Laois Connects


Laois Connects unwrapping tips to manage  stress and anxiety wisely during the festive season.

  The Laois Connects initiative, co-ordinated by Laois County Council,  has sought  to promote Health & Wellbeing in Laois since 2013. The committee is made up of representatives from the HSE, Mental Healthy Ireland, Mountmellick Community School, Healthy Laois,  Laois PPN, Healthy Laois, Laois Sports Partnership, Youthwork Ireland Laois, Laois Library Service, Jigsaw Laois Offaly, Laois Offaly Education and Training Board, Dunamaise Arts Centre , Age Friendly Laois and Laois Sports and Leisure section. These various agencies and bodies are committed to providing supports, information and activities to promote & support Health & Wellbeing in our communities.


The festive season that lies ahead of us tends to offer many moments of joy and happiness, however it can also be fraught with tension, stress and anxiety.   Laois Connects partners have come together to offer some practical and manageable tips to support you have a happy festive season and to deal with challenging moments  when they arise.

Have Realistic Expectations

A good starting point is to understand that the festive season does not have to be perfect and to avoid as much as possible the inevitable hype that is associated with this time of  year. Remind yourself that it’s okay if things do not go exactly according to your plans. Unexpected things will happen and upset your plans, so it is helpful to be flexible and grant yourself the permission to let things go. Try to be realistic about what will work for you and what you can accomplish. Focus on what is most important to you.  Avoid the inevitable external pressure set by others, including social media and the persistent advertising that is at a particular high at this time of year.

Plan and Prioritise

It can be helpful to create a special festive season plan, including a budget. If possible, minimise your use of credit cards which is difficult as we go more into a cashless society.  But in January, the credit account must be settled. Creating a spending plan for food, gifts and entertainment will help reduce new year stress when the bills arrive. It might be a big ask, but it could be worthwhile to remove the tapping facility from your smart phone. At the top of your Festive Planning Page write “It’s okay to say no!”. This will help you not to be overwhelmed by obligations.  

If you are experiencing difficulty financially, your Local MABS office can offer help on budgeting and other financial matters.

Call  : 0818 072 620   Web:

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of your physical and mental well-being are key to managing stress and anxiety at any time of the year., and perhaps more so over the next few weeks.  Give yourself the gift of self care as it needs to be given extra attention at this time of year.  Eat nutritious food and well-balanced meals, build in regular daily physical activity, and maintain a good sleep pattern which can be difficult with many late nights associated with the festive season. Ensure you still make time for the activities you always enjoy doing throughout the year and not to abandon your routines these because of the extra time demands that may be made of you. Activities that help you relax and unwind may include meeting a friend for a cup of coffee and a chat, going for a walk, reading, listening  to seasonal music, and songs and films.  


Healthy Laois

CONNECT at Christmas

Christmas can be a time of joy, excitement, family connection, love and kindness, but it can also be a very difficult time of year for people.

Financial pressures, increased alcohol and food consumption, reminders of lost loved ones, and family relationships can mean the festive season leads to increased stress which can negatively impact our mental and physical health.

You can protect your health and wellbeing during Christmas by boosting your resilience and understanding the benefit of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to adapt well when things go wrong and eventually solve the problem. We gain and learn resilience through life experiences and training. Resilience helps us cope with stress and helps us live healthier lives.  Lack of resilience can lead to chronic stress which in turn may cause high blood pressure, weakened immune system, heartburn, heart disease, and digestive issues. It can also affect your mental health, and can cause insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

  1. C. Care for Yourself

Look at your physical health, is your diet healthy and balanced do you exercise regularly. Make an effort to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables and ultimately aim to increase this to 7 portions. Take a walk at lunchtime and make time to exercise

  1. OK to relax

How do you relax. Do you watch TV while scrolling on the phone and discussing this week’s school run. Your mind needs to relax. Regular relaxation allows our bodies and minds to reset. Try scheduling activities, such as taking a bath, listening to music, reading, yoga, or swimming.

