Every day, we go through the daily motions of going to school, going to work, or even doing chores– all of which define our livelihood and position on Earth. The lucky ones get to do what they enjoy for a living or eventually learn to enjoy it, but many of us trudge through conditions that we have to settle for, either by choice or due to constraints. But after all, c’est la vie, isn’t it?
City dwellers like ourselves spend much of our time indoors. We are used to keeping to the clock and are almost always under some sort of stress. The students of Singapore Management University (SMU) are no different, given that we live in a society where education is paramount. It is now that time of the year when we start setting objectives and seeking ways to fulfil them; from joining a new Co-Curricular Activity, to securing a placement for an internship or in an overseas university. The result, however, is that we end up worrying too much about it and in doing so, neglect to remember the real aim of pursuing it: to improve our skills and widen our depth of knowledge. Certainly, that is the main purpose of our education, but to think of these experiences less as struggles but more as something that adds value to our lives may ease the process of going through them.
We all have our own ways of coping with such stress. Some choose to seek help and professional guidance from career counsellors and professors, while others talk it out with our close friends over a meal. Regardless of our preferred outlet, it is hard to ignore the aesthetic architecture and convenient location of the facilities available to us, both of which help us unwind and momentarily take our mind off of things. A prime example of this is The Basement, which functions as the university lounge, complete with Foosball tables and beanbag corners. The rooftop atop the newly opened Kwa Geok Choo Library is another area that offers one brief respite from SMU. In comparison to other campuses in Singapore, it is safe to say that we in SMU, are a blessed lot.
View from the roof of the newly opened Kwa Geok Choo Library at night. Photograph by Audrey Cheong
Having a school in town has its perks as well! For one, access to entertainment and leisure in the city is especially easy. Students can pop by the Singapore Art Museum or the National Museum of Singapore to seek solace in its quiet hallways and artwork, or simply to ruminate in their thoughts. With so many shopping malls in the vicinity, taking some time off to browse around and get your mind off of studies for a while is so easy that a pinch of self-restraint is sometimes necessary to prevent ourselves from being too carried away. Inspiration and motivation in tangible and intangible form are plentiful in our surroundings; we just need to loosen our grip on what we can’t control and remember to breathe, taking in the little things in our environment that often go unappreciated– like a gentle breeze ruffling through the trees or the hum of traffic in the distance.
Scene from the Singapore Night Festival 2016, with attractions on the SMU campus green. Photograph by Audrey Cheong.
Installation on the façade of the National Museum of Singapore during the Singapore Night Festival 2016, next to SMU School of Accountancy. Photograph by Audrey Cheong.
Try as we might though, minor stresses always exist in the background; it is arguably part of life. However, such conditions are sometimes exacerbated by content that we see on social media. Our tendency to compare ourselves to others is often strengthened the longer we spend on such platforms, where fellow users often find satisfaction in displaying how well they are doing or how much they have accomplished.
While it can occasionally act as motivation for ourselves to work harder to attain similar goals, more often than not, we subject ourselves to unnecessary criticism. “I don’t have what they have” or “I wish I was as good looking” are common examples. Such self-critique tends to have a demoralising effect on us, subconsciously adding self-imposed stress and expectations that loom over maintaining our own wellbeing. Sometimes, taking a break from social media can help us reassess what our goals are and help us remember what we want for ourselves without being overly influenced by others.
To be more mindful of ourselves, to notice and evaluate our thoughts and actions, can help us recalibrate our mindsets. We are quick to respond to external situations, but rarely do we take stock of what forms in our minds until it gets the better of us. While some of us might think it is not worth the effort to take a little time to relax, observe, and reflect, it enables us to gain alternative perspectives that can improve our way of responding to the stressful situations that we face.
It is nothing criminal, but instead of being bogged down by the responsibilities that noose around our necks, we can ease its overbearing presence by being mindful, aware, and attentive, to both ourselves and our surroundings. Who knows? It may offer you a fresh perspective or simply induce you to savour the small joys in life that too often pass us by.