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4 Super Cheap Ways Anxious Singaporeans Can De-Stress

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Joanne Poh

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Spend an afternoon at Raffles Place, and you’ll feel the stress practically sticking to you. People run stoney-faced from the MRT station to their offices, from their offices to lunch and back again. The only time things finally slow down is when night falls, and when everyone either heads to the bar to drown their sorrows, or trudges wearily back home on the MRT.

Just reading that made you feel tired, right? But how does one de-stress when the world just doesn’t want you to?—the phone never stops beeping with emails from your boss, you’re constantly reminded by Facebook and Instagram that your friends all have better lives than you, a beer at the nearest bar costs a ridiculous $15 and a relaxing massage would be nice but you really don’t want to pay $100.

Fear not. Hear are four cheap or free ways to de-stress. Dedicate an hour or two to one of the following with your phone and laptop turned off, and you’re guaranteed to feel better

1. Take a free meditation class

Everyone from Steve Jobs to the Buddha has recommended meditation, but it’s so darned hard to force yourself to sit down and actually do it. Most of us end up giving up after 3 seconds when the urge to check Facebook overrides the desire to sit still.

Taking a free meditation class enables you to enjoy the benefits of meditation without falling prey to your own lousy discipline. Plus you also enjoy the sense of accomplishment from having left the class and participated in a group activity.

Here are numerous groups offering free meditation sessions on Meetup. If you have more time (like, 10 days!), there is a free Vipassana Meditation Course on St John’s island.

2. Do some exercise, any exercise

Whenever patients are facing depression or anxiety, psychiatrists frequently tell them to get daily exercise. We all know about those endorphins, but our laziness gets the better of us, which is why many Singaporeans knock off work only to go home and spend the rest of the night surfing the internet on their laptops or phones.

Do some form of exercise when you’re feeling stressed out and you will almost certainly feel better. For your own sake, pick something you don’t absolutely hate so you’re not completely put off trying it more than once.

You might decide to run around the block, work out at an ActiveSG gym, swim a couple of laps at your condo pool or a public swimming pool, follow a yoga or workout routine on YouTube, or do cartwheels in your living room. Whatever it is, keep it up for an hour and you’ll find yourself feeling a lot better, no matter how tired you were before.

3. Have lunch alone outdoors

Stress often hits its peak during the workday, when you realise you’ve got so much work you’re going to have to cancel your post-work plans again.

And while you might love (or hate) your colleagues to death, spending lunchtime with them often heightens your stress even more. Bitching about your boss, bemoaning the sad state of your company or fretting about the assignments looming ahead of you may sound like much-needed catharsis, but you’ll find yourself feeling even more exhausted at the end of the day because you haven’t had the chance to disconnect.

Da bao your lunch and have it somewhere outdoors—not at the food court where you’re surrounded by office workers hovering over you hoping to grab your seat when you leave—alone and in silence, without checking your phone every three seconds, and you’ll find it really recharges you.

Pick a bench in a leafy part of town. If you work near Shenton Way hop on over to the Ann Siang area; those over at the Raffles Place side might gravitate to the area near the Asian Civilisations Museum. When you get back to work, your brain will feel a lot better having had that hour of calm, trust me.

4. Immerse yourself in learning something new that has nothing to do with your career

They say that when you get into the flow state—the state where you’re completely immersed in something and undistracted by the outside world and your damn smartphone—that’s when human beings are happiest. That’s why getting work done when you’re trying to surf Facebook at the same time is so much more frustrating and—yes—more boring than working with full concentration.

Pick a skill you’ve always wanted to master, and then dedicate your evening to working on it with no distractions. If you don’t want to pay for a class, pick something for which there are plenty of YouTube tutorials.

It doesn’t have to be something “useful”–goal-oriented Singaporeans often suck all the pleasure out of their lives by only doing things they think will be economically productive. Don’t do anything that makes you think of work or that will just augment your stress—so, sorry, doing the homework for your SkillsFuture course doesn’t count. Heck, if you want to, go practise pen spinning or juggling fruit. There are YouTube tutorials for those, too.

There’s so much you can learn with the help of video tutorials—learn to cook a new dish for dinner, play the harmonica, get started with calligraphy, do a handstand, whatever. The idea is it to channel your energy into something that’s 100% recreational. It’ll not only take your mind off whatever’s stressing you out, but also inject a bit of pep into a humdrum life.

What do you do to de-stress when life gets overwhelming? Share your tips in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.