It’s another year already! Happy Chinese New Year!

chinese new year 2015

Bak kwa, pineapple tarts, and love letters are among the things we look forward to this time of year. Ang baos can be a source of cheer (or cheerful pain), depending on whether you’re receiving or giving them. Some of us survive the awkward questions, gossips, and intergenerational social interactions during this festive season in much better form than others.

The two days off this week for visiting relatives and hosting guests at home can actually be more stressful than it should be.

In fact, cleaning the house in time is a source of stress. Clearing out boxes of nostalgia from our dusty cupboards can push our emotional buttons. Stocking up on raw foods in the overfull fridge and freezer or arranging for a place for the family to dine on reunion night can also be another source of stress. Heavy conversations at the table of tense reunion dinners are also things we don’t look forward to.

So here are some tips to enjoy the holidays!

1. Try some cleaning hacks to get it done faster

Try these 36 creative solutions and these other 50 tips for a sparkling house. It also helps to not aim for perfection but have realistic de-cluttering goals for you and your family.

2. Know what you will and won’t eat before hand
For those who can’t have lots of salt, oil, protein, and/or simple carbohydrates such as sugar (e.g., those with diabetes), it’s helpful to know beforehand which foods are on the “okay” list and which aren’t. While it’s wise to indulge in moderation and engage in smarter eating, it’s helpful to look up that information in this list of Chinese New Year foods here and here before visitations start.

3. Try these stress management strategies
If you don’t manage to stick to your food plan on Day 1, you can always get back to it on Day 2. And for getting out sticky situations (though sugary nian gao fried with egg is rather good and is highly recommended, especially at this time of year), try these tips from Drive.SG. Negotiating family members can also be tricky: Try these tips for communicating effectively.

4. Tips for parents
One of the top tips from the experts involves lowering your expectations, while another is about being flexible with schedules. Read more in our previous blog post here.

5. Exercise to de-stress
It’s the New Year. So that means you can’t use the scissors or knife. You can’t clean or sweep anything. But traditions didn’t say you can’t go for a walk, job, a game of friendly badminton, or a swim. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. It can be a walk to the Chingay parade (1 March 2015), the Open House at the Singapore Philatelic Museum (19 to 20 Feb 2015), the night shows in Kreta Ayer (till 18 Feb 2015), goat (kid) feeding and photography exhibit at the Singapore Zoo (18 to 22 Feb 2015), or the floral displays in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay (to 8 March 2015).

6. Spend time sharing traditions with the family
Here’s a list of why we celebrate the way we celebrate Chinese New Year! Don’t forget to relax, sleep in, and enjoy the company of your friends and family during the festivities.

Happy Eco Day!

It’s World Environment Day!

Happy Eco Day!

Last year’s theme was Think.Eat.Save – a message about food wastage. This year’s event coincides with the Singapore International Water Week. We can take this opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint at the office. It’s also a good time to take stock:

1. Going Green

  • Use canvas and cloth bags at the office and supermarket.
  • Use double-printing and recycle the other side when you print single-sided.
  • Stack a bunch of used A5 envelopes and use them like a notepad.
  • Use shredded paper for fragile packaging.
  • Switch to mugs and real cutlery. Or use biodegradable cornware. Or bring home and wash for a second cycling of non-biodegradable plastic cups and cutlery.
  • Save the extra paper napkins you inadvertently took at Starbucks for a rainy day.
  • Ask the auntie at the hawker centre to pack your food in your own tupperware.
  • Bring your own flask to take away your favourite teh halia.
  • Fill your own tumbler of boiled water instead of buying distilled or purified water!
  • Encourage your office canteen to use paper boxes instead of plastic ones.

2. Staying on top of things at the office

  • Here’s a checklist to help you get organized at the office.
  • 20 useful tips from Real Simple to help you declutter efficiently.
  • Pininterest illustrates the ways to stop things from straying from their place.
  • A little thought goes a long way: 10 office decluttering tricks
  • Having difficulty organizing your office space? Here are 21 tips.

3. Shortcuts to keeping things tidy at home

4. Self-help for would-be hoarders

It’s good time to reorganize, reflect, recycle!

Happy Earth Day!

It’s World Earth Day today!

Happy World Earth Day!

This time last year we were decreasing our light pollution at Earth Hour and dressing down at the office to stay cool with less air-conditioning. With all the lights switched off on the little red dot, it’s a good time to spend time with family and friends in ways that we used to know:

1. It’s a good night for star gazing!

  • Take out your camera and leave your shutter on bulb setting. You could try light painting with the fast moving traffic and floating kites from Marina Barrage. Or you could take some night shots of the city skyline and Marina Bay Sands. Bring along some oven-roasted curry puffs and samosas, dim sum, and a flask of tea to keep you going through the evening.
  • Picnic under the stars on Fort Canning. You don’t have to do this only once a year for Shakespeare in the Park. Cart your baguette, Edam, cabernet sauvignon, smoked salmon canapes, bruschetta, and grapes to the green to gaze at the stars. Don’t forget your mat, repellent, and fan!
  • Organize a small soiree at the Symphony Lake in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Pack your own home-baked date-and-figgy pudding, a flask of homemade hot chocolate, a handful of hazelnuts and almonds, for an evening with the croaking frogs, chirping nightjars, and hooting owls.

