-love include:

Accept that you have goals.

It is important that you accept the types of person that you may need to be in order to achieve your goals. Many women, in the past, have been criticised for being ambitious. Don’t be embarrassed if you have a goal. When we love ourselves enough, we prioritise our development. We follow our dreams and work to free ourselves of the shackles of shame that others may try to impose.

Prioritising your goals.

when I love myself time managementPart of a self-love routine is to set your priorities around your life goals rather than concepts of ‘urgency”. Stephen Covey in this instrumental book, the Seven Habits, outlines a method to help prioritize tasks/activities into quadrants. I have adapted this slightly in the figure on the left. We all understand the concept of urgency. The concept of importance is somewhat trickier to clarify, and you may benefit from talking to a coach our counsellor about this. For a task to be important it needs to help achieve a value for which you want to be recognised. For example, if you want to become a senior leader in your future, you will prioritise those tasks where you have been given the opportunity to shine as a leader over those where you are simply a contributing voice.

Establish a self-care routine.

A well-rounded self-care routine is essential to your wellbeing. This is an essential element of having a positive growth mindset. You deserve care, it is an investment in you. This would probably include eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and watching drug and alcohol consumption. How do you do, even on that short self-care checklist?

Develop an accepting self, not just self-acceptance.

Self -acceptance is saying to yourself, “I like me”. Developing an accepting-self allows us to also allow ourselves to fall down occasionally, and believe this is also okay and acceptable. This attitude of unconditional kindness towards yourself, whatever you may be experiencing helps us grow. You are a work in progress, and that is wonderful.

Add the voices of self-compassion and an inner-cheerleader, to any dialogue with your inner critic.

Our inner -critic is only just a judgemental voice who breaks us down. Sometimes it plays a role similar to a responsible parent, telling us to get out of bed and go to work, get that report completed, pay your taxes! Listening only to your inner-critic can lead to feelings of inadequacy and desire to avoid activities – denying your to do list whilst you glut watch Netflix.

When you add the voice of self-compassion and your inner-cheerleader to the dialogue the script changes significantly. You give yourself the chance to recognise and acknowledge feelings you may have around a challenge. You may produce a report you don’t really feel confident producing. Acknowledge the at many people might feel nervous in that situation. Your inner cheerleader can then add their voice. “You can do this, just give it a go”. This is when your inner critic may help – with practical advice “

Thrive rather than, merely, survive

Many of us have grown up in household with complex emotional environments. Perhaps your parents were too harsh, or not present, or you found it hard to be accepted. Almost all of us have sacrificed parts of ourselves in response to our childhood and adolescence. Perhaps it is time for you to thrive rather than just survive, overcome our box of darkness issues. IF this describes your situation you may find the articles at the end of this blog helpful.


When we love ourselves first and foremost.

When we love ourselves first and foremost, we let go of the feeling that something is wrong with us, that we are not good enough. You exist. You matter. You are loved.



Further reading you might enjoy

Let it go, let it grow

Past hurts and old injustices can keep people stuck in old patterns of behaviour and thought traps. Bad memories can be like emotional quicksand, and can consume your thoughts taking command of your day-dreams, and leave you feeling obsessed over perceived or real losses, betrayals, and inequities.


The box of darkness: Dealing with painful “gifts”.

The American poet, Mary Oliver wrote of her experience of death in the poem “The Uses of Sorrow”: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

I must use this quote at least once a week in therapy with clients, especially those who are navigating the painful paths initiated by the actions of a loved one, a spouse who walks out, a broken friendship, the death of someone special. In our moments of shock and grief, it is indeed like we have been given a box of darkness to unpack and cope with. So painful and debilitating, action seems pointless and enormously necessary at the same time.



This isn’t what I signed up for! Creating tension free work environments at home.

notwhatisignedupforI’ve written extensively about the epidemic of anxiety resulting from the novel coronavirus. A second mental health challenge is created by the stress of working and living with your partner 24/7. Even if you love your partner to bits, does working and living together all day and night, make you want you pull them to pieces?

Add to this, children off school, and some people may find that their sense of humour has left the building, even though, they are stuck at home.

Here are some coping techniques that might help.

You zone or mine? Create clear work zones for each person. It’s tempting to drift. Allocate zones exclusively for persons or activities, and even for specific activities within specified time periods. For example in our home – the master bedroom is for work calls during 9-6. Not all calls take place in that room, but if you require privacy it is to be respected there. Asking for silence in the lounge is just not realistic.

Celebrate the end of the day: Celebrate the work of the end day with a change of activity. This is now partner time or family time. Go for a walk. Play a game. Talk. Everyone working from home can be stressful, so check how your home-based-workmates are doing.

Remember that experiments are imperfect: We are inadvertently participating in a countrywide “work from home” experiment, for all family members. Even if your organization has a robust business continuity plan to activate, there will be a number of tweaks required within our new reality. In my past life I contributed to various business continuity plans, but at no time did I consider that I would have to build in  a “hands on” parenting aspect that novel coronavirus has introduced.  Your employer is also finding there feet in these uncertain times, evolving how they continue to provide services to their clients, and so their expectations of you may change day to day. Sometimes it seemed that remote work would be impossible, only to find this is not the case at all. 

Schedule flexibily: That said scheduling might help create some order in the chaos within your home. Try to create some structure – who has calls, and when when? Who will take care of shopping or dinner? Which parent will work with the kids, and when? Schedule only one or two days in advance, and remember it can all change. That is okay.

Kindness is king: You may feel anxious because of Covid-19. That is to be expected. It may be inconvenient to have to share your lounge office with your partner. You could become irritated. The situation may be irritating. Regardless you choose how you respond to any situation. Demonstrate kindness, it pays greater dividends in the long run.

