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This week is about looking after your mental health, including
  • Your mental health
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Mindfulness
  • Supports
You can get more information on all of this, and much more from the Student Counselling Service

Student blogs

Arnie Sasnauskas - 3rd Year Engineering

Arnie Sasnauskas
2nd Year Engineering

A healthy mind is very important, but being in a new environment can be very stressful. College is a huge place with a lot of things happening, this can distract you away from your mental well-being. It’s normal to feel like this, especially if you come from a small school. You feel overwhelmed and under pressure, and after a long day running around and finishing assignments last minute, you are exhausted and fed up. You continue to worry about all the responsibilities you’ve taken (writing articles, class rep, volunteering work etc), and don’t know how you will continue to the next week. But don’t worry, you’re not the only one feeling like this. There are a lot of ways to help reduce stress and anxiety.


First, prioritize yourself. This is a key mistake in first year. It can be hard to resist the urge to multitask, especially when involved with multiple groups. Eventually you’ll be dealing with too much, and this will fuel a mental breakdown coupled with pure exhaustion. From personal experience, it can be very easy to forget that there’s only so much we can do. This can be very stressful and distract you from your course work. College is a huge place and full of opportunities, but you don’t have to do everything. You aren’t forced to do anything. Remember, you’re in college to get your degree.


Now, by prioritizing yourself, you should take action to improve your mental health. Exercise is great for incubating a healthy mind. There are many ways to do this in college or outside of college. Doing any sort of physical activity is a great way to zone out and to focus on what you’re doing. Not thinking about a deadline for an hour or two feels great. There’s a gym in college, sports classes and sport societies. It’s very important to take your mind off things once in a while, and taking part in a sport or activity really helps.


Talking always helps when you are a little under the weather. Having someone actively listening to your concerns really benefits your mental health. Student2Student (S2S) offer a lot of services to students, and their peer support system is definitely the most popular. I highly recommend having a chat with one of the peer supporters, they’re lovely people! It’s an excellent service and you’d be surprised how many people use it. Even if you don’t want to use S2S, other options are available. There is a College Health Centre that provides services, the Students’ Union Welfare Officer and there are psychiatrists on campus.


Mindfulness is a key aspect to mental health. Our minds are preoccupied all day with heavy thoughts, planning, worrying and doing something exhausting. Being ‘connected’ all the time can be exhausting. Overtime this is a toll to your mental health. It’s important to take some time out. This can be very hard because of the vastly connected world we live in. Being outside without using your phone can really help. Going on a walk and being with your thoughts is really a helpful experience. If you’re not one for walks, DU Meditation in college offer a lot of meditation classes and sessions. They do a lot chill-out sessions and really, they are the best because everyone is there for the same reason.

It’s important to be happy. Prioritise this, because no one will judge you and expect to take on extra duties. Sure, we’re all stressed here and there, but don’t let it build up. Make sure to do something when you feel a little down or anxious, there is always someone willing to help, and you’d be surprised in how much better you’d feel afterwards. Enjoy college!

Your Mental Health

What is mental health?

When we talk about mental health, we’re talking about how we feel, how we relate to other people and how we do day-to-day things. It' not just the absence of a mental health problem, having good mental health is about feeling good about ourselves and being able to get on effectively in daily life.

A person’s mental health can be positive and good, or it can be poor and people can feel down and unwell. Either way, it’s important to know the quality of a person’s mental health isn’t fixed. It can get better or worse at different times as we journey through life. Even day-to-day experiences can affect our mental health for better or for worse.

We can all experience tough times when we feel stressed, upset, worried or afraid. We consider it a ‘mental health problem’ when our feelings, thoughts or beliefs negatively affect our day-to-day lives and activities and we cannot seem to, or don’t know how to, move past those feelings, thoughts or beliefs. It’s at times like this that we can use a hand or extra support.

Minding your mental health

You should take care of your mental health like you take care of your physical health, and, like your physical health sometimes your mental health will be well, and sometimes not-so-well.

