Derval O'Rourke's stress-busting strategies

There’s no denying that life has been stressful lately for a lot of people, me included.
Derval O'Rourke's stress-busting strategies
Derval O'Rourke

There’s no denying that life has been stressful lately for a lot of people, me included. During my time as a professional runner I had to develop loads of stress busting strategies to deal with high pressure times and I wanted to share these with you today.

Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to follow the helpful guidelines below, while also ensuring I’m going easy on myself and lowering expectations. I think this is really important for us all. Recipe wise I am sharing my mini pancakes recipe, Dafne loves when I make these as our weekend cook along.

My 5 stress busting strategies:

Feed the brain’s needs

The energy demands of studying or prepping for a big work project are huge, with the brain alone consuming 20% of the energy we need every day. At the moment we are all juggling so much that no doubt our brains are working in overdrive to keep up with the demands it is under.

Remember to include a source of quality protein (eggs, nuts and seeds, fish, chicken), slow- releasing carbohydrates (oats, wholegrain rice), healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds) and lots of fruit and vegetables at meal times. Keeping healthy snacks nearby is a great help too. My favourite healthy snack options are oatcakes, nut butter and banana or fruit and nut based bars. I love Nakd Bars for a shop bought healthy snack – they’re tasty, they keep you full and they’re so handy to have in your handbag or car!

Quench the Thirst

You should be aiming for 1.5 – 2 litres of water per day. If you struggle with drinking plain water add a squeeze of lemon or lime to it or a small amount of cordial.

Keep a water bottle with you and put a reminder in your phone to drink regularly. Try to keep coffee, tea, fizzy drinks to a minimum. I know that can be hard! But keep in mind that even being a small bit dehydrated is hugely detrimental to how you are feeling.

Move Your Body

When it comes to feeling good throughout the day consider how much you are moving your body. If you are working from home then remember taking short breaks is key and can help to relieve stress, clear your mind and lift your mood.

Even 15 minutes of getting up and moving will make you feel better. Leave the phone down and walk/jog for 15 minutes, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after it. Exercise releases endorphins helping you to think clearly and take on information in a more efficient way.

Snooze for Success

A good night’s sleep is important to enable you to perform effectively, concentrate properly and maintain peak energy levels.

Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, even when it is so easy to be lured in by binging a tv show.

Leave the phone downstairs. It will be way easier to go to sleep without the temptation of browsing social media. If you need to keep your phone in your room, just ensure that you put it down at least 30 minutes before you try to sleep.

Stress is part of life

Stress is a natural survival response that can enhance performance at optimal levels. Stress is a part of life and managing it is key. Remember your experience of stress is unique to you and put strategies in place that are effective for you personally.

Try and keep things in perspective. Goals are important, but they are not the be all and end all. Take a deep breath and do your best with good strategies. That is all you can ask from yourself. Basically – go easy on yourself! We are living through strange times and navigating them as best you can is all you can expect from yourself.

If you feel like you need support reach out to your doctor and chat through what additional support might help you at this time.

Mini breakfast pancakes:

Derval's mini breakfast pancakes
Derval's mini breakfast pancakes

These are perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast and the add ins mean that everyone can customize their own. You can make a double batch and keep some in the freezer for a speedy snack midweek, simply pop them in the toaster to defrost!

For more of my family favourite recipes, head to for your 7 day free trial and take a browse.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes: The number of pancakes will depend on the size you choose.


· 40g oats

· 1 banana

· 1 egg

· ½ cup buttermilk

· 1 tsp olive oil

· Optional add ins: desiccated coconut, cacao powder, blueberries, chocolate chips


1. Place the oats in a food processor and blitz into a flour type consistency. Add the banana, eggs and buttermilk and blitz again to combine. Stir in any extra add ins at this point.

2. Heat the olive oil in a small pan over a medium heat. Pour the mixture in until you reach your desired pancake size.

3. Cook for 1/2 minutes on each side, waiting until bubbles start appearing on the pancake before flipping it.

4. Serve with some natural yoghurt, fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Wellness Tip: Do a social media declutter - unfollow/mute any people that cause you stress when scrolling through your feed.

Fitness Tip: Try a running introduction session this weekend: 5 minutes of fast walking to warm up; 1 minute running; 1 minute walking; repeat the running and walking until 20 minutes is up on your watch or phone timer. Go at your own pace.

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