Be aspirational: Remember this too will pass, every person encounters challenges in their lives. How we respond to these challenges determines how well we will deal with the next challenge (and there will be one). Think about the values and attributes that you want to be admired for possessing – because this is the time to demonstrating them.

Or just live, day-to-day:  If you are not coping – that’s okay too. We all fall down sometimes. Tomorrow is another day.

Lots of love, Angela


If you are overwhelmed or worried about your ability to cope at this time our counsellors are still around during the crisis. Send an SMS to 93785428 or email Angela at and we will try to help.

Also consider to read (or even re-read) our article on coping with anxiety in the times of pandemic.

Anxiety in the time of a pandemic.


Anxiety can be a crippling emotional challenge. As a psychologist and counsellor I work with clients dealing with their anxiety and I want to share some information about this condition and its management.

What spreads the contagion of anxiety?

  • Anxiety is made worse when it is fed. Searching for more information about what was making you anxious will usually increase your anxiety.
  • Rumour and mistruths exacerbate our experience of anxiety.
  • Sharing rumours on social media is the equivalent of sneezing in a crowded restaurant.  It spreads worry.
  • Waiting for normalacy to return is not practical. Pandemics take years to work out so please consider adjusting to a new normal of living with COVID-19 for now.

What cures anxiety in general and COVID 19

  • Challenge all sources of information. Media often include panic inciting headlines and bury calming information.
  • Acknowledge your anxiety – give it a voice, but not a megaphone. Talk to your anxiety as you would a worried child. Accept that it exists, how it might perceive the situation, and offer alternative ways of looking at the issue. Be kind to yourself.
  • Perspective is important. There are some benefits in this situation:When we asked what is positive fans often expressed that they were enjoying aspects of life that are now less hectic –sleeping in, spending time with kids, husbands coming home earlier, commutes taking less time, nice walks with their pets. We have seen the resurgence of cooking and home crafts.
  • Be careful when you share information. Search for facts, not rumours. Do not spread the contagion of panic. At the same time, share facts not opinions – seriously wear a mask.
  •  Panic buying possibly adds to your experience of panic. Sure if you need toilet paper buy a pack. Don’t buy 10 packs “just in case”.
  • Don’t judge those who leave, or those who stay in your area as the number of cases grows. People make the choices that they think are best for their family. In reality they, and you, probably will not contract the virus, and if they do they will survive.
  • Face down myths whenever you get the opportunity (
  • Practice being grateful. Gratitude allows you to stay positive
  • Challenge your thinking. We often employ cognitive filters when we interpret information and this can increase our anxiety. For example, if you tend to catastrophise situations it will possibly lead to exacerbated anxiety. Take a look at the following article which might help. (

Working actively on your anxiety can help to reduce it. Sometimes talking to a professional might help. If you’d like to tackle your anxiety with Angela, or one of our other therapists, in Hong Kong, contact us at or SMS to 852-93785428.

Activating the Second Wave – Intervention for teens experiencing learning challenges.

If you are a parent of a child with special educational needs (SEN), I hope that I do not need to convince you about the importance of early intervention with your child. Usually between the age of 2-4 years old you may have noticed that your child does not respond or develop in sync with their same aged peers. Intervention activities aimed to aid physical, cognitive, communicative, self-help, and behavioural development. Early intervention activities start at diagnosis and usually curb off when they child begins regular school, with some training continuing throughout childhood.

You may think that was it. I am here to encourage you to think of the period between 12-17 years old as the, possible,  Second Wave of intervention. At this time your child, typical or atypical, will go through a lot of change, and similarly to early childhood there is significant developments during these years. As parents and professionals working with teens SEN, the second wave provides a new chance to explore the opportunity for change and positive development. Its important that we honour the struggle that all teens face, and support them accordingly. The Second Wave of intervention needs to meet these children at the stage of development that they have now achieved, not as a simple add on to early intervention plans.

Changes during the teen years.

The teen years are a significant developmental period of internal change for an individual. Together with the growth of body and hormones there is significant development in the learning capacity of teens. This is extremely well detailed in Frances Jensen and Amy Ellis Nut’s fantastic book, “The Teenage brain”

From a neurological perspective, the teen brain is seen as only 80 percent mature. The finer connections in the brain are yet to be firmly established, and the brain is a time when it is more open to learning and being excited. The neurons in the brain are well connected at the back of the brain, the centre of sex and excitability, but not well developed for the frontal lobes, the centre for rational thought, self-awareness, generating insight, assessment of risk and danger, abstract thought and planning. Jensen likens the teen brain to a sports car that is all revved up, with nowhere to go.

During this time teens are also expanding their knowledge base. It is a period of great flexibility, with windows for great development of learning. However, the open brain is more open to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good and drives us into a, “gotta have it” type of state. If you have your teen responding to situations in a FOMO style of anxiety, you know what I’m writing about. Put this all together and you have a teenager – highly excited, easy to learn, find it difficult to explain themselves, difficult to stop an activity, irrational under pressure, and not able to see another person’s view very well. And this is for typical teens!

Adolescents is a period where behavioural and psychiatric issues develop. The general theory is that the onset of such issues may be created with the changes in body chemistry. Therefore, we see issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identify and body image develop during the teen years. Dysregulation of emotion can become common. The atypical teen is as, if not more, susceptible to these mental challenges. Additionally, for some atypical teens conditions, such a epilepsy can suddenly begin in the teen years.

And then there is puberty itself and all that new hormones introduce into and onto the teen: genitals, periods, a desire for physical stimulation (aka masturbation), voice changes, breasts, hair – everywhere – and the new hygiene requirements attached to much of this. You may still think of your teen as a child, but they certainly don’t look like one anymore.

On top of significant internal changes, the atypical teen faces significant changes in their external life. They may be at high school and surrounded by many typical teens, and viewing many behaviours – romantic, personal, oppositional, defiant, illegal – you may have wanted them to avoid. but this is not possible

All of this requires a new intervention plan – one based on their age and the launching pad that the teen years represent. For many children with special educational challenges, they grow into their challenge rather that grow out of it. Rather than trying to change them to fit the world, we have to help them be who they are going to be, but still be able to have a place in the world.

