Skip to content
Spend €45 more and get free shipping!
Stress Resilience

Stress Resilience

By Liz O’Hagan, Pharmacist & Integrative Health Expert

What is stress?

Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. The World Health Organisation defines stress as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. However, the way we respond to stress makes a big difference to our overall health and well-being.

In today’s world, we often get caught up in a “go-go-go” mentality. Being busy can sometimes be worn like a badge of honour! If we don’t stop every now and again, allowing ourselves to recharge, we will burn out. Stress, when not managed correctly, can negatively impact our health, affecting many areas of our lives.

Quite often, we can feel like we don’t have control over the “stress-inducing situations” in our lives. So, what can we do about it?! This is where stress management and building stress resilience come into play. It is all about practicing switching off that stress response. The more we practice it, the better we will become at switching it off and breaking the cycle of stress.

Some of you may already know about our nervous system. But in brief, the nervous system has two sides to it- the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response, and the parasympathetic is the “rest-and-digest” mode. When we feel stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is activated and our body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, increasing the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. This is a survival instinct, which is aimed at protecting us from imminent danger and wants to keep us safe. However, living in this state for long periods can ultimately cause harm to the body. Unfortunately, this stress response can be triggered far too often in today’s world. My goal is to offer you some tips and exercises to try to help you switch off that stress response.

One of the many things we can do for ourselves to alleviate stress is to practice a few easy breathing exercises, which help us to switch off that “fight-or-flight” response and bring us back into our “rest and digest” mode, which is when our body recharges, repairs, and replenishes itself.

If you ever feel anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed, try these breathing exercises anytime, anywhere – and the best part is, they don’t cost a penny!

Breathing Exercises to help manage Stress

 Here are a few breathing exercises, which I would recommend practicing every day.

4 – 7 – 8 BREATH

  • Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, feeling the air go deep down into your lower belly.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds if this is comfortable (If pregnant, do for less).

*Tip: Count downwards, from 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 8 seconds, with a “whooshing” sound.
  • Repeat this cycle of breath x4 times.
  • Try to practice this exercise twice a day. Maybe try it before getting out of bed in the morning (sitting upright in case you fall back asleep!), and before going to sleep at night. Or while waiting for the kettle to boil, waiting for a bus, sitting on the loo… wherever! Work it into your own daily routine so it doesn’t feel like a chore.

 Try this short Guided 4-7-8 breathing exercise 


  • Picture an imaginary box in front of you.
  • Breathe slowly in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds.
  • As you do this, imagine yourself tracing your way around each side of a box.
  • Repeat this cycle of breath as many times as you like. 5 cycles will leave you feeling much more relaxed and calmer.
  • Even if you only do it for one cycle of breath, it only takes 16 seconds to do!

*Did you know: if you focus all your attention on this exercise, that this is a form of meditation?!



  • Place your right index finger at the base of your left thumb.
  • As you inhale through your nose, trace your finger slowly up the side of your left thumb, pausing at the top while holding your breath briefly.
  • Exhale through the mouth as you slowly trace your finger over and down the other side of your thumb.
  • Continue tracing up each finger in turn, inhaling as you go up, pausing for a second at the top and exhaling as you go down, again, pausing at the bottom before your next breath.

*This exercise invites our sense of touch into the practice. The more senses we can engage while doing these exercises, help us to stay connected to the present moment and help to stop our mind from getting distracted.

How might you evoke another sense during these tasks? Aromatherapy oil perhaps? A nice candle? Some calming instrumental music? Be experimental and get creative…


Here are a few more ideas which can help us to manage stress:

  • Try to keep a daily routine. Setting time for regular meals, regular exercise, daily hygiene, and time spent with family or friends can help us to feel more in control during stressful periods of our lives.
  • Get enough sleep! Sleep is crucial to repair and recharge our body and can help to reverse the effect of stress. For more information and tips on sleep hygiene, please visit my blog on “Lifestyle Tips for a Restful Sleep” here. *Link to Sleep blog
  • Connections - with other people or animals or communities. Share any worries or concerns you may have. Vocalising our concerns often helps us to rationalise them and gain perspective on how to cope, reducing stress.
  • Nutrition - Be aware of what you’re fuelling your body with. Try to eat a nutritious, balanced diet, including lots of vegetables and fruit. Keeping yourself hydrated with water and limiting caffeinated, sugary, and alcoholic beverages can help in stress reduction. *Link to blog on Nutrition
  • Exercise - Moving stress physically out of the body with exercise is so important. It reduces stress and increases “feel-good” endorphins in the body. It helps to reduce cardiac diseases, diabetes and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. Whether it is a brisk walk, something more vigorous, or a gentle stretch…just get moving your body. Start adding small bouts of movement and build on it week by week *Link to Exercise & Movement blog
  • Media Consumption - Sometimes the news on TV and social media channels can be quite stress inducing. Be aware of what you are ingesting mentally, particularly before bedtime, especially if you feel it fanning the flames on your stress.


I just want to finish up by saying that stress is a normal response to a situation, an emotion, or a thought. Having awareness of when you’re feeling stressed and acknowledging its presence, is the first step in the right direction. Please try not to beat yourself up over it. Instead, ask yourself what you can do, within your own control, to help handle the situation?

If things are overwhelming and feel like too much to handle on your own, then please ask for help.

For more information you can speak to a healthcare professional, whether it be your pharmacist or your GP.


  • If you want to speak to accredited therapists, psychotherapists, or counsellors in Ireland, they can be found here 
  • The World Health Organisation also has a lovely, illustrated booklet available to be downloaded for free on their website. It is called “What to do in times of stress, an illustrated guide”. It can be found here
  • Dr. Rebecca Quinn Child & Adolescent Clinical Psychologist: Instagram account can be found here



  • Body of Wonder Podcast: Episode #15 The Power of Breath with James Nestor:


  • The Breathe with Níall Podcast: 


  • The Mindful Minute: 4-7-8 Breathing: 



Word Health Organisation


Previous article Hyperpigmentation, it's causes and treatments.
Next article Core Values