Feeling more stressed than blessed? Unlock the key to a happy and healthy life with tips on how to take better care of yourself from four women who are at the top of their game
In Singapore, we often measure success by how busy we are. More often than not, many of us will live by the mantra, ‘the busier, the better’ because we think it means we’re being productive. Throw in being stressed out and always on the go, and you can see why this life we’re setting up for ourselves is unfulfilling and unsustainable. If your days are starting to feel crammed with activity and there’s no space to reflect and take stock, then maybe it’s time to try becoming “unbusy”. What is this? It’s learning to take care of yourself and giving yourself time to prioritise practices like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. It’s a difficult concept to wrap our heads around because there’s a sense of underlying privilege associated with taking time for yourself these days. But being “unbusy” doesn’t mean doing nothing. It simply means taking the time to just be you so you can live a happier and calmer life. Don’t know where to begin? Gain some insight on exactly how to step away from being busy all the time with advice from four women who are living their best life.
Dr Pei Ying Sim
Be Mindful Of Indulgence
“We are what we eat,” affirms Dr Pei Ying Sim, a nutritionist who co-founded her own wholesome snack brand, Myola Foods, so that she could help people make better food choices. A big advocate of cooking for herself instead of eating out, Dr Pei Ying stresses that being mindful of what you put into your body is the first step to leading a cleaner, leaner life. “A balanced diet can best be achieved when I cook at home. My background in nutrition has helped me to always be conscious of what I consume. I pick foods that are natural; without added sugar and unnecessary preservatives,” she explains. “My diet is comprised of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and high protein grains. As for drinks, I mostly hydrate with water, herbal teas, and fresh coconut juice.” Getting enough sleep, which she says most people take for granted, also takes a place of great importance for the good doctor who tries to get at least eight hours of shut eye so she can give her body the rest it craves. Meditation, too, plays a big part in helping her to keep life simple, happy and healthy. “Just like brushing my teeth, meditation is my daily practice of being grateful and expressing gratitude. Every day I list three things that I am grateful for. Some days I feel grateful for the simplest thing such as being alive and breathing. Most days, I thank the sun for always giving and that brings a smile to my face,” says the 33-year-old wellness advocate. “At the end of the day, we are all here for a purpose and life is a journey of discovery. Every moment becomes a memory and we have every minute to be grateful for, every hour to choose what’s best for us and every day to transform our life.”
Dr Felicia Tan
Nurture Yourself and Others
Health, once lost, can never be regained. A person who knows this all too well is Dr Felicia Tan, a breast specialist at FeM Surgery, who can’t stress the importance of taking care of one’s body enough. “Regular health screenings are a must because prevention is always better than finding a cure for a disease. The average adult needs to get checked at least once a year to keep track of their health status and address any deviations from the norm. In most cases, metabolic diseases can be addressed with a simple change in diet or lifestyle rather than medications,” says the medical surgeon. “Any disease detected in its infancy stage is more easily treated with good outcomes compared to advanced stages. At my practice in MacPherson, we offer several tiers of comprehensive health screening packages at affordable prices to encourage patients to come forward to get their health checked. There is simply no excuse not to get screened.” Along with regular check-ups, Dr Tan is committed to finding small but practical ways to connect with others and spread positivity. “Do things that add to the benefit of others or yourself. You will find that in giving, one receives even more in unexpected ways,” says the 40-year-old, who practises what she preaches with the FeM Angels, a group of doctors who go overseas to carry out health checks on communities in developing countries. “Think of what you are doing every day and find ways to impact another life through your actions, but be prepared to expect obstacles and challenges in everything you do as well. By having this mindset, I don’t see a problem as a problem. Instead, I see it as a challenge waiting to be tackled.”