  1. Exercise
    • There are many advantages to exercising. It helps increase energy levels, use up excess energy and can improve sleep patterns and fitness.
      It also helps to manage stress and anger and can boost your confidence. All positive for your mental health.
  2. Nutrition
    • Having a balanced diet can help with energy levels, weight control and self-esteem.
      It’s easy to fall into bad habits, but is important to try and eat well and cut out junk food.
  3. Relax
    • It’s very easy to overlook making time for yourself with the hectic pace of life we all lead.
      It’s essential for your mental health that you find ways to take time out and relax. We all have different things we find relaxing; what we do isn’t as important as actually doing it.
  4. Sleep
    • Sleep is crucial to our physical and mental health. It re-energises us, helps our bodies to heal and keeps our memory working properly.
      There are many things you can do to improve your quality of sleep including exercise, avoiding stimulants and implementing a daily routine or bed-time.
  5. Be mindful
    • Mindfulness is about learning to focus your attention on the present moment. Not worrying unduly about past or future problems can be hugely beneficial to your physical and mental health.
      It can steady the breath, heart-rate, and improve the immune system and can help to deal with anxiety and depression.
  6. Self-talk
    • Training the inner-voice in our head can be difficult, but worth-while. It’s important to learn not to talk to yourself in a negative or destructive way, such as thinking in black and white or constantly comparing yourself to others.
  7. Set goals
    • Setting realistic goals, prioritising what’s important, and balancing our time can help in the management of our mental health. It gives us perspective on things and enables us to deal with problems more effectively.
  8. Work on your self-esteem
    • Improving our self-esteem might seem like a constant battle, but it’s necessary in order to manage our mental health.
      Challenging negative thinking, accepting yourself and not comparing yourself to others will help to develop your self-confidence.
  9. Talk
    • Sometimes sharing things with friends and family can help you through and tough time, by helping you get some perspective.
      Not only that, but staying connected and being social, anything from going to the movies or meeting people for a coffee, goes a long way to looking after your mental health.

The Wellness Workshop

The Wellness Workshop is an online workshop for anyone to help either maintain or improve their mental health.

The Wellness Workshop
Your Mental Health



What is stress?

Stress is how you feel when you are facing demands that you are not sure you can meet. It is a normal part of everyday life and can be both positive and negative. Many things can trigger a stress response - relationships, money, work, exams, the expectation you put on yourself or the expectation you feel from others – the list is endless.

Stress can affect how you feel; how you think and behave; how confident you feel; and your energy levels. A small amount of stress can be healthy as it can motivate us and help prepare us for challenges in life. However, when this balance tips into high stress levels it can cause you to feel unwell. It is very difficult to measure stress levels as different people react to events in their lives in different ways – so what you find stressful may be motivating for someone else.

How to recognise stress

Stress symptoms will be different for different people it is important that you develop a picture of what you feel like when you are stressed. This will help you to recognise the symptoms of stress early, so that you can find ways of reducing stress. Recognising and managing stress early will help prevent it leading to more serious problems such as anxiety, depression or high blood pressure. Some common symptoms of stress are listed here

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Feeling irritated/agitated
  • Sleeping problems
  • Breathlessness
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts

How to Manage Stress

Coping resources can broadly be divided into cognitive coping strategies and physical coping strategies. Some of these coping strategies will suit some people, others will not. The key is to have a range of resources that can be applied, depending upon the situation and the individual. Furthermore, it is important to have strategies one is comfortable using.

Cognitive Behavioural Strategies

These refer to ways of dealing with stress using our minds. Cognitive coping strategies are a good way to combat stress-producing thoughts. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “. . . for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. . .” Examples of these strategies are:

  • Reframing – focus on the good not the bad; think in terms of wants instead of shoulds. It’s best if our thinking is related to our goals. For example, “I want to read and understand this chapter in Chemistry so I do well in my lab practical” instead of “I have to read this difficult chapter in Chemistry”.
  • Challenging negative thinking – stopping the negative thoughts we may have about a situation or ourselves. Examples of negative thoughts include expecting failure, putting yourself down, feelings of inadequacy - a thought such as “Everyone else seems to understand this except me.”

In order to gain control of negative thoughts or worries, you must first become aware of them. Next, yell “Stop!” to yourself when they occur. Try replacing with positive affirmations or at least challenge or question any irrationality of the thoughts.

  • Positive self-talk – using positive language and statements to ourselves. These are sometimes referred to as positive affirmations; they are useful for building confidence and challenging negative thoughts. For example, “I can do this or understand this” or “I’ll try my best”. These work best when they are realistic and tailored to your needs and goals.
  • Count to ten – this allows you time to gain control and perhaps rethink the situation or come up with a better coping strategy.
  • Cost-benefit analysis – Is it helping me to get things done when I think this way?
  • Keeping perspective – when under stress it is easy to lose perspective; things can seem insurmountable. Some questions to ask yourself: Is this really a problem? Is this a problem anyone else has had? Can I prioritise the problems? Does it really matter? “Look on the bright side of life!” - Cultivate optimism.
  • Reducing uncertainty – seek any information or clarification you may require to reduce the uncertainty. It helps to ask in a positive way. Situations that are difficult to classify, are obscure or have multiple meanings can create stress.
  • Using imagery/visualisation –imagining yourself in a pleasant or a successful situation to help reduce stress. One way to use imagery is as a relaxation tool; try to remember the pleasure of an experience you’ve had or a place you’ve been. The more senses you involve in the image the more realistic, therefore the more powerful. This strategy is often combined with deep breathing or relaxation exercises.

