Jason Chow is a 35-year-old New Zealander of Chinese origin. He was born and raised a single child in Hong Kong before moving to Auckland at the age of seven. A devout Christian, Jason graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Auckland and currently works as a principal traffic engineer. He lives in Auckland with his wife and their newborn son, Lewis.

Understanding my own personality traits - who I am and what makes me, me - is an important part of managing my health. I recognise and take ownership for my personality traits, and this helps me to understand why I do certain things or react in certain ways. One in particular is my perfectionism trait. When I feel that something is not right, instead of seeing it as a fault of my own, I stop what I’m doing and ask myself some simple questions: “Is the situation a big disaster?”, “Is it really that bad?” and “Is it in my control?” 

If this doesn’t have an instant result on my mental state, I like to write out my thoughts and worries on paper, and then write the responses too. This exercise really helps to bring order to my mind and calms me. It lets me see super clearly that the things I let myself worry about are actually - usually - things out of my control. For me, there is calmness in the knowledge that I can only control what I can control, and I don’t need to worry about everything else.

Exercises like this that help to clarify my thinking are more important to me now than ever, given the responsibilities I now have with full-time work, fatherhood and being a good husband. I realise the world is not black and white, and it’s okay for me to let go of the reins from time to time.

I also have a strong academic trait, which is a great quality, but throughout my life I’ve always put pressure on myself to get results. This used to be stressful, but I’ve come to realise that I am in control of my mindset 100%, and that includes my relationship to pressure. For me, the thing that matters is not necessarily how much pressure I feel but rather, my relationship with it. I’ve learnt to consciously choose to see pressure as encouraging and developmental and, therefore, to be happy to have it.

I appreciate that these traits make me who I am and I embrace what comes with them, but it’s also been really good identifying why and how I react as a result of these characteristics. In doing so, I can take control over them but yet still enjoy all of the positive benefits that my traits bring for me.

I focus on a scientific approach towards living my best life. I’ve utilised the professionals in the health industry, and I found a huge benefit from medication. After working with medical specialists, I now have confidence in my ability to manage myself.

Medication has been one of the greatest tools in helping me get me to where I am today. It allowed me to find a healthy platform for life. I was initially sceptical about medication, but after experiencing the balance it gave me, it got a big tick in my books.

I know, though, that my health has come about as a result of a combination of the many good things that I do: things like exercise, talking about my feelings, keeping a daily/weekly routine. In my experience, medication doesn’t solve the problem, it just provides a stable platform for me to reset and be well so I can work on other things that are going to bring wellness.

Counselling has been another big tool in my journey. I know it has a bad stigma, but I’ve learnt so many things through my counselling sessions that I really value it. The counselling service I used was an Auckland-based Chinese organisation called Wong Consultancy Group Ltd. My time there was a great stepping stone for me. I learnt techniques that really progressed my wellness to a new level. 

Probably the most beneficial technique from these sessions was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I’ve practiced CBT exercises extensively over the years, and it’s now as if they’re inscribed in me. If something ever catches me off guard, I know what I need to do and how to respond.

Working with a personal fitness trainer is key in keeping me active. My personal trainer even understands mental health and makes me see how being active helps my mind. Before I met her, I never used to go to the gym; now I go two to three times a week. It’s awesome and I’ve found that I really enjoy cardio. As a city person, I find exercising at the gym is an easy option as it’s not dictated by the weather, so there are no excuses. I conveniently go straight after work on my way home. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of jumping on the treadmill for 30 minutes to get rid of any mental blocks from the day.

Going out for a walk also helps to clear my mind. I don’t question why or where I’m going any more. The thing is, going for a walk doesn’t need a purpose; it’s okay to just simply let my legs take me wherever they want to go. 

When I have a tough day I find reading books to be beneficial. In particular, self-help books on mental health and biographies of famous sports people. I find these types of books help me develop understanding and I take away little ideas that I can apply to help me get back on track. I do try to have a clear headspace when I read, so it is enjoyable rather than laboured.

Discovering the mental reasoning and the roots behind my feelings is also important for me. Digging deeper and finding out the ‘why’ to any problem means I can do the things that I know can help me to solve the root cause. Doing this also generates a richer understanding of myself.

I do little things that help de-stress me too. Playing video games on my Nintendo Switch is my favourite. I can let my body rest and allow my mind to phase out, giving it permission to unwind from a long day at work. It’s simple but it’s a really effective way to completely switch off.

It’s a balancing act with technology though, as I also find unplugging from my phone so valuable too. A simple technique I’ve discovered is dragging my Facebook application away from my main page so that I don’t see it. This avoids that subconscious click into it all the time. It’s scary how ingrained and addicted we are as a society to using our phones, but being aware of this, I take deliberate action towards putting it down. It’s nice to know that I have control over it. 

In my Chinese culture, suppressing our emotions is very much ingrained in us. It’s as if our emotions are signs of weakness, especially in working environments. So knowing this makes me aware of how important it is for me to talk. I talk with a small number of friends I can trust. It’s nice, as it means we can relate to and support each other. When I talk to others, I see that it also helps spread the idea that it’s okay to talk, especially among members of the Asian culture. 

Sticking to a weekly routine helps me feel settled. I work full-time, so it’s important for me to put things in place around that to give me satisfaction outside of my working hours. It could be as simple as scheduling a walk into my day or cooking a nice meal. My gym sessions are set in stone every Monday and Friday after work as knowing that these are my exercise days makes it easier to commit to them.

The weekends are also part of my routine as Sundays are dedicated to church. We always do our grocery shopping after church too which helps me feel prepared for the week ahead. It’s simple things like this that allow me to feel ahead of the game. Aside from this routine, we leave Saturdays free. If my wife isn’t working we take time out together with our son and do something out of routine.  

Being a Christian helps get me through some of the hard times. I put trust and faith in God that He will help me find a way through. I have the belief that all I face can be overcome. My religion has always been consistent throughout my life and has helped me on my path to wellness. 

I see my journey as a positive and a progressive experience, as I’ve come away with more understanding of myself and I am able to help others by having empathy and showing that it’s okay to open up and share. I would say I have become less arrogant and more humble through my journey. It has triggered my awareness of who I really am. 

Now with a baby boy, things are new and exciting. The best thing is that through what I’ve faced, I feel prepared for this amazing stage of fatherhood.

If it was possible to send a note back to yourself when you needed the most help, what would you write?

Jason experienced depression between the ages of 21 and 32 years old. It began when he faced significant work-related pressures in his first graduate position in Auckland.

How you felt as a result?
Lethargic. Didn’t want to do anything.
Doing simple things was hard.
Couldn’t sleep
Didn’t know what I was doing.

Did you take prescribed medication?

Were there any triggers that exacerbated your feelings?
Accepting too much work-related stress and responsibility without telling anyone or seeking help when the negative feelings exacerbated.
Financial pressure.

Was there a turning point when things started to get better?
Taking time off work.
Seeing a psychiatrist.
Talking with a counsellor.


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