Elements to be considered in the SECOND WAVE of intervention.

The second wave of intervention is different from Early Intervention (ie the first wave) in many ways. Firstly, this wave coincides with the teen years and all the opportunity for growth, and challenge, that those years represent. Secondly, the focus moves away from a deficit model of the child to a strengths model. This is described in detail in another blog from our team , (htps://

Basically we start to focus away from areas that the child can not keep up with their same age peers, unless those skills are considered essential life skills, and spend a greater proportion of time turning splinter skills into academic success, and hopefully career options.

seond wave graphicLastly, we add specially teen focused training towards new essential behaviours and to revisit some behaviour management issues from the past. These include new and updated behavioural expectations, social and emotional support, relationship advice, academic support, learning about learning, independence and understanding of the self.

Areas of training: There will be some behaviours that were cute when your teen was a child may be perceived extremely negatively now that they look like an adult. For example a young boy’s fascination with girls with blonde hair may seem cute, or even charming, when they are a toddler. When they are 6ft tall, very few people will find amorous fascination acceptable, or cute. We need to help these teens navigate the teen and adult rules of engagement around expected behaviour, conversation topics, expressing themselves, etiquette, personal reputation and dressing appropriately, personal space, and personal hygiene. Many of these topics benefit from some peer-to-peer work, discussion and explicit instruction.

Counselling/Emotional sensitivity: It is extremely important that atypical teens are given the opportunity to learn about and express their emotions. After all their experience in the world is very different from ours, or that of other teens. They are more likely to be ostracized, bullied, or overwhelmed. Yet at the same time like many teens they appraise values such as “independence” and “having friends” as important. So we need to help counsel and guide teens to navigate the world of belonging, the importance of a growth mindset, self-acceptance, mindfulness, self-advocacy, resilience, emotional understanding and regulation.

Relationship navigation:  Friendship is a major need of all teens, although the intensity of relationships may differ. Our kids need to learn the basics of making, and being a good friend to another teen. They also need to be able to distinguish a good influence on them, from a poor. Some atypical teens are being bullied by the very people they consider “friends”. During teen years romantic interest will also be piqued. One needs to learn the expectations and restrictions around interpersonal romantic relationships. This is particularly true for those teens who are poor at reading social cues so may come on a little strong, and risk complete rejection. 

Explicitly learning what doesn’t come naturally: Many teens with special educational needs have difficulty is executive function (learning how to learn, how to think) and theory of mind (understanding how other people see the world differently from you) are sometimes easier to train in the teen years, rather than to children, because of the expectations of all teens are explicit around these topics. Teens passionately learn to express their opinions confidently, and listen to those of others. Performing on tests, and comparison of marks, can be a mixed blessing. Knowing that you didn’t do as well as a classmate on a test can open the door to discussion on your learning practices. Whilst we may have explicitly taught  our kids that, “it’s okay to ask for help”, we may need to update this to include the comment, “but try to do it on your own first”.

Cognitive development: remains important: Some atypical teens may have subjects that they are extremely good at (splinter skills), as well as areas that they perform less well in. As teens age, specialisation allows them to drop some topics that hold no interest or remain too difficult and focus on those skills that may help them form success stories, future studies, or even a career. Some topics – specifically basic math, and English, remain essential skills that require continuous learning within age appropriate contexts. It insults the teen to perform reading comprehension around topics or stories aimed at young children. I encourage children with SEN to take on learning communication training – persuasive text, expression, vocabulary banks, as a lifelong education plan.

Independence: Independence is the reward of the teenage years. All of the teens I have worked with over the years see Independence as a positive trait, even if they are not, yet, capable of many aspects of independence. As the parent of a child with special educational needs I have occasionally found offering independence very challenging – what if she gets lost, what if something bad happens. My own daughter has navigated getting home from school when she lost all her money, dealing with flirtations by weird men, and having to ready herself for an exam which we had recorded on another date. In every challenge she was stressed, but responded. In the exam, she actually passed! Independence can, and must be trained.

I am Me: The last special area that is to be considered within the Second Wave is appreciation of the self. This is not just part of the emotional growth that needs to be undertaken during the teen years, this is understanding your unique position in the world., what you contribute, what you want to contribute and how you are different from others. When our children with disabilities are young children we may focus on trying to fit in. In the teenage years this can change. Their strengths become a pathway to the future. Their quirks may become how they are to be defined. To quote a phrase from the fantastic book about being different, Wonder, “Why try to blend in, when you were born to stand out”?

I hope you found this detail of the Second Wave helpful. If you have any questions about the Second Wave, and your child, feel free to contact us via to see how our team of psychologists can help frame support for your child.

#specialeducationalneeds #earlyintervention #teens #autism #relationshiptraining #socialskills #reddoor #theoryofmind #executivefunction #splinterskills #secondwave  

Useful books

Frances Jensen and Amy Ellis Nut – The Teenage Brain

John Donvan and Caren Zucker – In a different key

Tony Attwood and Temple Gradin (and others) – Aspergers and Girls

Delia Samuel – Against the odds

Barry Prizant – Uniquely Human: a different way of seeing autism

Tony Attwood – The complete guide to Asperger’s Syndrome.

Blythe Grossberg – Autism and your teen

Liam Dawson – Teens therapy: The mental emotional and physical challenges with teenagers.

Don’t cry for me Margarita: Breaking up from your relationship with alcohol

margarita.jpgHave you ever questioned your relationship with alcohol? Have you ever made rules for yourself in regard to your drinking behaviours (eg, I’ll only drink wine, nothing stronger; I’ll only have 3 drinks max before I go home – no more)? Has anyone close to you asked you about your drinking? Do you ever wonder if your drinking is getting out of your control? Many of us do. You are not alone.

