Taha hinengaro – mental wellbeing

Ki te wātea te hinengaro, me te kaha rere o te wairua, ka tāea ngā mea katoa

When the mind is free and the spirit is willing, anything is possible

Just like our physical health, we need to nurture and take care of our mental and emotional wellbeing.

What is mental health?

Everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health, and many of us experience mental health challenges at some point during our lives. Our mental health is a taonga (treasure), and we need to look after it to lead our best and most fulfilling lives.

When we have good mental health, we are more likely to:

  • foster positive connections with others
  • manage everyday life and stress
  • be fully present in our work, family life or studies
  • contribute to our community
  • acknowledge and develop our own potential.

Our mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change, and as we move through different stages of life.

We all have times when we feel down, stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. In most situations these feelings pass with time. Mental health challenges develop when these difficult experiences or feelings go on for a long time and affect our ability to enjoy and live our lives. 

Recognising that this is happening is the first step to restoring mental health and getting the support you need.

Taking care of your wellbeing

Understanding different ways to support our mental health can strengthen our resilience and increase our sense of wellbeing. It also means we are better equipped to hāpai (support) the wellbeing of our whānau.

For some small practical suggestions to help stay mentally well, check the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ information:

Mental Health Foundations diagram of the 'Five ways to wellbeing' listed above

How we can support you

He raruraru, he āwangawanga rānei? Feeling troubled or anxious? If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to having a kōrero with a counsellor may help. We offer our learners free and confidential phone and online counselling services through one of our partners  Puāwaitanga or Vitae

Learn more about supporting your mental health

The following websites have a heap of useful information, expert advice and resources about mental health.

  • The Lowdown – for young people with concerns about their mental health who are looking for support. It also has information for friends and whānau who want to support them.
  • Small Steps - Whether you’re looking to maintain wellbeing, find relief or get help, Small Steps can support you and your whānau with practical tools, strategies and advice.
  • Depression.org.nz – has some ideas for taking care of ourselves or others, as well as text and phone support.
  • Mental Health Foundation – has information on wellbeing and where to get support.
  • Like Minds – gives tips for supporting someone with mental distress.
  • Mental Wealth – provides information to help people look after their mental health to create mental wealth. 


Dealing with stress 

Stress is a part of life, and we’ve all experienced it to some degree. Learning how to manage stress is key to supporting our wellbeing. 

What is stress? 

Stress is our body’s natural response to the demands in our lives. Our stress levels can change depending on what is going on in our lives, and different people experience different symptoms.  

Some stress is good for us and helps to motivate us to get things done. But when we are under too much stress for too long, it can negatively impact our wellbeing and leave us feeling overwhelmed. This affects how our body feels, our mental wellbeing, our emotions and our behaviour.  

Managing stress 

People handle stress in different ways. The important thing is to find tools and techniques that work for you.  For example, you could:

  • Talk with someone who can give you support and advice. If you need study support, check the How we’ll support you page for who you could talk to. 
  • Review what in your life is giving  you stress. Is there anything you can reduce, stop or change to take some pressure off? 
  • Plan breaks in your day. Make small changes to your habits to make this part of your routine. 
  • Have a think about your lifestyle. Are you eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep and exercise? 
  • Connect with what is important to you and aligns with your values. This can help to gain perspective on the things that don't matter as much. 
  • Spend time with your friends and whānau and work on ways of managing stress together. 

Try box breathing

When we feel stressed or anxious a quick technique we can use to calm ourselves is box breathing. It’s called box breathing because we can imagine the pattern of breathing is like a box. All you need to do is:

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds
  2. Hold for four seconds
  3. Breathe out through your nose for four seconds
  4. Hold for four seconds.

Repeat the steps for as long as you need.

A box illustration to help demonstrate box breathing, which shows the four steps with one on each side of the box.

Stress and study

We recognise that balancing study, whānau and work can cause stress. To help manage your time and study stress you could: 

  • Set goals and plan your study so you can break things down into doable steps.  Tips for stetting study goals
  • Schedule self-care or wellness tasks or rewards around your study or during study breaks. 
  • Put yourself first! Your study should not take priority over the needs of your own mind or body. 

Our Study tips and techniques section has a range of information to help you prepare for your studies, assignments and exams. This will aid your time and study management and hopefully help to reduce stress levels. 

Study tips and techniques



Mindfulness is about paying attention to the here and now, without judgement. We can use it to slow down, pause and notice our thoughts and feelings without struggling with them. It can also be simply taking the time to observe the world around us by engaging our sense of sight, hearing, touch and smell.

Mindfulness can help us respond effectively to our emotions rather than experiencing a knee jerk reaction. It can also help us appreciate the here and now, and to notice things we might normally miss when we are caught up in our busy minds.

Setting aside just a little time to practice mindfulness can help us slow down, reduce stress and anxiety and bring more balance to our lives. This will boost wellbeing and help to reset our sense of perspective and focus.

Mindfulness tips

Here are some tips about how you can practise mindfulness:

  • Breathe – we all do it, we just don’t focus on it. Try to stop and focus your attention on your breathing – to its natural rhythm and flow. If you do this for a few minutes it can help to bring you back to the present moment
  • Pause – taking a mindful pause from whatever you are doing, whether that is study or work, can help clear your head. Take notice of your surroundings and just stop for a while.
  • Gratitude – appreciating what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have, is an important part of our mental wellbeing.
  • Digital detox – we are often connected to our devices which can distract us from the here and now. Powering off – whether it be for an hour or one day a week – can help recharge and rebalance us. This is particularly important before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.
  • Meditate – sometimes keeping our mind still can be hard when we have so many things on the go. Practising meditation can help reduce stress, enhance our awareness and calm the mind. 

When it comes to studying, mindfulness can help calm your mind and get you ready to focus. When you sit down to study, take a little time to ready yourself by trying the breathe and pause tips above.