Helpful alternative activities for when you’re feeling down

Everyone has their down days and difficult times. Sometimes, what we most feel like doing to cope isn’t the best way to cope.


Instead, we’ve come up with a range of alternative activities that may be able to distract you from using unhelpful coping strategies. Swap them in when you notice your thoughts are becoming less helpful. You might need to try a few of them before you find out what works best for you, but always remember to think of others.


Diffusing unhelpful thoughts and emotions is ideal – but sometimes a serious distraction used mindfully can be a helpful circuit breaker to continue moving towards our values!


Remember everything in moderation. It is great to have a few of these as options when you need them.
  • Exercise – run, walk, swim, punch boxing pads or pillows
  • Take a cold bath or shower, or squeeze ice cubes – the cold causes pain but it is not dangerous or harmful
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it
  • Go outside and walk around on the grass in bare feet and/or stamp your feet
  • Clean the house or do some cooking
  • Try not to be alone (visit a friend or go to the shops) or call someone you trust
  • Draw a picture of what or who is making you angry, or write in a journal
  • Allow yourself to cry
  • Touch familiar things and say what they are out loud (to bring you back into your body and help you feel grounded)
  • Learn HALT signals – am I HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY, TIRED?
  • Eat gummi bears, sour worms or another sensory food e.g. chilli
  • Play with a pet.

7 ways to stress less


We all know the feeling – it’s been a busy day at work, there’s stuff due for school, you’ve blown this week’s budget (again), please don’t let that be a sore throat coming on, and why oh why can’t your family just leave you alone?!


Everyone experiences stress in their life at some point, because stress is the body’s way of dealing with pressure. Sometimes stress can be a positive thing, giving us the drive we need for results in competitive or demanding situations, like exams or job interviews. But if left unchecked, chronic stress can become a real problem for our wellbeing.


The effects of stress can rear its head in many ways (see the research here):

– Mood swings or personality changes
– Disrupted sleeping patterns
– Loss of appetite or eating more frequently/unhealthily
– Using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
– Losing interest in normal activities (like hobbies, work, socialising)
– Experiencing panic, anxiety, or a sense of not coping
– Headaches, increased blood pressure, or exhaustion
– Feeling down or depressed most of the time

If you experience one or more of the above symptoms for a prolonged amount of time, it’s best to seek help.


Simple tips to cope with stress (and even make it your friend!):

– Share your feelings with someone you trust and ask them to help you problem-solve
– Practise relaxation techniques like meditation
– Go for a run, walk, bike ride, or simply step outside for some fresh air
– Make time for friends and family
– Allocate time for things you enjoy and that make you happy
– Delegate (or simply put off) low-priority tasks
– Be realistic in your expectations of yourself – remember you are human!


Need to talk?

eheadspace is a confidential, free, anonymous, secure space where you can chat, email or speak with qualified youth mental health professionals if you are 12 to 25 years old. To access eheadspace, visit

Compare and despair


Depression is a sneaky monster. It wants to make us feel lower than low. In reality, we have a choice as to whether or not we listen to it. It’s difficult when you feel low to look around at other people and observe how “easy” their lives appear to be. In reality everyone has their own unique challenges and struggles to conquer. The idea that one person’s life is easier than another is an optical illusion.


Pain cannot be compared; it simply exists. That’s why it is fruitless to compare yourself to other people. Human beings are naturally competitive, however it’s important to recognize that some forms of competition are unhealthy. When you find yourself comparing your suffering to another person’s, it’s time to curb that impulse.


A quick way to remember this is “compare and despair.” No good can come from comparing your sadness to another person’s. You have your own unique journey and no one can truly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. You are the only one who knows what it’s like to feel your feelings. Sure, we can empathise with others and try to see matters from their eyes, but we can never know what their inherent reality is like.


On the surface, someone’s life could look idyllic and without struggle or sadness. In reality, this is not the case. This individual may be suffering a great deal and they have not shared their pain with the world. Some people are better at hiding their pain than others. We cannot judge what is on the exterior, because we do not know what other people are thinking.