At the beginning of the year it is common to reflect and take stock, and when people do, many choose to take a break from alcohol for a while. Taking a break has numerous benefits including experiencing improved sleep, increased productivity, better mental healths (alleviation of experience of depression and anxiety), better complexion, and potential weight loss. So, it makes sense to take a break.

Perhaps you don’t feel confident to break up, or perhaps you think you really need alcohol in order to be you (ie a co-dependent style relationship). Perhaps you wonder if your relationship with alcohol is unhealthy. Catherine Gray, in the book, the unexpected joy of being sober, suggests that that one third of regular drinkers are worried that they drink too much, but only half of those who worry actually do something about their drinking behaviour.

It isn’t your fault if you are confused or even ashamed about your relationship to alcohol. You have been tricked, entangled, and trapped, in that relationship. Advertising, and society, treat alcohol as a social lubricant when it is more of a social charlatan, hiding the reality of alcohol as silent poisonous killer. The harmful use of alcohol is a global problem as alcohol is a major risk factor in health and social issues such as violence, accidents, child neglect, absenteeism and mental health issues.

If you want to take a break there are a number of options for you to consider – from books, to online resources, to face to face support. There are a number of resources that can help you give up for a week, a month, a year, or forever.


There are a number of books that support breaks from alcohol, of any period. In my opinion the books sharing the experience of the author seem more compelling, and less judgemental than some of the more academic books. I have included both styles of books in the following list. Many of these books are recommended by online support groups. These books can easily be found from online book retailers.

The Naked Mind – Annie Grace 

It is easy to understand why this book is a best-seller. This books is a motivational behaviour change book based on links between the unconscious and conscious mind. These techniques are common in the Allen Carr style of sessions – helping you reframe your relationship to alcohol, so that giving up seems more like  you have regained freedom rather than missing out. I would recommend this as a first book to read if you are considering any kind ofbooks on drinking break.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober – Catherine Gray

Another popular best-seller, the unexpected joy is a well written memoir with extremely practical advice and insights. Gray provides information to help you staying sober for 30 days, and abstinence beyond . There is a great Facebook page attached to this label online.

Alcohol Lied to Me – Craig Beck 

Craig Beck was a highly functional, “2 bottles of wine a night” drinker. From the outside he looked like he had his drinking under control, but that wasn’t his reality. Craig Beck has written a treasure trove of quit drinking books and has programmes attached to his model. The process starts with exploring misconceptions that we hold about alcohol.

Nothing Good Can Come from This – Kirsti Coulter 

This memoir of one woman’s journey to sober, provides a sometimes funny, and worrying, commentary on women and their problematic love relationship to alcohol

Girl Walks Out of a Bar – Lisa Smith

Another memoir, this book explores cases of individuals who have been successful career wise, but struggled in their relationships with alcohol. Lisa Smith provides a real, emotive take on her experience of recovery

Almost Alcoholic – Robert Doyle & Joseph Nowinski 

A fairly academic book written by clinical psychologists. This book outlines the problematic drinking behaviour which does not reach the level of diagnostic classification, outlining the cost of their drinking and providing practical cessation and limitation guidelines.


Online support groups

Online groups and platforms provide support and discussion possibilities. Some are free whilst others are paid for. The most popular groups can be found on Facebook and online. The benefit of these groups is that you can maintain some degree of anonymity but still get some support.

One Year No Beer – 
One Year No Beer is a cessation programme that provides paid for support alcohol-free challenge options for one month, 3 month and 1 year programmes. Boasting over 55,000 members and plenty of tales from successful challenge completers, you can sample OYNB content on their Facebook page first to see if this is a good match for you. Many of the OYNB members take on positive health challenges aligned to their break from drinking, with added potential health benefits.

The alcohol experiment –

Attached to the Naked Mind platform, this 30 day free program (beyond that there is some cost) provides groups, mentors and advice how to move away from alcohol. Currently there are 35,000 users, and many success stories.


In real life 

If you have a more serious issue with alcohol a face-to-face option may be your best choice. You can also discuss these options with your general practitioner. Some defining questions follow this section to help you frame if it is time for you to consider change.

Support Group – Alcoholics Anonymous

With more than 35 meetings a week in Hong Kong, this is the most famous alcohol recovery programme on the planet. This 12 step program includes all the great milestones of change management including support groups, mentoring, personal exploration and no judgement. Some people have reservations about elements of AA, but there is no denying the good that AA tries to do to support people recovering from problems with alcohol.

Recovery/ Rehab – the Cabin HK (and Thailand) .

In Thailand, the Cabin runs a private rehabilitation facility aimed at the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse issues (in addition to co-morbid conditions). In Hong Kong the Cabin provides an outpatient treatment programme including counselling.

Face-to-face therapy: Counselling – various 

You may start your exploration of your relationship with alcohol in a relationship with a counsellor. Therapeutic alliance, ie how much you fit with your counsellor, is a major factor in the success of your therapy, so shop around to find the right fit for you. If you’d like some more questions about the RED DOOR offering feel free to contact


Is your drinking problematic? 

Is it time for you to consider a break-up? The following is NOT a diagnostic test, but includes some of the types of questions that would be used for a formal diagnosis of substance abuse issues. Please answer Yes or No to the following 10 questions.

