Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset: Coping Complications

Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Aiko Yeo (23A01B) and Venkatesan Ranjana (23A01D)

Cover image by Johnathan Lim (23S03M)

Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.

“How do you cope with hectic JC life?”

– Overwhelmed Olive

Dear Overwhelmed Olive, 

We completely understand where you’re coming from: a place of disaffection, perhaps even resignation, at the perpetual juggling act that comes with JC life. Even at the best of times, between umpteen tutorials, lectures and extracurriculars, most of us struggle to stay afloat amidst the surging currents that are our heavy commitments. Rest assured that you’re not alone in the draining two-year episode of overcommitment that is JC. Even for us writers, this meta concern resonates deeply: we might have struggled to meet the deadline for this article.

As busy JC students, we are swamped with responsibilities. However, with the help of healthy coping mechanisms, we can mitigate the torment of feeling time-pressed to lead a fulfilling and vibrant JC life worth remembering. 

A Little Goes a Long Way

As trite as this advice may be, a sustainable and healthy work-life balance achieved through planning our priorities and time is crucial to coping with the pressures of a busy JC career. 

Our lives exist across multiple domains; we might simultaneously be a student, an athlete, a musician, a creative, a family member, a friend and a partner. The differing demands for each role may conflict with each other in our schedules. Undoubtedly, this pressure to accommodate and satisfy all our responsibilities may be daunting.

As unfortunate as this reality is, we cannot extend the fixed 24 hours of each day (within which you should spend at least 6 to 8 hours sleeping!). However, how we spend our days is somewhat within our control, though it might not always feel this way. As free agents of our time, we must consistently aim to apportion these 24 hours to the different domains of our lives by priority. 

Your priorities may differ from your peers, and that’s alright! What’s important is that you understand your goals  in this phase of your life and how to accomplish them. Plan your time according to your goals in order of priority, and you’ll be on your way to establishing a sense of control of your life regardless of how hectic your schedule may be. 

The Firmest Iron Grip Is Your Own

By  planning your priorities and time, you’ve made the commendable first step towards coping with hectic JC life. But, a great plan is only as good as its execution, which brings us to our next step: discipline. 

Time management remains an aspiration unless you honour your priorities to achieve your goals. Discipline holds the key towards unlocking the door to achieving your goals. 

For creatures of habit, establishing and following a routine may help in achieving your goals in  a timely and efficient manner. For creatures of improvisation, disciplined spontaneity may help you achieve your goals. Having an overarching plan with macro-objectives allows you to adapt the micro-details as you make progress towards attaining your goals. Ultimately, discipline does not elude any specific personality. It is up to you to determine what organisation style works best for you to better manage your time and commitments in your bustling JC life. 

At certain junctures, you may reflect upon the headway made in achieving your goals. You may feel disheartened at the apparent lack of progress, but don’t be! Contrary to popular belief, goals may not always be daily tasks on a checklist. Even with sustained and diligent effort, long-term goals may only bear fruit in weeks or months. Persevere on, and you’ll soon reap your sweet and deserved rewards. 

What’s the Size of Your Plate?

The most overwhelming struggle is sometimes watching others stay afloat despite their heavier commitments, while we are left feeling incompetent for drowning because of our seemingly “lesser” workloads.

It’s difficult to stomach this, but we are each working with unique bandwidths. This means that some of your friends will be able to handle more commitments than you can, and that is completely alright. 

Whether it is a matter of different experiences that have built up different habits, or a different combination of external factors, it is not rational to compare our performance with our peers. Admittedly, especially in these cases, we aren’t always rational, so here are a few tips for keeping your focus on your own plate and learning how to fill it in an optimal way.

It is easy to overcommit before you realise you’re on the verge of exhausting yourself, especially when a multitude of new opportunities come your way. Ideally, we should pick and choose our fights based on our strengths and interests rather than overextending ourselves by taking up every opportunity that seems prestigious. 

For instance, if you would enjoy volunteering at a community park rather than participating in a Biology research programme, pick volunteering! The influx of energy you would gain from the seemingly less impressive option will sustain you over the course of that journey and allow you to take away more valuable insights.

But alas, many of us inevitably overcommit and land ourselves in a sticky predicament: our 24 hours feel too packed for comfort. This feeling of entrapment from our never-ending to-do list is certainly an unpleasant one. We can, however, turn an overwhelming workload into a manageable one and regain control over our personal situation. 

It may be useful to renegotiate with yourself on what must be done now and what can be done later. The nifty Someday-Maybe-Later list is a tool that helps you focus on immediate deliverables for commitments we make to ourselves and others. Postponing negotiables and tackling them at a later date realistically emphasises that the immutable reality of time does not necessarily mean trade-offs on our goals. When circumstances permit, you can always return to your Someday-Maybe-Later list and work towards achieving your heart’s desires. 

Even when faced with a flurry of demands, another thing you would do well not to forget is  the well-stated importance of self-care. Don’t just think of face masks and podcasts (though we can speak on the merits of both!) but also remember not to fall into the persistent trap of underestimating the importance of sleep, nutritious food, and positive self-affirmation. While your resident Aunties and Uncles try to come close, you are your own best ally.

Ultimately, no one knows you better than yourself – we can take advice from our peers, teachers, and parents about what opportunities they think might be best for you to utilise, but only you know how to commit just the right amount. It is prudent that we do right by ourselves,  so be honest with yourself and embrace both your interests and your limits.

In short, to the worried J1 or the bone-tired J2 reading this: JC can be hard. But it also can be the best time of our lives. 

We wish you all the best and have full faith in you.

Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset

If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Tuesday from 2.30 – 4.30 p.m, Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m., Thursday 2.30 – 4.30 p.m. and Friday 1.30 – 4.30 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at or fill in our request form at our website

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