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Managing stress, anxiety and depression


All of us have a certain level of underlying stress. ‘Peaks’ can often be added to this baseline, when we face specific demanding events (exams, relationship break-ups).

We also each have a threshold for the stress we can cope with and remain well. When this threshold is crossed we find it harder to cope and are more vulnerable to becoming unwell. Becoming unwell may include developing depression or anxiety, which is something many of us experience at some point in our lives.

The recent NZ Mental Health Survey showed that there is a 46.6% chance for all of us that we will develop some sort of mental disorder in our lifetime. We need to develop the ability to recognise our own early warning signs, to learn skilful ways of thinking and coping and to ask for help when we need it. People often do not ask for help because of the perception that asking for help implies weakness, or the fear of lack of confidentiality.

Sadly this means many of us struggle on for years with problems which are entirely treatable.

By accessing early treatment we can become well. By increasing our resilience and coping mechanisms, it is possible to raise our vulnerability thresholds. This can help us to get well and to stay well in the future.

Now work your way through each tab, accessible by clicking the ‘NEXT’ link below, or via the blue tabs at the top of this page.


Depression is very common, and some of us are more vulnerable to developing depression than others. Depression is due to a mixture of biological, psychological and social factors. For instance, if someone in our family has had depression, it gives us an increased risk of developing depression ourselves.

It can be hard to tell sometimes if you are depressed or not. The main things people notice are a low mood for a couple of weeks or a loss of interest in the things they usually find enjoyable. They may also experience feeling irritable or fatigued, having decreased concentration, feeling guilty, worthless or hopeless, and sometimes thinking about suicide or death.

Some people notice a change in sleeping patterns: being unable to get to sleep, waking up very early, or occasionally sleeping more than usual.

Depression, anxiety and alcohol use very often will occur together.

If you think that you may be depressed, it is important to see a health professional about this as soon as possible. Recognising depression early can make a difference to effective treatment. Possible treatments can consist of talking-therapies and sometimes medication. Sometimes simple things like scheduling time for exercise and pleasurable activities can make a difference. There are many perceptions about treatment for depression, and so having access to accurate information can be helpful.

Links to websites
The Black Dog Institute
Beyond Blue
New Zealand Guidelines Group – click on consumer resources, then mental health.


Having some level of anxiety is a normal experience for everyone. However, sometimes anxiety can become so overwhelming that it can start to affect our day to day functioning.

Some people have an ongoing feeling of an underlying sensation of anxiety, and often find themselves with a mind filled with worrying thoughts, which can be hard to control. These thoughts can get in the way of the person’s sleep, and can intrude into the things they need to do for work and social occasions. Many people also notice feeling restless, irritable or tired, and can have a change in their sleep patterns or level of concentration.

Other people find that their anxiety occurs in sudden attacks, and will build up to an intense level within a few minutes, and then subside again. Often these attacks can be triggered by specific situations.

Anxiety is commonly accompanied by a variety of physical sensations: racing heart, dry mouth, blushing, sweating etc. These symptoms can be controlled once you learn how to manage your anxiety.

Anxiety, depression and alcohol use will very often occur together.

Links to websites
Beyond Blue
New Zealand Guidelines Group – click on consumer resources, then mental health
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand


Alongside the numerous affects alcohol has physically and mentally, your alcohol intake can also affect your performance at sport and your ability to learn. Currently in NZ, 785,000 adults drink regularly. Many of these adults drink every day, and many of them binge drink.

Do you think that you may be drinking more alcohol than is good for your health? Do you have a clear idea about the safe recommended drinking guidelines? Do you know what to do about it if you would like to make some changes?

The links to the websites below can provide you with some of these answers. Some of the websites can provide you with anonymous individual feedback as well as sending you resources, should you require them.

Links to websites
Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand -
CADS: Community alcohol and drug services - (N.B CADSonline offers live online alcohol and other drug counselling that is free to anybody in Auckland)


There are many drugs available which can be used for recreational purposes. Much of the information we gather about drugs comes from our friends and from the media. Why not make sure that you know the facts by checking out these websites?

Links to websites
Youthline/URGE website -
National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre -
Drug Info Clearing House – The Drug Prevention Network, Australia
CADS: Community alcohol and drug services (N.B CADSonline offers live online alcohol and other drug counselling that is free to anybody in Auckland)


Practical techniques for managing stress

Survival tips when meditating:

  1. Be clear of your intention.  Before you begin to meditate, say in your mind that you intend to be mindful for the next few minutes. Or, say that you intend to develop more compassion and loving kindness in the next few minutes.

  2. Have a half smile on your face. It makes the experience more fun rather than hard work. You are trying to be calm and peaceful, not stressed.

  3. When you get distracted (which WILL happen many times), be kind to yourself and say that it’s perfectly normal. Then gently and kindly bring back your attention to the object of meditation. This step is important if you are impatient or have a tendency to be hard on yourself.  You are not in a competition. You are doing this to increase your happiness so learn to be easy on yourself.  

  4. If you are a beginner, try 5 minutes a day to start with. Once 5 minutes is achievable, then try 6 minutes for a few days or a week, then 7 and so on.  Regular practitioners reserve at least 20 minutes daily to meditation.

  5. Joining or starting a regular meditation group will enhance your practice.

Use the media controllers to play the audio files, or download them to your computer. If you don't see the media controllers, please visit the computer requirements page for more info.

Guided Meditation on Mindfulness of the Breath
The breath has been one of the most common objects used for calming and meditation techniques. Vidyamala guides us in a classic mindfulness of the breath exercise. This exercise has existed for more than 2500 years and remains relevant in calming our minds. In a more profound level, it teaches us how to learn to respond to situations and not just react. Studies show that regularly practicing Mindfulness of the Breath for 2 months can result in improvement in anxiety, higher levels of contentment and calm.