  1. In the past year have there been times when you have consumed more alcohol, or drank for a longer period, than you had originally intended?
  2.  In the past year, has your drinking interfered with your relationship with friends, family or work colleagues.
  3. In the past year, have you missed work, or key appointments on a few occasions because of alcohol consumption the night before? 
  4. In the past year, have you wanted to cut down your drinking amount or frequency and found yourself unable to do so?
  5. In the past year, have you blacked-out as a consequence from drinking alcohol?
  6. In the past year, have you lost personal items such as your keys, or wallet, whilst you were inebriated?
  7. In the past year, have you missed work, or key appointments on a few occasions because of alcohol consumption the night before?
  8. In the past year, have you noticed that your tolerance to alcohol has increased, and you now need to consume more alcohol in order to feel it’s effects?
  9.  In the past year, have you found yourself in situations where you may have compromised your personal safety, or the safety of others, as a consequence of consuming alcohol
  10. In the past year, have you started to experience some of the symptoms frequently labelled as  alcohol withdrawal, when you are not drinking including shaking, experiencing a racing heart, sweating more than usual, nausea, or trouble sleeping.


How many questions did you answer with a “YES” response? If you answered three or more with a YES, then I recommend you consider to break-up with the booze, if only for a short period, but possibly for more. Certainly take a look at the resources listed in this article. You deserve to feel good, and it might be time to start that journey.

#reddoor #alcohol #alcoholdependence #alcoholrecovery #alcholicsanonymous #thecabin #oneyearnobeer #alcoholexperiment #thenakedmind #theunexpectedjoyofbeingsober #alcoholliedtome #girlwalksoutofabar #almostalcoholic #nothinggoodcancomefromthis.












New You in the New Year: 5 questions to help you create positive change in the New Year.

new year new you

If you are receptive to the idea of setting New Year’s Resolutions but are undecided which resolutions will contribute real positive change to your life we have outlined 5 questions that we believe frame change that will introduce the most meaningful adaptions into your life in the New Year – creating a New You in the New Year.

startSTART. What one behaviour or habit could you start today that you will be thankful for in two to three years time? Perhaps you might considering undertaking a new area of study. Perhaps start a savings plan for that special vacation that you have been dreaming about. How about trying to eat properly, or commit to an exercise plan. Write down your options and consider which you would be most happy about in a few years time.

stopSTOP. I’m sure there is a at least one behaviour that you would benefit from LESS of in the New Year. Think about it, write about it. Consider something that you might consider to eliminate this year. Some ideas you might consider are to quit drinking, smoking, explore your propensity to explode in anger, feelings of jealousy, comparing yourself to others, procrastinations, over-eating, your addiction to technology, controlling others, or overworking.

Do you believe you CAN stop? If you believe, then what is holding you back? Have you tried to measure the impact your ‘STOP’ behaviour on your life, both in terms of financial implications, but also the repercussion on your personal life, your reputation, or your long-term health.

If you doubt if you can stop, then perhaps it might help to consider help. Sometimes a doctor, a counsellor, or even a good friend can help you brainstorm a way out. Try to visualise what your life might be like, if you can just STOP.

mendMEND. Are you holding onto old hurts or disappointments from the past that disrupt your ability to move forward? Is there a rift in an important relationship in your life that you are grieving?  Ask yourself could you mend some of these rifts or mend some of those hurts? One technique to think your way through these situation is to journal. ( Specific journal prompts might help you.

  •  Who or what event do you find it hard to mend in your mind? What wrong was done to you? Can you see this situation differently from a distance?
  •  Would there be a benefit to recover old friendships or relationships? Do you feel safe with that person? Can you better protect yourself in that relationship in the future?
  •  Are you still angry about events that have happened in the past. Write about that anger and other feelings. Why do those events continue to hurt you after all the time that has elapsed.

Some perspective and review may help you feel better. Always be kind to yourself in these evaluations. Also acknowledge some hurts are harder to heal. If you have experienced abuse, the mending to be done may not be of that abusive relationship but rather your relationship to yourself. If you need help, consider a counsellor.

accelerateACCELERATE. What positive practices do you engage in that you could accelerate, to your benefit, this year. If you want to be an artist, what commitment could you make this year that could make your dream become closer to reality. Perhaps you could commit to completing one piece of work a week. If you recently started your own business what key resources will you need to commit to getting this business off the ground. Are you working on this as many hours as it needs? Contemplate what activities bring you new clients – either directly or indirectly – and how can you pump up the volume on those tasks? Ideally, you are probably doing so many positive undertakings on a weekly basis, what could you DO MORE with real benefit to your goals?

leave behind.jpgLEAVE BEHIND. In the tradition of closing one door, so that another can open, consider leaving something, even someone, behind as the old year ends and a new one begins. Are you involved in relationships that are toxic to you or sabotage your achievement of your goals? Review the people and practices in which you engage, do they hinder or help you? What person or practice could you let go of, in order to let yourself really grow?

If you have detailed a behaviour in response to each of these 5 provocative questions, then you have the beginning of a game plan for a New You in the New Year.  Well done for spending this time reflecting about what will be of benefit to you. All the best for working on these behaviours in the next year. You should be proud of you.

#reddoor #newyear #Newyearresolutions #behaviorchange





The Power of New Year Resolutions.

blank page .jpgThe tradition of setting resolutions at the beginning of the New Year is as old as the New Year itself. In the time of Caesar’s Rome, the Senate decided that the new year would begin on the 1st January in reverence to that month’s name sake – the God Janus – the two-faced God who looks backward to the past and forward to the future at the same time.

And so the Senate, having confirmed when the year would begin also set the new intention for being kinder and more cooperative with each other when the new year began, and thus the tradition of resolutions was created.

In modern times there are some resistance to setting resolutions. If this describes your stance, I would like you to reconsider this perspective.

Setting resolutions may seem unrealistic. In 2017 the team at RED DOOR, together with CSG (Consumer Search Group), a leading regional marketing research firm, researched resolution set by 900 Chinese adults in Hong Kong and China. Over 50 percent of people set the same resolutions year after year. This might imply that they ‘failed’ last year to achieve their goal. So perhaps they should quit whilst they are ahead. We disagree.

proudofeachstep.jpgRather than seeing repeat resolution as a failure I feel it expresses determination to keep trying. As is often quoted (and attributed to several authors), it does not matter how many times you fall down, but rather how many times you get back up.