After a debilitating shoulder injury in 2015 that forced her to turn to surgery, Elvina Cheong turned to yoga as a form of rehabilitation – and hasn’t looked back since. “I make sure I sweat daily! Starting my day by working up a good sweat gives me clarity and helps me focus better. It rids my body of all the stagnant energy that has built up overnight,” says the certified yoga teacher, who founded three buzzy Freedom Yoga studios, with the most recent one opening its doors just last year at Amoy Street. “Another tip I live by is not jam-packing my schedule. It’s so easy to keep saying yes to things and suddenly finding yourself bogged down with tasks. Instead, I limit my days to not having more than three big ticket items to tend to, and making sure I have some ‘me’ time. It’s something I still struggle with as a business owner, mum to my fur kids, daughter, friend, and teacher, but that I’m trying to get better at.” The communications degree graduate affirms that quiet time is essential in boosting her overall happiness quotient. “I like to either, sit in silence and focus on my breath, or journal to reflect and gain more insight to help me understand myself and my growth better,” she reveals. “I also put both my personal and work phone away once I’ve gotten home and showered. This allows me to be more present with my loved ones, pets, and myself.” Identifying what brings her joy also helps lift Elvina out of a funk whenever she feels bogged down with too much work stress. As far as the things that bring a smile to her face: “My favourite people, food like mala that I absolutely love, yoga, reading and my fur kids.”
FITNESS INDUSTRY DISRUPTOR
Sweat It Out
True to her designation, Payal Kadakia of ClassPass, unsurprisingly loves to pepper her week with multiple workouts that leave her feeling energised. But the first thing the 35-year-old CEO and start-up founder does to power up her morning involves her smartphone. “As an entrepreneur, the first thing I do is check my email and quickly answer any urgent messages.” But after that’s done and dusted, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee to kick-start her day, she goes for a 30-minute run – or if time is really not on her side – squeezes in a 10-minute core workout at home. “Even when things get really busy at the office, I’ll always find the time to go for a midday or evening class just so I can get my creative juices flowing,” she explains. “When I need to let go of some steam while thinking about any big meetings or decisions I have to make, I’ll put on some Bollywood music and just dance. I started training in Indian classical dance and folk dancing when I was three years old and it has always been one of my passions.” It was her love of dance that lead to her light-bulb idea of starting ClassPass, a nearly half a billion dollar start-up that makes exercise easy and accessible. “I wanted to help others find what I’ve found in dance. I also love helping other people live their best lives, that’s one of the biggest reasons I started ClassPass! I get so much out of helping other people achieve their goals,” says the gutsy entrepreneur. “With the busyness that can surround our days, health and wellness can feel difficult to prioritise, but it’s a big source of happiness, so my best advice is to get active.”
NEED MORE WAYS TO UNBUSY YOURSELF? TRY THESE…
1 EMBRACE SPACE
Got a sudden cancellation? We get so used to leading crammed-up lives that if we get an unexpected break in pace we immediately replace it with yet another arrangement.
HOW? Instead of searching for outside stimuli, look inwards and invest time in futureplanning. Our society values extroverts, but a little introversion can be a real treat. Spend half a day taking stock of your life, your goals and your aims to reap deeper, longterm benefits.
2 BE “GOOD ENOUGH”
Often our natural perfectionist streak makes us busier than we need to be. We all want our homes to look great and serve friends an impressive meal, but if it means a whole day of cleaning and another day of shopping and cleaning, there’s a danger your get-together will be more exhausting rather than fun.
HOW? Take a step back and ask: “What’s my realistic ideal?” Focus on what you want from any event by using the three “What else?” technique. It’s your third answer that will help you discover the real crux of what’s important to you.
3 CHANGE GEARS
Putting our foot on the accelerator at work can make us productive in the short-term, but the culture of non-stop achievement can spill over so our home life is conducted at breakneck speed too.
HOW? When you get free time, reconnect with what really matters to you and create some much-needed empty space. Have the confidence to say no to the invites that don’t make your heart sing. Listen to your body too. Health niggles can act as early warning signs that we need to slow down.
4 BACK OFF
There’s no quicker way of filling your head space than by taking everyone else’s issues on board. Women can fall into the trap of playing the role of “nurturing parent”, looking after our grown-up children, our friends or even our partners.
HOW? Of course, you want to be caring and supportive, but instead of trying to think of solutions, try asking, “What do you think might help you?” Boosting their confidence to feel empowered to solve their own problems is far more helpful than thinking you can fix them.
5 LOG OUT!
Choosing a cafe for lunch used to be simple. Now we’re online, checking menus, reviews and the place’s interiors before we’ve even left home. Research shows any repeated pattern of behaviour becomes hardwired into our brains, so this habit only gets worse with time.
HOW? Be more decisive when it comes to online research. Set a deadline. It could be 10 minutes, then stick to it. Counteract digital overload by reconnecting with the real world – take a walk to refocus.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NATALYA MOLOK / MAIN PHOTO: 123RF.COM