Warning: Please do not listen to this file if you are driving or operating heavy machinery as it can cause sleepiness and relaxation.

Body Scanning
This guided meditation practice helps us to develop habits of greater ease and awareness of the body. Adopting a comfortable posture, lying down or sitting, we scan through the whole body with our awareness, using the breath to let go of areas of pain and tension.

Warning: Please do not listen to this file if you are driving or operating heavy machinery as it can cause sleepiness and relaxation.

Dealing With Stress - Developing a Coping Plan
It is important to have our own individual coping strategies when stress levels become too much. This section talks about how to develop a coping plan we can call our own.

Trish Du Villier (psychologist) and Leah Walton (social worker) [00:25:07]

Coping plan (pdf)   [view/annotate inline]
Requires Adobe Reader []

Dealing With Stress - Taking Care of Your Person
When we are busy and stressed out, many of us forget to take care of our own person. We need to do regular maintenance checks to ensure that our body is still ticking.

Trish Du Villier (psychologist) and Leah Walton (social worker) [00:09:37]

Dealing With Stress - Pros and Cons Table
Stress can affect our ability to deal with situations. For some of us, we develop behaviours which can temporarily improve our stress but has potential negative consequences long term. This section talks about using a logical technique to look at our behaviours.

Trish Du Villier (psychologist) and Leah Walton (social worker) [00:14:57]

Pros and Cons Table (pdf)   [view/annotate inline]
Requires Adobe Reader []

Dealing With Anger
Anger is a powerful emotion which if uncontrolled can destroy relationships. Anger can also make us feel miserable and regretful. This is a talk on practical anger transformation techniques that all of us can practice.

Ajahn Chandako [00:25:10]

Preparing For Exams
Exams and assessments are inevitable when one is a student. They cause lots of distress and suffering to many of us. However, if approached with a logical plan, they do not have to be that painful.

Associate Professor Emmanuel Manalo
Student Learning Centre, The University of Auckland [00:13:22]

How To Prepare For Exams (pdf)   [view/annotate inline]
Requires Adobe Reader []

Meeting Deadlines
To meet deadlines, it is important that you are well organised and that you plan ahead. It is also critical that you are realistic in the tasks that you set yourself, and that you create conditions that support the achievement of those tasks. The following is a talk on strategies to help you successfully meet your deadlines.

Jenny Marshall (Senior Tutor)
Student Learning Centre, The University of Auckland [00:11:05]

How To Meet Deadlines (pdf)   [view/annotate inline]
Requires Adobe Reader []

Self Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a technique which can be helpful in many ways in medicine, as shown by brain imaging and rigorous research. It is often misperceived by many as a form of "control" which is used in entertainment. In reality it is a procedure which involves the use of the imagination and the focussing of attention. Amongst its many uses are pain management and enhancing relaxation.

Dr Bob Large is a Psychiatrist and Pain Specialist. In this audio file he talks about hypnosis and self-hypnosis. He then reads a hypnotic script with a focus on enhancing relaxation and wellbeing. People vary in their hypnotic capacity, but most people are able to experience hypnosis or self-hypnosis to some extent.

Warning: Please do not listen to this file if you are driving or operating heavy machinery as it can cause sleepiness and relaxation.

Dr Bob Large [00:18:15]

Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a commonly used technique for stress management.

Matt Shepherd works part time as a researcher within the Department of Psychological Medicine. He has had a long interest in working with people around relaxation issues. His current research work includes e-therapy projects.

Warning: Please do not listen to this file if you are driving or operating heavy machinery as it can cause sleepiness and relaxation.

Matt Shepherd
Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland [00:19:10]

Brief Walking Meditation by U Vansa

A wandering mind is perfectly normal for most people. However, many meditation beginners equate a wandering mind and distractability with failure in their meditation practice. An alternative for beginners in meditation is to consider walking meditation first before trying sitting meditation. If one can practice walking meditation for a few minutes regularly, one can then progress to doing other meditations while washing the dishes, folding or ironing clothes, while exercising or while performing other daily routine activities.

U Vansa (Sean Pritchard) [00:09:25]

Brief Sitting Meditation by U Vansa (excellent for beginners)

A short version of mindfulness meditation using the breath as the object of focus. This is a good sampler on mindulfness meditation for beginners. If one can do mindfulness meditation for 3 minutes every day for a week, then one might consider doing 4 minutes the following week and so forth. Studies have shown that regular meditation for about 2 months can bring about changes in one's perspective, mental health and possibly physical well being.

U Vansa (Sean Pritchard) [00:09:10]

Brief Loving Kindness Meditation while Sitting by Sharon Salzberg 

This is a good introduction for beginners to Loving Kindness Meditation. The goal is to increase enhance feelings of compassion and connectedness to ourselves, other people and other beings. Loving Kindness meditation has been practiced for at least 2 thousand years.

Sharon Salzberg [00:08:40]

Brief Loving Kindness Meditation while Walking by Sharon Salzberg 

This is an active form of meditation combining walking and loving kindess meditations. The goal is to incorporate loving kindness aspirations in our routine thinking process. Instead of constantly being immersed in our worries, a loving kindess wish to ourselves and other beings becomes an oasis in our busy and frenetic minds.

Sharon Salzberg [00:02:21]

Mindfulness with Dr Craig Hassed.

The following five tracks are a series of mindfulness practices.   The fourth is a bodyscan meditation and the fifth is a combined mindulness meditation

Dr Craig Hassed, Monash University

You can view his book Mindfulness for Life here.






Download the audio files

These audio files are available for download as a single zip file from the Downloads page.

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