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Ways to manage stress


August 25, 2023

Things you can do to help you better cope with stress

Stress is our internal response to external events. It’s something we experience in our body and mind as we adapt to the changes that happen around us.

Healthy, manageable reactions to stress mean we can rise to the challenges we face in our lives, and maintain our wellbeing.

Managing stress: Where to start

Stress can be positive and negative. Positive experiences and situations cause a type of stress that brings a sense of excitement into our lives, it can motivate us into action, or inspire peak performance.

Negative stress can arrive in two ways: ambient stress from everyday activities that become stressful; and major life events – those unexpected, uncontrollable events that have a big impact on our lives.

Managing stress starts with maintaining wellbeing, through healthy diet, quality sleep, regular exercise, and some good stress management techniques. Support from whānau and friends also makes a difference. Without these, we tend to quickly move into negative stress responses, our body and mind become overwhelmed, and we may begin to experience mental health challenges or distress.

The other thing to remember is that if our everyday stress levels are already high, there is a higher risk that we will be overwhelmed by further stress. It’s hard to know at what point the overwhelm will happen, but we usually know it when we reach it.

How to maintain wellbeing

Here are some strategies that are known to help support wellbeing, setting a good baseline to help us cope with stress.


Any and all exercise is good for our health. The recommendation is to get up to 30 minutes of moderate, heart-pumping exercise five times a week.

Good nutrition

Eating a variety of healthy foods is important to wellbeing and particularly important during times of stress.

Mindful rest

Take a pause from the busyness of life to check out how you are doing and how much stress you are under. Allow yourself to switch off and spend time caring for yourself, physically and mentally.

Adequate sleep

Getting the recommended number of hours of quality sleep for your age, at the right time, is important for mental and physical health. Remember to take a break from technology before going to bed.

Stress management strategies and tools

Sometimes small changes can make a difference, even when there isn’t much you can do about a situation that’s causing you stress.

Start by identifying what is making you stressed.

  • Where am I when I’m feeling stressed?
  • What am I doing? Who am I with?
  • What helpful changes could I make?
  • What is within my control?

Then, find ways to do things differently.

  • Do something different to what you normally do.
  • Make time for yourself each day by including relaxation, fun and enjoyment.
  • Create a healthy balance, allow time for activities that give you a sense of achievement, make you feel close to others, and are enjoyable.
  • Focus your attention on only one activity at a time.
  • Try different relaxation techniques and find one that works for you.
  • Put on some music, sing and dance along, or just listen attentively.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Engage in a hobby or other interest – if you don’t have one, find one!
  • What have you enjoyed in the past, or thought of doing but not got around to?
  • Limit your responsibilities – it’s okay to say no.
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings to get them out of your head.
  • Take one step at a time, don’t plan too far ahead.
  • Positive self-talk works; tell yourself ‘I can do this, I am strong and capable’.
  • Find an affirmation that works for you, write it down and memorise it for when you need it (it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it at first).
  • Do something creative.
  • Talk to someone.
  • Tell yourself: ‘This will pass, it is only temporary’, or ‘I’ve been through this before, I can do it now’.
  • Pamper yourself, do something that you really enjoy or that relaxes you.

Learn more with Stress, Resilience & Wellbeing

Blueprint for Learning’s Stress, Resilience & Wellbeing workshop can help you find better ways to deal with life’s challenges, with the skills to reduce high-stress levels, build resilience and manage your mental health and wellbeing.

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