You are entitled to your experience and you own that. It’s not just about pain or suffering either, it’s about our triumphs as people too. Depression sneaks out into your consciousness when you compare your success to another person’s. You are special in your way. There are unique traits that make you, you. It’s important to celebrate your successes as well as the triumphs of others.


We’re in this world with one simple purpose: to find what makes us happy and fulfilled. Though the purpose may be straightforward, the end game is extremely challenging. Finding happiness is a lifelong journey. Ultimately the answer is within ourselves.


Whatever you do, remember that your success or happiness is not contingent upon another person. Happiness exists within yourself; you don’t need to look to another person to fulfill that need. Look inside and ask yourself: what makes me happy? What is it that brings joy into my life? Once you’ve answered that question, then you can seek out those things that bring light into your life.


Sarah Fader

Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good day New York.


Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is such a catch phrase at the moment!


Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is ‘paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.’ Similarly, Morgan Cash and Koa Whittingham’s 2010 publication in Mindfulness views mindfulness as ‘the capacity to observe, describe, and act with awareness of the present moment experience, with a nonjudgmental and nonreactive attitude’.


This is broken up into five separate parts. Mindfulness is a capacity to:


Observe the present moment experience
Describe the present moment experience
Act with awareness of the present moment experience
Have a nonjudgmental attitude toward the present moment experience
Have a nonreactive attitude toward the present moment experience


To check out Morgan and Koa’s mindfulness research click here!


Why bother? Well, increasing any single one of these five points is correlated with increased wellbeing, according to the Clinical Handbook of Mindfulness!


Just looking at picking one? The ability to act with awareness of the present moment experience is correlated with lower levels of depressive symptoms.


Oh you might just change your mind about choosing one because… having a nonjudgmental attitude toward the present moment experience is correlated with lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress.


So how do you get going?


Sloooowwww dooowwwnnn……….


There are many ways to begin being more mindful. Some simple ones are:

Breathe… Breathe in… and breathe out… slowly… deliberately…
Relax your shoulders and release tension in your body – really concentrate on how your body feels in that moment.
Noticing and valuing every moment and slowing down to accomplish this – and when I say every moment I mean every single moment. Not just the good ones! Valuing the moment for what it brings and accepting this.
Stop multitasking! Just do one thing at a time – and do it deliberately. When you’re talking to someone, be ‘all there’. Leave your phone in your handbag. Stop yourself from thinking what you will say next, the point you want to make, what you will cook for dinner. Just listen deeply.

BUT the most well researched way to improve all aspects of mindfulness (minus the acting with awareness of the present moment part) is meditation. Meditation can include slow inhalations and exhalations, relaxing tensions in the body, and noticing thoughts while accepting them in a nonjudgmental and nonreactive way. I highly recommend the Smiling Mind App and Website.


They have so much information on the science behind mindfulness and meditation. Most importantly it has individual, age-specific programs to follow. You can choose whether you would like music or just to hear a guiding voice. This FREE app is available on both Apple and Android platforms and can be used by meditation masters or beginners alike. For those of you with littlies, the kids can join in with targeted age brackets!


I am setting you a challenge.

Download the Smiling Mind App and do two meditations per day for 14 days (one first thing in the morning and one just before going to sleep at night). Just one fortnight – that’s all! Then share your thoughts with us below. We love learning about new ways to become more mindful and hearing what works for you!


Don’t forget to share this around with your friends and family on social media. Spread the mindfulness. Let’s all stress a little less!


Amy Kate, the founder and owner of The Mindful Collective, is passionate about helping bright-eyed young women experience a little more wellbeing with a lot less stress. She is on a mission to empower young women through building their mental health and wellbeing. Her days are filled with learning to dance, listening to young women discuss their lives, eating homemade granola and bubbling with laughs.


Clear Out The Clutter!

Recently I’ve been thinking quite a lot about organisation and clutter in my home. Specifically the impact it has upon my happiness and stress level. As humans we have a tendency to self-organise. However I must admit, I have a tendency to procrastinate as well as a propensity to be sentimental about objects. As a result, my home has lots of things scattered/piled about. Nothing outrageous enough to make a television show about but I definitely have way too much stuff. That coupled with a handsome husband and darling daughter (who is all of one year old) my house has reached the point where I am motivated enough to do something about it.