2. Spend time with people you care about

  • Switch off your apps and chill out.
  • Spend time catching up with friends.
  • Play jenga, taboo, settlers, or monopoly (the card game version) to keep the energetic amused, with some konnyaku jelly on standby to keep your energy up!

3. Be a tourist in your own country

  • Explore Little India. Buy your brinjal (aubergine, eggplant) at the night market on the streets of Dunlop, Dickson, and Campbell Lane. Enjoy the peranakan-themed tiles on the houses on Petain Road.
  • Wander around Haji Lane and Arab Street like a tourist. The mini antique toy musuem on Arab Street will make you all nostalgic and gooey, while having to explain the toys to your little ones at the Mint – Musuem of Toys at Seah Street not far away will make you feel knowledgeable and wise (yes, and old).
  • Appreciate the juxtaposition of Sri Mariammam Temple, Jamae (Chulia) Mosque, on Pagoda Street and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.
  • Join the Night Safari at the Zoo (again)! It’s a good night as any to see the leopard, tigers, fishing cat, tapir, and Sambar deer.

Along with stress management strategies, exercise, even if it’s only walking around the neighbourhood or exploring a toy musuem, is a helpful way to manage your stress. Make time to reconnect with your friends, family, your environment and yourself. It’s good for your mental wellbeing!

Do something about it

Do something about it

The fifth day of Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) was also World Cancer Day.

It seems a good time to take stock of our health. Especially now that we’ve been let loose from the dominion of uncontrolled pineapple tart scoffing and have been set free from unrestricted access to yu sheng, under the auspices of generating bounteousness and plenitude with the humble shredded carrot, cucumber, radish, yam, pomelo, plum sauce and ginger.

A recent article in the Guardian reported cancer rates for women in the UK to be linked to a lack of exercise. And although local cancer rates differ from those in other countries, the most frequent cancers in the local population – colorectal and breast for men and women respectively (refer to this report for facts and figures) – are associated with low intake of fruits and vegetables and sedentary low-exercise lifestyles (see this fact sheet on colorectal cancer and this fact sheet on breast cancer from the National Registry of Diseases Singapore).

Even for cancers which are less frequently occurring, such as non-small cell lung cancer (details in a Mind Your Body article, 4 Nov 2010), targeted treatments are improving rates of recovery as well as remission. Even advanced lung cancer patients are living longer locally because of targeted treatments (CNA, 30 Nov 2013). Immune therapies which shrink the tumour are also being made available thanks to the advancement of research in this area. And new breakthroughs happen on a regular basis: “Sticky balls may stop cancer spreading” (BBC News, 9 Jan 2014).

Cancer research receives a colossal amount of funding worldwide (see this blog entry about cancer funding from the NY Times), but it’s not really going anywhere unless we do something about the things that we do know. And we know that exercise and fruit-vegetables have something to do with the most common cancers.

Dealing with the emotions of having a diagnosis and receiving treatment, as well as caring and supporting a family member or friend who is coping with an illness, are also sources of stress. It’s important to take steps which can help one adjust to the illness: the National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS) provides a comprehensive approach; practical tips are at the US National Cancer Institute and Mayo Clinic, while advice on how to help a friend can be found here at the APA website and this NIH website.

It’s a good time to start a new habit. More so if you made 1 Jan 2014 resolution to exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. Here’s a chance to reboot that resolution and make it last the whole horse year.

Happy Chinese New Year!


Have a happy horse year!

Naaay… have a happy mentally healthy year ahead!

According to a Jobstreet survey last year, it appears that most Singaporean employees are mentally exhausted (AsiaOne, 16 Jul 2013). Not surprising and in line with the previous job surveys (read these previous posts in Jun and Aug last year). But it’s a new year (again)…so you can still work in some “me time”!

Here are 8 things you can do:

  1. Get into an exercise routine like walking the park connectors near your home.
  2. Get your family involved in your walk by organizing a meal afterwards.
  3. Challenge your brain by learning a new sport, dance, or exercise form.
  4. Get your friends to join in. Ask for discounts for introducing new classmates.
  5. Organize your catch-up get-togethers around social activities like board games, urban walks, frisbee, or kite-flying instead of just brunch.
  6. Spend time with others at the soup kitchen, willinghearts, social day care centres or senior activity centres, dog shelters, and/or special needs schools.
  7. Manage your stress. Here are some extra tips.
  8. Look after yourself and your mental wellbeing!