The only thing in life that is constant is change. It would be unrealistic to expect things to always stay the same. Resolutions allow you to invite change into your life on your terms. If you are going to experience change, why not accept that and invite the change that may create the biggest new opportunity, heal old hurts and invite the momentum that you have been searching for.

What happens if you fail in your resolution? You start well, but then your commitment tapers off. Don’t worry. Start again. If you slip up once or twice, or even twenty times. IF you stay committed to what you want to accomplish, you’ll be proud of yourself in the end.

If you don’t’ know what resolutions to set, our next blog, New Year – New You, might help you frame some interesting changes to invite into your life. Additionally, I have included some of the results of the CSG/RED DOOR research in order for you to understand what goals other people set.

Happy New Year.


Summary of some of the research by CSG and Red Door in 2017.

We conducted a survey with 400 Hong Kong affluent individuals and 500 Chinese affluent regarding the resolutions they have intend for 2017, and their commitment to achieving these resolutions. From the survey, 61% (Hong Kong) and 59% (Chinese) affluent adults has made resolutions for 2017.

  1.  65% of women in Hong Kong made a resolution relative to only 57% men
  2. The top 2 resolutions that women in Hong Kong made are:  Health & Fitness (68%) + Money (63%)
  3. 80% of women in HK have concrete goals + timeframes
  4. Only 44% of these HK women made a new resolution
  5. To achieve their resolution, they plan to do the following:
    1. Chart their success (43%)
    2. Make a change in their career (36%)
    3. Change a regular habit (35%)
    4. Change their look (32%)
  6. They are making the resolution for themselves because 72% believed that they would be most impressed with the achievement of their resolution
  7. 62% of the women in HK have made resolutions that involved a financial commitment
  8. They are willing to spend an average of HKD5,210 in the first month

Data suggest that HK women are making more resolution than men and are committed to achieving their resolution with financial investment.

  • There are some really good data for Chinese women that shows up a nice contrast to HK women.
  • We have also provided data for different age groups which have interest trends for female who are 35 – 44 years old

#reddoor #CSG #Newyearresolutions #positivechange #Newyear

Fighting Fair

fighting fairDisagreements are to be expected in any relationship. No two people see situations the same, or have completely the same goals. Resolving conflicts in a positive manner will make your relationship stronger, whilst unresolved battled and long-term contempt can erode your relationships’ chance of survival.

Are you fighting fair when you disagree? We outline the best recommendations given in therapy and highlight the work that we do with couples to help them move from belligerent brawling to fighting fair.


Agree on rules of engagement.

A set of rules will help keep an argument on track and less confrontational. Common recommendations might include:

  • Set a time to argue – don’t just ambush an argument onto your partner
  • Argue by mutual consent, and delay your discussion if you are tired or sick – a fair fight requires two able bodied members
  • Set a time limit to discuss a topic. If you don’t reach consensus in your time frame either agree to disagree, or take a break to allow each party to consider all of the points.
  • Physical violence is a no-no.
  • Remember words are weapons – stop hurting the people you love


Know and own your feelings.

When you are upset try to avoid to blame others for your feelings and experiences. You would be better to say “When you do …”, “I feel …” rather than label the behaviour. For example, “You are always late; you are so selfish” Rather say. “When you are late, I start to feel nervous”

Your feelings are yours. It is common to hear “You made me mad”. This phrasing attempts to deflect responsibility for your reaction off yourself, but your feelings are yours. That isn’t to say this supports legitimacy of your partners behaviour. People don’t make you mad, you get angry. It is your anger. I would challenge you to consider if you get angry in other situations, outside of your personal relationship. Use feeling words – I feel angry, sad rather than “you are so selfish”, “no wonder I’m angry”. Use I statements – “I feel angry …” rather than “You make me…”


Kitchen Sinking.

Keep any argument to the topic you have outlined to discuss. Kitchen sinking occurs when you pull old hurts and disagreements into the current topic under debate. If a number of issues have been accumulating, tackle them one at a time.


Point scoring is for bullies.

Your objective isn’t to WIN a fight. If one person wins, the other, even more importantly, the relationship loses. Allow your partner to save face. The purpose of fighting fair is to improve your experience within the relationship. Fighting fair, and resolving disagreements amicably and respectfully strengthens your relationship in the long term.


It takes two

Keep your fights between the two of you. Leave family and friends out of your argument. Poor relationship boundaries around your personal issues will have a negative impact on the quality of your long relationship. There is nothing more annoying than having others opinions included in a discussion. Imagine the scene where a partner says to another “Your mother agrees, we should have never gotten married” In particular DO NOT involve children in your arguments, that is deeply unfair to them. Obviously if physical aggression is involved privacy and boundaries are no longer sacred


Kindness is king.

Being kind and respectful is extremely helpful in a disagreement. Name calling, bringing up critical confidences in order to hurt another, swearing, making threats are distructive to your relationship. If you owe your partner an apology, then provide it. Some goodwill can go a long way. Issues which involve personal perception and opinion may be impossible to resolve. Agree to disagree if you can and respect this. I’ve seen many couples continue to fight after they’ve agreed to disagree, and that situation, rarely ends well.



Even if you have a bad fight you can start again without completely resolving the conflict. Sometimes if you start your day taking shots at each other, one of you can ask, “can we start this again”. You don’t need to continue a fight just because you started it. Respect the possibility to start again, but also commit to have the discussion again at another time. Control-Alt-Delete can’t simply be used to stonewall discussions.



If you are in the wrong, apologise. Even if you weren’t in the wrong, but behaved in a hurtful manner apologise. Also, if you are given an apology, accept it. Sometimes in counselling we see couples who do accept their partners apology because it covers only 8/10 things that they believed their partner did wrong. Accept an apology, even if it is incomplete. Once peace has been restored, discussion on areas of dispute will be more likely to be successful.


