Stress is a part of everyday life. Our ability to cope with it, and stop it affecting our health and wellbeing depends on a number of factors. Using a stress bucket analogy can help us ensure stress doesn’t take over.
Short bursts of stress can be good. Who hasn’t been motivated into action by a deadline? But when stress builds up and becomes constant it can cause havoc with our bodies, both physically and mentally. Yet exactly when stress becomes too much to bear is different for every individual.
The term ‘stress signature’ describes the response to excess stress that is unique to each person. Do you become snappy? Do you withdraw into yourself? Do you become sad and tearful? All are completely normal responses and will depend on a number of factors. Our circumstances dictate our resilience and response to stress. Availability of family/work support, financial security and other social resources can make us more or less vulnerable to stress than the next person. This is where the stress bucket comes in.
Imagine we all have a bucket to hold our stress. The size of our bucket depends on factors like our genetic make up, our character and events that have happened to us in our past. Stressful events fill our bucket, drip by drip, or litre by litre. Relationship issues, money worries and work struggles all add to the bucket. If there’s no outlet, the bucket will overflow and we start to exhibit our personal ‘stress signature’ response. When our buckets are nearly full, it doesn’t take much to tip it over the edge.
Punching metaphorical holes in the metaphorical bucket can be done with coping strategies that alleviate stress. We need to nurture positive strategies to help us deal with stress, not ones that can be detrimental to our health like consuming drink and drugs. Good coping strategies can quite literally lighten the load on us.
It’s beneficial to curate an array of options to help you cope with stress so there’s always something you can access. By reflecting on your stress bucket regularly, you’ll become more in tune with your emotional health. By doing so, you can prevent yourself from reaching burnout. Try this:
- Draw a stress bucket and fill it with everything that is causing you stress.
- Circle anything that you can take action with to remove stress. What can you do about it? Do you need to access help to remedy the issue? Who can help you resolve things?
- Now look at the things that are left. What coping strategies can help here? Do you need guidance? Would talking to a friend/expert help? Do you need headspace? Would taking time out to exercise or meditate help?
- Known stress busting strategies include exercise, meditation, resolving conflicts, simplifying life choices, getting support and making time to do things you enjoy.