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Taking care

Looking after yourself

“Your greatest source is yourself. Look after your own tapu. The main thing is that, whatever you do, you look after yourself.” – Matua Tau Huirama

A woman comfortably sitting next to a window listening to music and having a drink

Getting through challenging times is difficult. Doing activities that uplift, calm and restore your spirit can improve our mental health. Discovering what works for you might need some patience and time. Understand that every step is a move towards understanding yourself better.

The building blocks

While advice about sleep, nutrition, movement and connection might seem generic, they create a strong foundation for mental wellbeing. Including them in your life doesn't need to be perfect – it’s just about trying and being aware.


A restful sleep improves decision making, memory and emotional regulation. Creating sleep-friendly habits such as a consistent sleep schedule and creating an ideal sleep environment can be life changing.

Tips for better sleep:

  • Use an eye mask or blackout curtains to block out light.
  • Use earplugs or listen to calming music, an audiobook or a podcast.
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Stop or reduce screen time, work, caffeine and alcohol in the few hours before bed.
  • Allow 30 minutes to relax and wind down before bed.
  • Try to get your bedroom to a cool, comfortable temperature.
  • Get some natural light and exercise throughout the day to promote good sleep at night.

If you find it difficult to fall or stay asleep, try Just a Thought’s Managing Insomnia course.


Food not only nourishes the body but also connects us to our heritage and community. Eating a balanced diet means feeding both your body and your mind.

Here are some things to try:

  • Think of some meals that are easy and fast to make if you aren’t up to cooking every day. Search for “easy, fast dinner recipes” online for inspiration.
  • Eat something comforting that makes you feel good. This could be a family recipe, a cultural delicacy or your favourite food.
  • Share a meal with someone. Eating together and sharing food can be a great way to connect.

If you’re unable to pay for food right now, and Work and Income may be able to help.


Physical activity can be a source of joy, health and connection. You might exercise for the endorphins, to help with sleep, to improve your health, to be able to play with your mokopuna, to connect with te taiao, to connect with people or to spend time by yourself.

Try walking around the garden or around the block to get you started. Whether it's joining a local sports team or dancing to your favourite tune, find what moves you.


Embrace the power of relationships. Connect with your roots, engage with your community and cherish the bonds you form. From casual meet-ups to volunteering, every interaction can add value to your life.

For more information about connecting with others, see our identity and community and relationships pages.

Take steps towards the things you like – people, places, activities

Spend time in places that give you a sense of community – sports games, concerts …

Reconnect with an old hobby or find a new hobby

Volunteer – find options at your local community centre or marae

Find what brings you comfort – thoughts, places, people

Spend time in nature – pay attention to what you see, smell, hear

Call, video call or write to friends and whānau

Go somewhere that nurtures your wairua – marae, ocean, church

Navigating stress

Experiencing stress is a natural part of life, but ongoing stress can be draining. While life’s challenges can create stress, things like cost of living, discrimination and climate concerns also have huge impacts.

Dealing with stress

When we are feeling stressed, our body often goes into a flight, fight, freeze response. Here are some ideas to help with these feelings and approach things with a clear head:

  • Take some deep breaths: This can help to bring your heart rate down and let your body relax.
  • Activate your senses: Try taking a cold shower, eating something spicy or drinking a hot drink.
  • What gets you out of your head for a little while? Try listening to music you love, getting out of the house, helping a friend to run errands.
  • Try the tools on Small Steps to learn strategies to manage stress.

Dealing with stressors

From breaking challenges into smaller tasks to talking it out, find what helps you deal with stress:

  • Write it down to get it out of your head.
  • Kōrero – talk with someone you trust. Ask them if it’s okay to vent or ask them for advice.
  • Break the problem down into smaller, more manageable tasks that you can do one by one.
  • Reflect on how you use things like smoking, drinking and drugs to manage stress and how you might want this to change.

Collective action

While systemic issues might seem overwhelming, collective efforts like advocacy or community support can help. Volunteering New Zealand can connect you to volunteering opportunities close to you.

Remember, looking for support and connecting with others can help during challenging times.

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