When we last met Michelle Chong in January 2013, she made a bold declaration: She wanted to learn how to do nothing at all. It was a brave resolution to make for a workaholic who wears many hats – and who admits that she finds relaxation and quiet moments a torture.

Fast-forward to mid-2014, and it’s obvious that she hasn’t stuck to her “do nothing” plan. With her return to popular Channel 5 sitcom, The Noose, and two new movies in the pipeline – Our Sister Mambo and Lulu The Movie, both out in cinemas next year – Michelle is doing everything but nothing.

Still, the 37-year-old is quick to add that while she hasn’t made good on her resolution, she’s less busy than before because she controls her own time now. “And as you can see on my Instagram account (@immichellechong), I still have time to eat out… a lot!” she quips.

Despite her hectic schedule, Michelle insists that she takes good care of herself and schedules time for her family and friends. She gives us her tips for maintaining sanity and health in times of stress.

MAKE TIME FOR YOUR FAMILY
“I have a big family – an elder sister who has four kids of her own, a younger sister and brother and my parents. So there’s always a reason for family gatherings – celebrating someone’s birthday or special occasions like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Whenever Dad cooks my favourite dishes – chilli crab, pig trotters in black vinegar, suan pan zi (Hakka abacus seeds) and Teochew-style steamed pomfret – I’ll definitely go home for dinner. He enjoys expanding his repertoire because he doesn’t want me to always Instagram the same food!”

KEEP YOUR FRIENDSHIPS ALIVE
“I don’t cook, so mealtimes double as the perfect opportunity to catch up with my friends. I have a bunch of supper friends who don’t have regular working hours, and we’ll meet anytime from 11pm to 3am. Some of my favourite haunts are Teppei Japanese Restaurant and Lavender Food Square for their wonton mee (dumpling noodles). But the latter is scheduled to close soon, so I’ll have to get my fix at Fei Fei Wanton Mee in Joo Chiat.”

STAY IN SHAPE
“I do what I call ‘The 25-rule’ – 25 star jumps, 25 crunches and 25 push-ups – for a quick and efficient workout whenever I feel unfit. It takes me less than five minutes to complete, and I can do it in the comfort of my home or office. So I have no excuse to skip exercising – especially when it’s so convenient and time-saving.”

LOOK AFTER YOUR GENERAL WELL-BEING
“My mother introduced me to essential oils when I was a teenager. I always keep a few of them at home for my general well-being. I turn to tea tree oil whenever I have a pimple; its anti-inflammatory qualities also work on bites and cuts. Lavender oil is good for restful sleep. At times when I’m puffy from the lack of sleep or have a headache, peppermint oil perks me up instantly. To curb a runny nose and chest congestion, I use eucalyptus oil or thyme oil. For soft, silky hair, I add a few drops of rosemary oil to my shampoo; for extra shine, I add lemon oil.”

COMBAT THE LACK OF SLEEP
“On days when I don’t clock my ideal seven hours of sleep, I make up for it by drinking more water. And if I have photo shoots lined up, I’ll do a gentle eye massage in the shower for at least one minute – this gets the blood circulation going and helps to ease the puffiness.”

TRY TO EAT HEALTHILY
“Although I follow many health and fitness Instagram accounts, I haven’t felt inspired to make a radical change to my diet. I do feel guilty about enjoying my char kway teow and beef steak, so occasionally, I’ll eat more salads and fruits, and opt for food that’s healthily prepared. But I enjoy food too much to do more than that. And it’s difficult to commit to meal plans because I have business lunches at which it’s not always possible to eat healthily. So I try to complement my meals with fruit juices and smoothies instead.”

DON’T FORGET YOUR ME-TIME
“I remember telling you in our last interview that I watch Kangxi Lai Le (a Taiwanese variety show) to destress. I still do, so some things never change! (laughs) Recently, I’ve discovered that doing the laundry – especially watching the spin cycle for a while – can be quite therapeutic. And when I need a pick-me-up, I’ll have a glass of white wine. I always keep a stash in my office and at home; when I’m doing editing, it also helps to keep the creative juices flowing.”

This article was originally published in Simply Her July 2014.