By Nadiya Nesseer (17S03B) and Carman Chew (17A01D)
The ‘holiday blues’ – is it the fear you feel when you can’t remember your estranged uncle’s name at a Christmas party? Or is it the regret that affronts you at 10pm and you realise you haven’t done anything but watch videos all day? Could it be that dread you experience when it’s New Year’s Day and you still haven’t touched any of your holiday assignments?
In this instalment of Notes from the Underground, Raffles Press (P) speaks to 2 of our counselors, Ms Woo Mei Hui (MH) and Ms Chua Kah Hwee (KH), to better understand what the holiday blues are, what we can do about it and some tips to prepare for the year ahead.
P: How would you define ‘holiday blues’ and why do they happen?
MH: Maybe for the students, it’s more of a change in their normal routine that might affect them. It’s very important to have a sense of meaning and purpose in life to feel good about yourself. During the holidays, that’s gone, because all of a sudden the usual routine has been disrupted.
Socially speaking, people go to school to meet a lot of people and obviously that lack of social interaction might also lead to feeling quite down and depressed. Having that connection, having social relationships is a big part of what makes us human. So that’s what I can think of when it has to do with the holidays: that disruption in routine and lack of meeting other people — I think you have to be much more intentional about it. If you want to meet people, you have to set it up, you have to arrange things, not just come to school and bump into them.
Some might not have the courage or facility to actually approach people and set things up, so they might feel quite lonely.
P: How would Rafflesians know if their loneliness is just temporary or if it’s something more serious that they should check out?
MH: I think definitely the length of time is something to consider. Everybody has ups and downs in their mood, but if it really persists for more than two weeks, then perhaps it’s something that they should check out. Also, the amount of functioning it affects, like if it really interferes with your daily functioning to a very great extent until you can’t even go about doing the things that you would normally do or the things you would want to do, then definitely, go and get help.
RGC (Raffles Guidance Centre), is still open during the holidays, or there are also other places you can turn to like the CHAThub at Scape Orchard, the SOS hotline is also there. Otherwise, they can always just email us or call us, our numbers and email addresses are up on the school website.
KH: Or they can reach us at the generic email — firstname.lastname@example.org
P: Would you have any advice for those studying for the upcoming focus tests during this stressful period of ‘mugging’?
KH: Well, we certainly hope they’re mugging! More often than not, we don’t think they’re mugging
P: Why is that?
MH: It’s very hard to study when you don’t have the atmosphere, like it’s easy to want to study when everyone around you is studying and caught up in exams and you feel the peer pressure from seeing everyone else doing the same thing and you’ll know it’s very important. But when it’s only a small group and everyone else is playing and having fun, mugging makes you feel very left out, so I think the conditions are not very conducive for studying your best or your hardest.
KH: And I think there’s also that switch in the mindset when holidays kick in, that come the last day of school and it’s the holiday season, even if we say that it’s the exam study period, it doesn’t quite hit most people I guess.
Looking at it from the start of November, the idea is that “I have 5 weeks, 6 weeks before Focus Tests come around”. 5-6 weeks do sound like a really long time. So there’s that perception that “I still have time, let me enjoy myself, all my friends are out playing and having fun” or “let me try an internship here and there, I still need to bump up my CV” and the peer pressure might also distract one from focusing on focus tests. One can get very easily distracted by a lot of things.
P: How should they overcome these distractions and hold on to the motivation to study?
MH: Well, I think that motivation needs to come from inside of them. The environment around them is not the most conducive but if they keep asking themselves how much they want to do this and why do they need to do this, basically, keep on reminding themselves of that, then hopefully, they’ll be able to hold on strong to the reasons they’re doing what they have to.
It’s also important for them to have structure, like a routine or a plan. I’m not saying that you should study 24/7 non-stop, it obviously needs to be reasonable and sustainable. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So if you do a little bit every day, then your brain absorbs that material a lot better. Once you’ve done what you needed to for the day, then you can go off with your friends as well.
KH: I think it would also be helpful to link up with friends, form your own study groups. It’s always good to spend some time revising together or getting down to keep in touch with your schoolwork. If you get the basics done in Year 5, then when you go into Year 6 and the syllabus picks up a lot more and the pace of teaching and absorbing gets a lot more intense, regardless of whether you have the focus tests of not, it would always help to just keep in touch with what you’ve covered in Year 5.
You can always just do a half a day of study and then lunch, a movie or shopping in the afternoon, whichever way it works. Get the work done and then you can still enjoy yourself for the rest of the day. So for a couple of hours in the morning just to do a practice paper with a couple of friends who are willing to sit with you to do revision. They can help you out with some readings along the way, that would give some form of encouragement to those who are sitting for the focus tests.
And so I guess, I appeal to RI kids to be a little more compassionate, understanding and more supportive towards one another, to be mindful that in your group of friends, so-and-so has to take the focus test, so [find out] how [you] can help and give a little more support in practical terms.
MH: Or even offering to tutor, if you’re strong in certain subjects, you can offer to tutor your friend because teaching is one of the best ways to learn the material yourself. If you can just be a source of help for your friend, it would really be encouraging.
KH: We’ve always talked about ‘being inclusive’, so another way one can be inclusive is rather than posting all of these lovely photos of everyone having fun elsewhere while the one who has to take the focus test sees all these Instagram photos and being very depressed, be inclusive and reach out; have the fun together but also study together.