“Fighting fair” cannot involve abuse.

There is a difference between having disagreements and being in an abusive relationship. Abuse can be physical, financial or psychological. Physical abuse includes not only scratching, kicking, hitting and biting but also coerce your partner to have sex, putting your partner into a headlock or holding them against their will. Financial abuse and emotional abuse are less difficult to identify and confirm.

Its worth talking about what emotional abuse is not. It is not emotionally abusive to break up with a partner, or argue with your partner. It is not emotionally abusive when someone reacts to what you have done by stating that they are hurt. It is also not emotional abuse to speak one’s mind with honesty, perhaps more tact could be used, but it isn’t necessarily abuse. Partner’s fight, and often even yell. This doesn’t constitute abuse, unless it is done for the purpose of controlling another person.

Researchers Jacobson and Gottman have a questionnaire that can help you determine if you are being emotionally

While less commonly understood than other forms of abuse, financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a person tied to an uneven or even abusive relationship. Financial abuse involves controlling a victim’s ability to produce or manage financial resources. Rarely do they have complete access to money and other resources. When they do have money, they often have to account for every penny they spend. If one partner is shopping for groceries and suddenly finds all cards have been cut off in response to a recent argument, this may be an indication of financial abuse.


If you get stuck, get help

If you find yourselves going around in circles on a topic you could consider couples counselling. Couples counselling will help you understand if the issue is the one you are arguing about or is actually a proxy for other unresolved issues, then help the couple work on those challenges.


Disagreements are to be expected in any relationship. Resolving conflicts in a positive manner is an indication of maturity and commitment. The next time you fight with your partner, reach for this list and keep your fight fair.

#fighting #relationships #arguments #fightfair #couplescounselling #abuse #reddoor

Work Hard – Stress Harder: Understanding the experience of stress among senior lawyers in Hong Kong.

work hard stress harder

Work Hard – Stress Harder: Understanding the experience of stress among senior lawyers in Hong Kong.

The legal profession is seen as a robust and optimistic occupation where hard work pays off (5). What exactly is the payoff? If one looks beyond the cash remuneration, there are other costs that have not been factored including negative impacts on physical and mental health.

Being a lawyer is stressful (1). Productivity research in 2019 suggests that 63% of lawyers report that they experience stress on a daily frequency. Academic research suggests that lawyers are exposed to high levels of occupational stress including role conflict, role overload, too much work, role ambiguity, or negative company politics, and feeling overly responsible for the work of others with heavy mental health consequences including alcohol misuse, depression and daily tension (2).

The team at RED DOOR researched the experience of lawyers in Hong Kong to look at the workload and potential side effects for HK lawyers.

Working in Hong Kong is stressful for many occupations, and it would make sense that lawyers in HK experience stress, had not been assessed, nor has the impact of this stress, and the components of this stress been well explored. Understanding the experience of stress among lawyers in Hong Kong has significant impact on training for lawyers, senior management within law firms, and human resource manager of senior law personnel, and on the mental health protection of professionals in high stress occupations.

Details of the methodology is attached at the end. In essence we summarised the experience of 30 senior lawyers in Hong Kong. Over ¾ of these lawyers were partners at their firms. They represent 21 international law firms in Hong Kong. This research was conducted in 2019.

Insane work hours.

Hong Kong can lay claim to the #1 workaholic city in the world (3) with an average of 50.1 hours a week when it was compared to another 70 other international cities. Comparing this to the average number of work hours a week within OECD (4) countries (of 33.5 hours a week), Hong Kongers work an additional 16 hours a week.

Against this backdrop of excessive work hours, we explored the average work hours of HK lawyers. Among our benchmark survey the average work hours per week was over 55 hours a week. One ¼ of our lawyers worked less than 50 hours a week, and ¾ worked an average of more than 50 hours a week. Only one person worked less than 40 hours a week, but this was still 38 hours a week, so still more than the OECD average. What’s more is that due to a minor methodological error, we may have minimised the average hours a week. Our team made a rookie mistake in this benchmark survey. We set the maximum hours at 65+ hours a week. Thirteen percent of our respondents ticked the maximum number of hours. This means that our calculation of average hours was possibly less than the real numbers worked.

This means that, over a year,  HK lawyers work more than 250 hours more than their other, workaholic, local colleagues.

Whilst there is a common perception that working more hours means achieving more work, but research challenges this association. There are a authorial of research articles highlighting that working beyond 8-10 hours a day, is actually NOT associated with heightened productivity (5). In the legal profession these long hours may not make sense from a perspective of productivity, however since lawyer hours translate directly to client billing hours, there may be competing interests with lawyer’s mental health suffering as a consequence.

key findings 2

The experience of stress among HK lawyers.

In addition to working extremely long hours there are some other significant findings regarding the experience of work-related stress from the RED DOOR Benchmark law and stress research.

  • 1/3 of HK lawyers report they are not confident to manage the stress that they are under.
  • 1/3 of HK lawyers report unsatisfactory or poor work-life balance.
  • 50% of lawyers in HK say that they find completing their workload challenging or very challenging.
  • Over 46% are stressed over the content and weight of their work.
  • 1/3 of HK lawyers express stress over politics in the workplace.
  • 23% of the lawyers surveyed say that they don’t have a supportive person to talk to when they feel overwhelmed or stressed.
  • 1/3 of HK lawyers express that they do no not have a positive career path
  • 23% are stressed over their role at work
  • 20% of our lawyers are stressed due to their boss
  • 1/3 do not use up their entire leave entitlement.

Therefore, we feel comfortable surmising that HK lawyers are under a considerable amount of stress.

What is contributing to HK lawyers’ experience of stress?

Long hours certainly contribute to stress. A positive correlation (0.55) indicates that as hours increase, experience of stress increases.

