Jinnie Nguyen, chairperson of Patrons’ Day 2017, is no stranger to stress. What sets her apart is how she’s made it a friend.

Over the past three months, Jinnie has sat for exams, coordinated the annual Patrons’ Day, hung out with the president and managed to keep a healthy social life. When SMU Snapshots caught her right after Patrons’ Day, this bright and cheery lady looked nothing like someone who had just spent the past week keeping late nights in school. Lucky for us, she was happy to share some stress-management tips.

For the coordination of Patrons’ Day, Jinnie credits her team for helping to ease the frustration. She recounts how the lead up to the event had been especially stressful, “we were running around to ensure all was in order to open at 3.30pm sharp. When the time came, there was no big crowd rushing in to enter, because it was just too early in the day. There was a silent moment of realisation amongst us, and we all burst out laughing after.” Jinnie softens into a smile as she tells us about how the stress quickly lifted, and the team began to truly enjoy the event they had worked tirelessly to set up.

Without the comfort of teamship, Jinnie deals with stress in the most practical manner. She questions the reason behind the stress, and uses it as a motivation tool. She refers to her own ‘microwave countdown’ analogy to elaborate on her coping mechanism; “I love accomplishing things when the countdown is going off. If I were heating something that takes two minutes to be ready, I would rush and wash all my dishes within those two minutes and feel great about the accomplishment after.”

In every sticky situation, Jinnie thinks back to this analogy to push her forward – she could either waste the two minutes by being stressed out, frustrated and negative, or she could make the most of it.

Drawing our conversation back to the theme for Patrons’ Day 2017, “Play”, Jinnie explains that, contrary to the typical idea of playing which is seen as unproductive, another type of play is to engage in activities that are relaxing and help to ease stress. Stress has the tendency to limit one’s perspective, and for Jinnie, she believes in taking time off for herself when this happens, to calm down and take charge of her emotions.

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So, what types of play does she indulge in? This Creative turns to the pen and paper, preferring to doodle and write. When stressed, she scribbles her thoughts down in her journal. She reveals that although the thoughts don’t usually make sense at first, they provide interesting insight when she flips through her journal at the end of the day.

However, when she can afford the time, painting is Jinnie’s ultimate go-to ‘play activity’ for some quiet time to reflect and create space in her life. “Playing shouldn’t be seen as being so separate from work. Start by making small, daily changes in your life that encourage new perspectives when you find yourself stuck in hyper-focused and stressful situations.