  1. N. Need a laugh

Laughing reduces stress hormones, boosts the immune system and resilience. Try smiling and laughing more, watching comedies, or reading a funny book.

  1. N. Nod Off

Do you get enough sleep? Try to ensure you get between 7-9 hours per night. Try getting up at the same time each day, and reducing your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon.

  1. E. Express your Emotions

Humans are social beings. It is vital for our wellbeing that we feel supported and have people around us that care for us. Try arranging a regular catch up with friends and family and allow space to regularly express emotions and feel valued by helping with other people’s issues.


  1. C. Counselling

Resilience can be built through effective counselling and therapy. Therapy can give you the space to explore what is stopping your from battling stress and improving your ability to be resilient.

T. Treats

Life can start to feel monotonous if we don’t have things to get excited about in the future. Visit friends you haven’t seen, give yourself regular healthy treats at the end of the week, or arrange fun things to do on your days off.


Resilience is an important skill that can improve our ability to manage Christmas stress and protect our physical and mental health over the festive period. Protect yourself from Christmas stress this year with resilience, so you can enjoy the best things that Christmas has to offer.

Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Including mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine can help you manage stress and support your mental health. Doing things such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety.  Taking a mindful walk in nature can be very rewarding .

 Laois LSP Christmas Message for Laois Connects

Laois Sports Partnership encourages the people of Laois to keep active this Christmas. This time of year, can be a time to unwind, take a well-earned break and spend time with friends and family. It is important to enjoy your festive season and find balance. Keeping active at this time of year can be achieved in a wholesome way, by walking your dog, taking a stroll through a Christmas market or join in with one of the many charitable runs and walks over the Christmas and New Year period. For those who would like to work up more of a sweat, why not visit the parkrun in Vicarstown every Saturday from 9:30, make use of an outdoor green gym near you or follow one of the exercise videos on our website,

We thank you all for your continued support and involvement throughout 2023. We hope you have a safe and Happy Christmas, and we look forward to sharing our exciting plans with you for 2024. Visit  for a full list of events taking place this Christmas.

 Set Boundaries

It is important to set boundaries to protect our time and availability, at any time of the year.  It’s even more important at this time of the year where there are an awful lot more of social events to choose to attend, work, family , friends community and so on. Such demands can be overwhelming leading to stress and anxiety.  Sometimes we may not want to go to all the events, but feel unable to say “No” Remember you are in control of your time and can choose to limit the events you will  attend.  Remember note to self on the top of your Festive  Season Plan “It is Ok to say  No” One useful way  to manage such potential conflict is to communicate openly with family and friends about your personal needs and what is best for you. Try not to feel guilty or selfish for creating boundaries, as it helps you look after your well-being. 

Mental Health Ireland free downloadable leaflets on stress Anxiety

 Mountmellick Community School have the following advice and festive ideas at this time

Primary & Post Primary Schools & all other Education Centres

Being Kind this Christmas Season is one of the easiest and most important ways we can enjoy the holidays.  And it can cost very little if nothing at all. 

In schools there are so many ways that we can spread Cineáltas, Kindness. 

Make Christmas Cards for patients in Hospitals / Nursing Homes

Gather all the unwanted / unopened gifts that may be at home and collect them for a charity / hospital / nursing home of your choosing.

Participate in the Childrens Shoebox Appeal or organise cake sales to raise money for charity.  

At Mountmellick Community School we had a Swap Shop, students brought in items to donate, recieved one ticket per item and then could use those tickets to ‘buy’ other items on display.  One class decided to make all their Kris Kindle gifts. A great promotion of Sustainability also. 

Whatever you decide to do in your school, there is plenty of room to have lots of fun, be creative, save money or spend very little and most importantly Bí Cineálta‘. Be Kind.  

