Rather than let job stress get the better of them, these four high- fliers have found ways to conquer it. Here are their secrets to decompressing at the end of a long work day.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Rather than let job stress get the better of them, these four high- fliers have found ways to conquer it. Here are their secrets to decompressing at the end of a long work day.

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Dr Jade Kua, 37, consultant at the Department of Emergency Medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital

Not only is she a doctor who does weekend and night shifts, Dr Kua is also a mother of six, programme director of the Dispatcher Assisted First Responder (DARE) Programme, president of the Association of Women Doctors Singapore and managing committee member of Henderson Senior Citizens’ Home (HSCH). Even though it means she perpetually has her hands full, she’s just “thankful that the stress of her job translates into something meaningful for someone”. 

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She enjoys cultural pursuits, and loves visiting the National Gallery and attending the Singapore Arts Festival. When Dr Kua travels to London and New York City, she makes it a point to stop by art galleries like the Tate Modern and Museum of Modern Art. “I enjoy exploring this world, where so much love is poured into creating beauty, or to make a statement beyond language barriers,” she says. She also browses Christie’s and Bonhams auctions, explaining that she appreciates the stories behind art, jewellery and antiques. At home, she practises calligraphy and takes modern calligraphy classes at Bynd Artisan.


Dr Kua is actively involved in many organisations related to her field of work. At DARE, she educates the community on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which she believes is important in reducing fatalities from heart attacks. As part of the managing committee of the HSCH, she helps in the areas of activity planning, finances and logistics, in addition to spending time with the elderly residents. “Volunteering here is something I’ve been doing with my parents since I was a child, so it’s part of my normal life, not something I feel burdened by,” she reveals.


As a mother of six children aged one to 18 years, she tries to spend as much time as possible with them (“it’s important for bonding”) and with other family members. “If I’m not working on Sundays, I have lunch with my family,” she says. She also takes the kids with her as volunteers at her community service events and to serve lunch at the HSCH. Sometimes, they even tag along on weekend duty at DARE’s CPR events. “We just seize the moment and do stuff that we enjoy together whenever the opportunity arises.”

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Su-Ann Heng, 28, Fox Sports’ resident golf pundit and presenter for all major golf properties on the Fox Sports Network in Asia

With at least six shows for major golf events and hours of live coverage to present, Su-Ann spends an average of six hours a day taping for various programmes. And that’s not all: As a professional golf coach with the Phil Brew Golf Academy at Orchid Country Club, she’s on the greens herself 10 to 15 hours every week. Add monthly hosting gigs and miscellaneous tapings to the mix, and you’ve got a schedule that’s packed to the brim. “Thankfully, I do what I love for work every day,” she says. “Being passionate about what I do certainly helps me manage the level of stress.”


“I once read a quote which suggested that people’s biggest problem is thinking that they shouldn’t have problems. Stress will always present itself, so I do my best to not let the little things get to me, and control what I can, to be a better person,” she says. This means setting aside 10 to 15 minutes first thing every morning to scribble down in her journal what she is grateful for, and what she wants in her life. “It helps put things in perspective and puts me in the right frame of mind to take on the day’s challenges.”


Waking up early for a workout? No problem for Su-Ann. “It’s important to start the day right. Getting a workout in is essential for me if I want to have more energy and stay more alert during the day,” she enthuses. Up to six times a week, 90 minutes at a time, Su-Ann is either at Fitness First or Ufit Clinic, working her way through kick-boxing, high-intensity circuits, and weight or cardio training. She also swims and plays sports such as tennis and table tennis.


As she is constantly surrounded by all things golf, you’d think that the last thing Su-Ann would want is to be around the sport on her days off . But you’d be wrong. On the contrary, she plays even more rounds to de-stress! “I still love being out there, enjoying the outdoors, the quiet, my friends’ company… we listen to music, make little bets and have a good time,” she explains. “It’s nice to be able to play without being too concerned about the end result for a change!”

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Emmalyne Pang, 26, senior wedding planner at The Wedding Entourage

Handling the once-ina- lifetime events of at least 20 couples every year is no mean feat, as this involves planning each wedding from start to finish, including the bridal shoots. Emmalyne often works seven days a week to accommodate her clients’ schedules. “[But] I make time for my loved ones and the things that I like – I think that’s very important,” she says.


Every Hungry Ghost Festival – when demand for wedding planning is low – Emmalyne travels with her team of three planners. Besides getting in the usual shopping and sightseeing, they also brainstorm, get inspiration and sometimes even source wedding-related items. “We get inspired by new surroundings and experiences – so it doesn’t feel like work at all.”


As she has a keen passion for the arts, Emmalyne takes oil painting, calligraphy, woodwork and letterpress classes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. “I try to go for a class each week to learn something outside of work – it’s a break from the daily grind and allows me to develop diff erent perspectives,” she says. She’s also committed to learning Bahasa Melayu at a language centre in Bugis – she has the support of her boss, so she can leave work earlier for classes.


Nothing beats stress for Emmalyne like pampering herself or going shopping. She sets time aside every month to treat herself to a nail art session at Nail Lodge in Serangoon Gardens, or a haircut at Hairloom at Shaw Tower. Otherwise, retail therapy at Ion Orchard followed by a spot of tea at TWG Tea Salon & Boutique at Takashimaya D.S. it is. “The ambience is calming, and reminds me of the beautiful tea rooms in Paris. Service is also impeccable – the staff remember the teas I like, and always recommend new pastries to try!”

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Valerie Madon , 41, head of Creative Shop for South-east Asia at Facebook

Previously one of Singapore’s most influential creative directors in advertising (she was most recently J. Walter Thompson Singapore’s chief creative officer), Valerie is no stranger to intense pressure and high expectations. In her current role, she is responsible for the marketing initiatives for South-east Asia on Facebook, and various creative projects for Facebook’s clients. “The long hours in my previous advertising jobs taught me how to strike a balance. It’s important to draw a line between work and relaxation, and to focus on one’s personal well-being and happiness [outside of the office].”


“I really enjoy cooking. I was raised in a Peranakan family, so I try to cook Peranakan dishes on special occasions. On days when I’m busy, I whip up easy Italian meals using fresh ingredients,” she says. A family favourite: pasta with lemon juice, basil and mozzarella cheese. She’s also started dabbling in ice-cream making. “You have the luxury of splurging on ingredients to create a flavour that’s really rich. I once spent close to $50 on strawberries to make strawberry ice cream [that turned out to be] really flavourful – it’s something you won’t be able to find in stores as it’s too costly to serve!”


“My family and I try to have a good mix between cheap local food and something more lavish,” she says. Her go-to comfort food on weekend mornings: prawn noodles from Ghim Moh Hawker Centre. To date, her most memorable dining experience has been at the three-Michelinstarred Joel Robuchon Restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa. “It was very expensive, but it’s one of those places that makes you realise what value is. The experience and the food were just amazing.”


As a nature lover, Valerie prefers to visit countries with beautiful landscapes, to get away from hectic city life. “Last year, my husband and I took the kids to Sri Lanka, where they got to see a different side of the world – Singapore is not exactly the most accurate representation of reality. Besides, the beaches there are stunning!” She and her husband are also fans of visiting isolated boutique resorts, the most memorable of which was the Nihiwatu resort at Sumba Island, Indonesia. “It’s the only resort on the island, and the surroundings are completely untouched. I felt completely at ease there.”