Since the ‘problem’ is not a new one, I have done a stack of reading on how to keep a tidy home, home organisation, speed cleaning and such. It is very easy to lose hours in Pinterest! I’ve cherry picked a few ideas (it’s how I roll you may prefer to stick to hard and fast rules. Here’s the ones that I find work for me.


Bite Sized

If I have learnt anything in the last five years of studying it’s that large tasks – such as a thesis or house organisation need to be broken up into manageable sized chunks. This makes the task more clear and seem achievable while capitalising on the the motivation achieved by completing smaller tasks along the way[3]! It reduces my stress as my never-ending “To Do List” gets smaller. This week I tackled the hutch (display cabinet with  in my living room). The hutch tends to be a transitional home, home to things that need to go in the shed, paperwork, christmas and birthday cards etc. This week I relocated the items appropriately. So presently – hopefully indefinitely  – it will only be home to the few decor items and box of tissues allocated to it.


200 Things

While I am not a “New Years Resolution” kind of person generally, this year after reading a blog titled “200 Things to Throw Away” (find it here) I decided one way to tackle house organisation was to throw away (or donate) 200 items this year. Not necessarily the listed ones, just 200 things. I am down 20 items so far and I can already see a difference! Usually my bedside table is covered in stuff but it has been delightfully devoid lately. As an unexpected bonus, I am far more mindful of items I bring into the house – hello savings!


It’s The Little Things

The couch on the other hand usually has a pile of washing on it… to combat this and other items hanging around like a bad smell I have taken up not leaving a room empty handed. It’s common to flutter around the house as I go about my day, getting breakfast, getting a drink, going to the bathroom, getting dressed – you get the idea. I visit nearly every room in my home MANY times a day. With this in mind, every time I go into a room I either tidy something or take something that doesn’t belong into the appropriate room. Some times it’s easy – when an item is clearly out of place, other times I challenge myself to do something I have been meaning to do but haven’t gotten around to yet. Often it doesn’t take long such as putting away the pens Little Miss One has enjoyed pulling out of the desk drawer. Regardless I feel better for having done it.


It’s Only Two Minutes

The couch-robe has also inspired an uptake of the concept “if it takes two minutes do it now”. I admit I am fairly proficient at procrastination. Things that need mending lay abandoned for lets say a good chunk of time and washing piles up. But repeating the phrase “it only takes two minutes” has helped motivate me to do lots of little things around my home! Folding clean clothes (which seems neverending!), making my bed or emptying the dishwasher. The small things helps make me feel accomplished and motivated for bigger / more tasks. The simple task of making the bed, means every time I go into my bedroom I smile and know at least I have done that today. This is particularly important when your housemate toddles around after you undoing what you’ve tidied!


Everything in its Place

In order to avoid the pile of up things on the hutch – particularly paperwork, I’m dealing with items as they come in. Each item that enters my home will have a place or be dealt with immediately. I find this rather easy with mail, if it’s a bill it goes on my desk and if it’s junk straight to the recycling. However it’s a little more challenging with other larger or less clear items. They usually have to boot something else out of it’s place to find a permanent home.


Two months into the new year and I feel less stressed as the culmination of the little habits is starting to make a big impact upon the clutter!




Weinstein, N. (2014). Human motivation and interpersonal relationships: Theory, research and applications. Springer: United Kingdom. doi: 10.1007/978-94017-8542-6

Haraty, M., McGrener, J., & Tang, C. (2015). How personal task management differs across individuals, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 88,13-37. doi:10.1016/j.ijcs.2015.11.006

Tanaka-Ellis, N. (2010). Factors limiting learners’ success in achieving task outcomes in CALL. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 4(3), 213-233. doi: 10.1080/17501229.2010.513445

Rachel Fredericks

Rachel Fredericks is a practising Catholic, a wife and mother of one (two if you count the 2yo puppy). She’s currently studying her Masters of Organisational Psychology as well as bringing up her darling daughter who just turned one! She enjoys good conversation, quality time with family and friends, going to the beach or a run and reading good books.