Behavioural Coping Strategies

These refer to ways of dealing with stress by doing something or taking action to reduce the stress experienced. Examples of these strategies are:

  • Physical exercise – aerobic exercise is the most beneficial for reducing stress. It releases neurochemicals in the brain that aid concentration. For some people, even a short walk is sufficient to relieve stress.
  • Relaxation – from simple relaxation such as dropping the head forward and rolling it gently from side to side or simply stretching, to more complex progressive relaxation exercises. Progressive relaxation involves tensing and releasing isolated muscle groups until muscles are relaxed. Try the Student Counselling Service's Mindfulness podcast.
  • Breathing – from simple deep breaths to more complex breathing exercises related to relaxation and meditation.
  • Smile and Laugh - gives us energy and helps to lighten the load; relaxes muscles in the face.
  • Time management – specific strategies such as clarifying priorities, setting goals, evaluating how time is spent, developing an action plan, overcoming procrastination and organising time. These help us to cope with the numerous demands placed upon us, often a source of stress.
  • Social Support/Friends – encourage the development and nurturing of relationships.
  • Seek Help – to help us cope with unmanageable stress. Supports in college include the Student Health Centre, Student Counselling Service, College Tutors and Chaplains.

SilverCloud 'Space from Stress'

Silver Cloud is a computer-based system offering online programmes that target specific problems common to students. Students who use Silver Cloud are assigned a counsellor (from the Student Counselling Service) who ‘checks in’ online about once a week and gives extra help if needed. The programmes take 6-8 weeks to complete, and include both information and practical advice/exercises.

'Space from Stress' deals with the symptoms and causes of stress in student life

Dealing with Stress


What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now. Everyone experiences the symptoms of anxiety at some point in life. For some, anxiety can be a passing emotion attached to life circumstances or situations such as exams, getting married, work pressures or retirement. For others, dealing with anxiety is something they experience on an ongoing basis that really interferes with their life. Anxiety is a common experience for both men and women.

How to recognise anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • A racing heart
  • Rapid breathing/ breathlessness
  • Feelings of panic
  • Sweating
  • Excessive and undue worrying
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Morbid thoughts
  • Upset stomach
  • Fear of losing control

Managing Anxiety

Different people experience anxiety in different ways, and to different degrees. Below are some general tips for managing anxiety but if you are suffering, please reach out to the support services.

  • Talking it through - Although it can be difficult to open up about feeling anxious, it can be helpful to talk to friends, family or someone who has had a similar experience. Although you might feel embarrassed or afraid to discuss your feelings with others, sharing can be a way to cope with a problem and being listened to can help you feel supported.
  • Face your fear - By breaking the cycle of constantly avoiding situations that make you anxious, you are less likely to stop doing the things you want, or need, to do. The chances are the reality of the situation won’t be as bad as you expect, making you better equipped to manage, and reduce, your anxiety.
  • Know yourself - Make a note of when you feel anxious, what happens and the potential triggers. By acknowledging these and arming yourself with tips to deal with these triggers, you will be better prepared in anxiety-inducing situations.
  • Relax - Learning relaxation techniques can help you calm feelings of anxiety. Practices like yoga, meditation or massage will relax your breathing and help you manage the way you feel about stressful experiences.
  • Exercise - Even small increases in physical activity levels can trigger brain chemicals that improve your mood, wellbeing and stress levels. This can act as a prevention and treatment for anxiety as well as lead to improved body-image, self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Healthy eating - Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and try to avoid too much sugar. Very sweet foods cause an initial sugar ‘rush,’ followed by a sharp dip in blood sugar levels which can give you anxious feelings. Caffeine can also increase anxiety levels so try to avoid drinking too much tea or coffee too.
  • Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation - It’s very common for people to drink alcohol when they feel nervous to numb their anxiety, however the effect that alcohol has on how you feel is only temporary. When it wears off you feel worse, potentially more anxious, and your brain will be less able to deal with anxiety naturally.

SilverCloud 'Space from Anxiety'

Silver Cloud is a computer-based system offering online programmes that target specific problems common to students. Students who use Silver Cloud are assigned a counsellor (from the Student Counselling Service) who ‘checks in’ online about once a week and gives extra help if needed. The programmes take 6-8 weeks to complete, and include both information and practical advice/exercises.

‘Space from Anxiety’ helps with anxiety, panic and excessive worrying



What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness teaches us to direct our attention to what is happening right here, right now, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves and our experience. This “being with” ourselves is in contrast with more habitual states of mind in which we are often preoccupied with memories, fantasies, worries or planning. Yet, the capacity to be present is innate to each one of us and can be deliberately cultivated. Although we are often unaware of the current of our thinking, it has a profound effect on how we live our lives, as well on our mental and emotional health.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been shown to help people:

  • Develop greater self awareness
  • Increase ability to manage stress
  • WIth physical and psychological health
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce tension, anger and fatigue
  • Enhance relationships
  • Increase vitality
  • Aid better sleep
  • Develop stronger immunity

Weekly Mindfulness Drop In Sessions

Go along to a drop-in mindfulness session on Mondays at 5.00. No need to register, but just try not to be late! You'll find the group in Seminar Room 318, 3rd Floor, 7-9 South Leinster Street

Mindfulness Podcasts