14-20 May is National Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the focus is on stress. Stress can affect us all at any point in our lives, sometimes unexpectedly, and can greatly affect not just our mental health but our physical health too. We’ve put together a list of 5 things that you can do to help combat stress in your life right now.

Get connecting

Support from close friends and family can be a life-saver when it comes to stress.

A study has shown that spending time with friends or family releases a chemical called oxytocin, a natural stress reliever, and being around those who you care about can boost your mood, give you a sense of belonging and help you to see things from a different perspective.

Or, why not try joining a new class or course (maybe a Media Savvy one) in your local area – meeting new people can give you the same buzz, and you could potentially make friends for life doing something you enjoy doing together.

Studies suggest that those with fewer social connections are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, which can be caused by stress, so why not try having a family gathering, meeting friends you haven’t seen for a little while or joining a new class or course in your area?

Get a good night’s sleep

Our bodies need sleep to recover, and a lack of sleep can make stress worse. Lack of sleep makes us less focused, and more likely to be aggressive or agitated. Stress itself can even lead to sleep disorders, so it’s important to make sure we look after one to look after the other.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, here are some tips that might help you:

  1. Stay off your devices such as phones, tablets and laptops before sleep, as the blue light displays can affect our quality of sleep
  2. Try not to nap during the day, and if you need to, keep it to less than 30 minutes. If you’re feeling tired during the day, try going for a walk instead.
  3. Don’t eat heavy meals just before bed – finish eating an hour before sleep
  4. Exercise can help you sleep better, but aim to finish any vigorous exercise 3 to 4 hours before sleep
  5. Get into a regular sleep pattern – if you go to bed and wake up at similar times each day, including weekends, your body will get into a cycle and automatically adjust to the pattern

Get creative

Have you ever heard of art therapy? It’s been proven that art and other creative activities can reduce stress, and the freedom of self-expression can be incredibly liberating.

If art isn’t your thing, however, look for other ways to be creative, and set aside some me-time for relaxation and hobbies, and having something new and positive to focus on can be a great stress reliever. Learning to play a musical instrument is equally as creative, and setting yourself small, realistic goals and achieving them can be a great boost to your self-esteem.

Why not try signing up for an art class, look for a new hobby or take up an instrument you’ve always wanted to play?

Get mindful

Mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings and experiences in each moment and observing them without judgement.

So maybe you’re thinking but what does that really mean?

Well, practising mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware, and to take a step back if we need to. Instead of letting negative thoughts overwhelm us, we can take a moment to recognise them and allow them to pass by without them completely taking over.

The first step is to get into the right mindset.

Start noticing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and use your senses to become more aware of the world around you. Anyone can do this at any time, in any place.

Be aware of your senses – notice what your body is doing and how it is feeling, notice your breathing, notice the feelings and emotions you are having, what you can smell or what you can see or hear. Take all of this in.

We’re not trying to achieve ultimate inner peace or completely silence thoughts; instead, when you have a thought, make a mental note of it and let it go. Then, once you have observed it, return to the present moment.

Be open to whatever thoughts or feelings you might have. Don’t punish yourself for letting your mind wander, just gently bring it back to the current moment. With a little bit of practise, you can easily bring mindfulness into your everyday life, and doing tasks with a mindful attitude can improve your mental health and reduce stress.

Get active

It has been proven that physical activity can improve your mental health. Just one hour of exercise a week can reduce your risk of depression by 12 percent, and 3 sessions of exercise in a week can reduce it even further to up to 30 percent. Exercise can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, as it boosts the chemicals in the brain that prevent the degradation of the hippocampus – the part of our brains focused on memory and learning.

Walking is something that most if us can do, and it can improve your mood and reduce stress, as well as giving you time out of your regular schedule to focus on something else and have a bit of me-time, not to mention the benefits of fresh air.

Or if you fancy something a little more fast paced, up your walk to a run. ‘Runners high’ is a term regularly given to the endorphin rush experienced by runners after exercising, and can make you feel more focused, alert and happy.

Why not try going for just a 10 minute walk on your lunch break, sign up for a new class at the gym or take up running?




Mental Health Awareness Week


General Reducing Stress




Sleeping Better




Physical Activity Reducing Stress/Improving Mental Health