The Shona Project was built for girls, by girls, and we love having a safe space to share our experiences. This week, we decided to shake things up a bit and bring some boys into the mix, to hear from them about their lives.

Our third guy of the week is Jack. Jack is a current 3rd-year student in UL, and founder of Moyo Nua – a social enterprise working with Malawian farmers and he previously served as the UN Youth Delegate for Ireland for 2019/2020. With such a busy life, Jack has had his fair amount of stress, and he has been very good to share with us how he deals with it. So, take it away, Jack…


Stress. The least Christmassy thing that comes around every single Christmas. Whether it’s studying for exams, working part-time, or even figuring out what presents to buy, the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful time for some. Without a doubt, I am one of those people. Between managing college work, actual work, and project work, I always say that I never experience Christmas until Christmas Eve – if I’m lucky!

When I was in secondary school, I would always get extremely stressed around exam time, and found those two or three weeks of exams and study to be really overwhelming. I’d have very little quality sleep, my diet would consist of water, coffee, and the bare minimum amount of food, and I would be absolutely zero craic. It got to the stage where I was seriously considering dropping out of school just before my Leaving Cert mocks – but thankfully I stuck to it.

Here’s the catch: I actually think that stress is good, once there isn’t too much of it. To me, having a bit of stress shows that you’re working on things that are not only important to you but are also challenging you to improve on whatever it is you’re doing. However, the thing that catches people (myself included) is that people get too stressed; which is one of the worst feelings in the world. With that in mind, I have four key things that I try to remember/do when I’m stressed, or when preparing for the busy times of the year.

One: Prevention is better than cure

My first piece of advice in managing stress is to not take on too many things. There are things that you don’t have much choice in taking up, be it study or work, but making sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew always makes managing stress that bit easier. For me, that easier said than done, and I’ve had to print out the below on the wall right beside my desk to help me make decisions about new projects. It’s only from experience that I’ve started to know the limits as to how much I can take on while staying sane, so don’t be hard on yourself if at times you take on too much – it’s a constant learning process.

Two: Make a plan around your stressful times

I love organising things, to the extent that I have a to-do list of to-do lists. I’m a big believer in having plans around times that are going to be especially stressful so that you can map out what you have to get done and dedicate certain times/days to getting each thing done. Writing out all of the things that I have to do well in advance allows me to do a ‘brain dump’ – emptying the things that you’re thinking about onto a piece of paper. From there, you can start piecing together a rough idea of how you’re going to tackle those stressful times. That said, the grand plans I make up almost never play out exactly as I intended; but that’s okay too. A rough plan is better than no plan at all!

Three: Take time out

I always feel really guilty when I take time out to relax during stressful times, especially when I’m behind schedule. Again, experience has shown me how important these brain breaks are during these times. The big thing for me is getting outside and walking, which can be difficult during the Irish winters, to be honest! Regardless, when I am planning and in these periods of stress, the one thing I always make sure to do is to take those brain breaks. Even if it’s only watching a five-minute YouTube video or listening to some music, those breaks always make the difference to me in ensuring I don’t get too stressed out.

Four: Chat about it

Everyone gets stressed. Everyone. There isn’t a single soul out there that doesn’t experience stress at times, regardless of what they might say. Because it’s something that everybody can relate to, I always find chatting about it helps me deal with it. I’m really lucky to have friends now that I can chat with about these things, but when I was in secondary school it wasn’t something that was ever spoken about. When I was in school, I found that chatting with my favourite teachers, or even the careers counsellor, really helped me to understand and work on reducing the amount of stress I was experiencing.

Obviously, this is a very short list of things that I know work for me. Some of these things may not suit everybody, and along the way, you might pick up new tricks or ideas that help you manage stress in your own ways – I know my ways of dealing with it are changing still to this day. Regardless of how you approach stress, there will be times where stress may get the better of you. The most crucial thing to remember is that you’re only human, and once you look after yourself during these times, you’re doing a pretty good job.

– Jack


We want to say a massive thank you to Jack for sharing some tips on how to deal with stress and getting involved in the conversation.  

If you want to keep up to date with Jack, you can follow him on his Instagram below.


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A post shared by Jack O’Connor (@itsjackoconnor)


Keep an eye out for more of our Lad’s Takeover Week here at Shona where we get the boys involved in the conversation. If you have a story you would like to share with us, pop us over an email at info@shona.ie

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