Confidence to deal with stress seems to be correlated (0.53) with positive expression of management of the experience of stress.  This echoes other research on the perception of stress. Yale psychologist Alia Crum (6) assessing banking employees found that those individuals who could see stress as a positive challenge that enhanced their lives and they could conquer helped people experience fewer negative impact from stress.

A positive work environment – which we said was comprised of having an open culture, access to CSR programmes, autonomy of employees, encouraging use of leave, flexibility of work hours when required, an open and inclusive atmosphere, fair and transparent financial remuneration and other non-financial rewards – was also associated with better experience of stress, and vice versa. More negatively rated workplaces were associated with higher experience of stress.

Limited sleep is associated with stronger experience of stress. Ten percent of our lawyers sleep less than 5 hours a night. An additional 43.3% sleep between 5 to 7 hours. Given the US National Institute of Health recommendation of 7-9 hours a night sleep for adults, more than half of our lawyers capture inadequate rest every night. Most people need adequate (7-9 hours) sleep in order to maintain performance and productivity (5) and consistently having less than this can be a risk to their mental health (7).

One particularly concerning suggestion is that those who have no one to talk to when they feel stressed or overwhelmed and its association to the expression of stress. Twenty-three percent, nearly ¼ of our lawyers, say they do not have this person. Of those lawyers, 83% experience higher levels of stress than other lawyers in our survey. This has a major impact in planning how we can best manage stress. Talking to someone helps. As a counsellor, I would also advise, talking to someone who is qualified to respond to your experience of stress and other co-morbid experiences (depression, anger, isolation) is heavily recommended.

Lawyers were also asked to express how frequently they felt some concerning other emotional experiences. Considerable lawyers experience other psychological feelings and behaviour, regardless of their experience of stress. Thirty percent say that they feel regularly or frequently depressed. Twenty percent withdraw from social situations or feel isolated. Twenty percent express troubles with anger. Ten percent say that they cry regularly or frequently. So, in addition to stress, many lawyers are experiencing emotions that cause them distress.

Engaging in negative behaviours. Our lawyers were provided with a range of positive and negative practices and asked to rate them in terms of the frequency in which they engaged in those behaviours. When these behaviours were divided into their clear negative or positive possible contributions or reactions to stress, and correlated to their experience of stress, we found that performing negative behaviours is correlated with negative reported experience of stress. This is stronger for our male lawyers than female (0.47 correlation). The most common negative behaviours that lawyers report that they engage in include: eating junk food (36.6%); drinking more than 2 drinks a day (30%); argue with your romantic partner (26.6); argue with their kids (20%); skip meals (20%); and have a cry (16.7).

Poor responses to stress. When asked how they respond we gave our lawyers a selection of ways to deal with stress. Many indicated some poor stress management responses as their most common behaviours: forty-three percent reported they would reach for a drink; twenty-three percent said they would reach for something to eat; ten percent said they would shout at the people around them; and ten percent said they would simply work more.

positive stress response.jpg

What do lawyers do well when responding to stress?

When asked how they respond we gave our lawyers a selection of ways to deal with stress. Many indicated positive stress management responses and to be celebrated: Sixty percent exercise regularly; forty-six percent spend time with their family; forty-three percent talk to a colleague; thirty-three percent talk to a friend; thirty percent seek time alone (which could be considered both a positive and negative response); and thirty percent decide it is time to leave the office.

What does this all mean?

What we have learnt from this benchmark survey is that HK lawyers are regularly experiencing stress. We need to be mindful of how we train lawyers to deal with stress and other psychological challenges that arise out of their work hours, work challenges and the behaviours they choose in response to stress. Specific stress management programmes would possibly help. It is important that these are relevant to HK and to the experience of lawyers here. For example, many stress management programmes include training on time management skills. Over 80 percent of our lawyers said that they were good at managing their own time, hence time management training is not required. This would mean that programmes that are not constructed with nuance for lawyers may be another tax on the time of lawyers, who are already working too many hours a week. Specific programmes within individual support requirements may be more effective.

Note: We will conduct a larger scale survey in 2021. If you are interested in participating in the survey or including your specific staff please contact Angela. If you would like to find out more about stress management practice options for yourself or others feel free to contact us at

About the Author: Angela Watkins is an experienced qualified counsellor and psychologist working out of the RED DOOR practice in Hong Kong. Angela specialises in the treatment of anxiety, depression, stress management, and career and lifestyle change.

#law #lawyers #stress #stressmanagement #occupationalstress #HongKong #performance #overwork #lackofsupport #worklifebalance #positiveworkenvironment #sleep #depression #anger #REDDOOR

Methodology: The Experience of stress among senior lawyers in Hong Kong – Benchmark Study. HK lawyers experience of stress. 30 lawyers (17 men, 13 women) from 21 international firms working in HK. Over 76% are partners in the firms they work in. Surveys were completed in June and July 2019. 300 lawyers in Hong Kong were selected and contacted to participate in this research and completed an online survey which assessed experience of stress, sleep, reactions to stress, work place practices, hours worked, and access to support. For further information contact RED DOOR at

Cited references:

  • Protectivity research 2019
  • Hasnain, Nas and Bano, Stress and Well Being of Lawyers 2010.
  • UBS report on Cost of Living 2018
  • The OECD Better Life Report 2017
  • Harvard Business Review article The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies, Sarah Green Carmichael, 2015
  • Alia Crum (with P Salovey and S Achor) Rethinking Stress: The role of mindsets in determining the stress response.
  • Zhai, Zhang and Zhang – sleep duration and depression among adults: a meta-analysis. 2015

#careergoals #careerchange #occupationalstress #resiliency #careergoals #futureofwork #stress

Other great articles about career change

Face career change with courage. You can do it

Future success is not an accident. Prepare yourself for the Future of Work

How to respond to career crisis

Work stress – manage stress for Lawyers.