Figure 2: Students enjoying events during Laois Connects 2023

Age Friendly Laois

Christmas is a time that we associate with having family around us- the laughs, the catching up and the excitement. For the older people in your community , whose family may be grown up and away, who may have lost a partner or who may be living alone, Christmas can be a lonely time. Make the effort to check in on your older neighbours- check if they need anything from the shops as shopping at this busy time  can be difficult with the crowds around.

To the person you may wave to or just say hi to when out walking, say “ how are you “ and start a conversation. You will get as much from it as they will. As said before – be kind- put yourselves in the shoes of someone less fortunate. If you haven’t already done , let this time of year be the time when you practise an act of kindness.

The  LOETB (Laois & Offaly Education & Training Board)

are offering a diverse range of courses for further education and training in various fields to keep you connected, engaged and learning . This is a great opportunity for individuals in Laois and Offaly to explore new interests, learn new skills, and meet in a supportive environment.

The courses cover a wide spectrum, from Dress Design and Cooking to Mindfulness, Sign Language, Horticulture, Art, and Craft and much more. This variety ensures there’s something for everyone, catering to different interests and passions.

If you or someone you know is interested in trying something new or enhancing existing skills, reaching out to LOETB at (057) 86 30093 is a good step. We can provide more information about the courses, schedules, and enrolment details.

Taking part in further education and training not only enriches personal knowledge but also fosters a sense of community and personal development. It’s a positive initiative to combat the potential January blues and start the new year with a fresh and engaging experience.

Seeking Support 

The festive season can bring up difficult memories and reminders of times past with our loved ones. You may have family members living far away who can’t be with you or miss those who have passed away. Remember that it is okay to ask for help and let someone know how you’re feeling. This can be with family members, friends or by seeking professional help. As the saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Sharing your worries and concerns can make a significant difference to how you cope and help you find some level of hope and optimism. 

The Samaritans provide a 24/7 listening service on 116 123, Pieta is also always available on 1800 247 247, ‘Text About It’ is a 24/7 free text service (text Hello to 50808) and the HSE provide information on all other supports and services available on or

1800 111 888.

Portlaoise Community & Family Resource Centre

provides various mental health supports and groups including:

  • Adult and Adolescent Counselling
  • Problem Gambling Family Support & Counselling
  • Mindfulness Programmes
  • Children’s Play Therapy
  • Family Support


Keep an eye on our facebook page

Or our website:

Laois Connects recommends that by prioritising your  wellbeing and  taking care  of your own needs, will contribute to a more enjoyable and less stressful festive season not alone for yourself but also those around you . It is not a selfish thing to do.

-Laois Connects wishes  you a very peaceful and joyful festive season.

For more info on Laois Connects, to see our recorded panel discussion from Laois Connects 2023 or for info on partners visit


Laois Connects October 2023



The Laois Connects 2023 Health & Wellbeing Programme, led by Laois County Council will take place from the 9th October to the 15th of October 2023. Events are happening throughout the county and there should be something for everyone in the schedule of events.

The Laois Connects 2023 Programme is a collaboration between Laois County Council, Laois Sports Partnership, Laois PPN, HSE, Mental Health Ireland, Portlaoise Youth and Family Resource Centre, Mountmellick Community School, LOETB, Healthy Laois, Laois Libraries, Jigsaw Laois Offaly, Dunamaise Arts Centre and Youthwork Laois.

The Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Councillor Paschal McEvoy  had the following message for the people of Laois;


The  Laois Connects initiative is an important wellbeing initiative and this years focus on “Anxiety” will especially resonate with people. I encourage all ages to attend events during the programme and to begin to  or continue to be aware of your mental health, in what is a busy world. “


Ms. Josephine Rigney, Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention with the HSE and  a member of the Laois Connects Organisation Committee offers these words of advice and encouragement;

“Every one of us are faced with the challenges of life, no matter what age or at what point we are in life.  Some of these challenges are within our control and some are outside of our control.    It is important that we are able to deal with these challenges and our armour to do this is our emotional wellness.   Therefore we need to take the time to focus on ourselves and promoting our wellness.  Laois Connects reminds us that there are things that we can do to mind our emotional and mental health, whether this is keeping active, looking after our physical health, staying in touch with others,  having a chat if we need to talk about something, or just doing something that we enjoy and get meaning from.   Keeping ourselves mentally and physically well on an ongoing basis is a gift that we can give to ourselves and one that will enable us to navigate and cope with the ups and downs and challenges of everyday life.  It is important also to be aware that sometimes we may need some support from others and we don’t have to do it all on our own.  Reach out to your support system – family, friends or someone you can trust.  Connect in with the various supports and services that are available – they are there for you and anyone who may need some help and support.  Check out or or Freephone: 1800 111 888 for a list of local and national services. “


Finola Colgan Development Officer, Mental Health Ireland Midlands Louth and Meath said;

it is very timely to address mental health matters given the current changes taking place.. The theme of 2023’s World Mental Health Day, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is Mental Health is A Universal Human Right and Laois Connects is focussing this year on Anxiety. The overall aim is to  get the public to place mental health on a par with physical health. We all have mental health needs as we do with physical health. However , when we find ourselves struggling, feeling unable to cope our mental health can be undermined. Laois Connects is providing a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our mental health and the supports that are available at such times. Equally important throughout the month  is the emphasis on activities that we can partake in to support and enhance our mental health.”


Among the events planned are Tai Chi Yoga classes, and a willow weaving workshop being offered by Laois County Council’s, Sport and Leisure Department. These classes will be delivered at various locations throughout the county. Check on for further details.


Laois Sports Partnership are delivering Activator Pole sessions, which are always popular will also be scheduled throughout the week. They will also have  4 Inclusive activity days for all abilities, during September and October. They will also provide mental health talks by  Laois Hurler Ross King in Mountrath & Mountmellick Secondary Schools. Boxer Eric Donovan will also have a Public Talk , with a time and venue yet to be confirmed.. watch our socials for updates.


We encourage everyone to get out walking & running in the fresh air and we have listings of walks in Laois to get you out to stretch the legs.


On Thursday the 12th of October,  the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise will host “ Mind Yourself Day” , starting with a screening of “Lakelands” and a panel discussion with Positive Laois, Jigsaw Laois Offaly and former Laois Paralympian, Ailish Dunne. The screening is free for students.


In the afternoon, from 2pm, there will be a series of presentations and talks, starting with a talk by the HSE Psychiatry of Later Life , which is entitled “ Anxiety and its Management”and presented by the Psychiatry of Later Life Team. This will be followed by a presentation by Joe Tierney, of the Technological University of the Shannon- the presentation theme is “ Re-imaging Aging Through Outdoor Adventure. This will be of interest to people who are or who want to be active as they age , to activity providers and anyone who is engaging or providing services to Older adults.


Janice O Brien from the LOETB will then deliver a demo and Q & A session on

“ Nutrition for Older Adults”.


There will be various information stands there during the afternoon.


At 7pm, there will be a  Mindfulness Gallery tour  led by Laura Dunne, of the Dunamaise Arts Centre followed at 8pm by a complimentary Sound Meditation Session given by the Golden Egg Clinic. Both of these will take place at the Dunamaise.


At 7pm on the 12th also , there will also be an online “ Parenting the Tech Savvy Child Webinar” delivered by Dr Richard Hogan of the Parenting & Technology

Register and submit questions here

The Dunamaise Arts Centre are also showing “Nothing Compares” – the Sinéad O Connor documentary during the week also


Further details regarding dates, times, locations of all events will be issued soon.

You are welcome to visit our website or follow us on social media for updates……….


Check on  or on our social channels for further details.


Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Paschal McEvoy and some of the members of Laois Connects 2023 Committee pictured supporting the initiative.

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