Studies have shown that 84% of people experience excessive stress from November onwards for the festive season. 

Stress can poke its head up at the worst of times, but in particular when we have a lot on our plate. And that is no more prevalent than now! 

Now we know that stress cannot just affect your mental health, but your physical health too. So, let’s look at some ways to keep your stress in check.

Derval O'Rourke
Derval O’Rourke

I also have a delicious snack recipe from Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Cathy Dunleavy.

Let’s start with considering what stress actually is. According to the World Health Organisation, “Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. 

“Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being”

There are many signs that will tell you that you’re stressed, but here are the most common ones:

  • Can’t sleep or wake up worrying about the day’s tasks.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking more than usual.
  • Can’t concentrate on tasks.
  • Irritable/overreacting to small challenges.

Everybody deals with stress differently, so when you know what your stress signs are, you can take steps to reduce your stress.


  • Tune In: Pay attention to your body, does your heart rate speed up, do you get headaches, what does your body do in a stressful situation? Knowing this is key to managing your stress. For example, if you know that you get headaches with stress, that’s your trigger to stop, assess the situation and manage your stress levels.
  • Breathe: Start taking some nice deep, slow breaths, and count whilst doing so. The breathing will help to slow your heart rate down and the counting will help to quiet the mind.
  • Talk: Talk to your partner, family or friends. Sharing a worry can really help to see things from a less stressful perspective and you’ll feel better talking out loud about it.
  • Journal: Writing down your thoughts and feelings will help to get it off your mind.
  • Plan Ahead: Planning big events ahead can really help to reduce stress. Most often being unprepared can really increase our stress levels. Prepare as much as you can in advance of a big trip, event or holiday to help avoid this.
  • Minimise News Feeds: spending too much time on television, social media can tire your brain and confuse you.
  • Slow Down: Stress is the body’s way of telling you that you need to rest and regroup. Adrenaline increases as if you are ready to work out, which is why physical activity can be a great way to relieve stress. Even a short walk can make a big difference.

Powerhouse Chocolate and Coconut Flapjacks

recipe by:Derval O’Rourke

A great snack post-exercise

Powerhouse Chocolate and Coconut Flapjacks

Preparation Time

30 mins


  • 50g dried apricots
  • 50g dried mango

  • 100g pumpkin seeds

  • 50g desiccated coconut

  • 70g chia seeds

  • 100g walnuts

  • 100g pitted dates

  • 50g goji berries

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 70g coconut oil

  • 200g 70% dark chocolate


  1. Finely chop the dried apricot and mango. Put them into your food processor with the pumpkin seeds, desiccated coconut, goji berries, chia seeds, walnuts, dates and vanilla extract and pulse until the nuts and seeds are well broken up but still have some texture to them. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  2. Melt the coconut oil and add to the mixture, stirring well.

  3. Now melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and add to the mixture stirring vigorously so that it is well mixed through before it hardens.

  4. Line a flapjack tray with baking parchment and spread the mixture evenly.

  5. Put into the fridge and leave for at least 20 minutes to set. Once well cooled, chop into 4 by 4 pieces to make 16 flapjack bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

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