(Thanks to Sarah Marsh-Collings for her recent post, who inspired me to write my next blog).
Just when we thought that there was a ray of light for some sort of normality (whatever that may mean to each person), when we thought that things might be looking brighter, we are hit with another lockdown, a month and a half away before the festive season, ‘Christmas.’
My stress levels shot through the roof when I stepped out, the day before lockdown 2.0 to just buy some milk in town. It was horrendous! People everywhere, cues running as long as the Euro Tunnel, no proper social distancing in place and so many without masks! Not only that, you’d think that people would be far more courteous and understanding of each other, but it was far from that! It’s like no one has learnt a thing from the first Lockdown. Panic buying everywhere people shopping left to right and centre. Again, running out of toilet paper, tin food, pasta and even pet food… Is it just me that thinks the world has gone nuts!
In situations like this, the only thing that could be managed was my own stress levels and that is exactly what I did. I took control of the things that I could and let go of the things that I couldn’t and wouldn’t serve me.
Yes, in the first lockdown many were just getting to grips with managing stress levels and some of the new rules of restrictions, where others may have mastered how to manage their stressors and the new norms… It’s never easy, but what’s important is to look back at what we have learnt from the first lockdown-what coping methods and support we used. As this will no doubt help once again.
For those who may have not yet found ways to manage stress and understand what it is and when it becomes a concern, I would like to introduce the idea of using a “Bucket.” In this case, a “Stress Bucket” but I tend to call it my “Wellbeing Bucket.” This idea or concept is so simple but can bring about such relief, focus, clarity and motivations.
As we know, especially now, the conversation around stress awareness and particularly work-related stress needs to happen more. Yes, it has somewhat become more open but still not enough. The good news is that many of us are slowly becoming more aware of the detrimental effect prolonged and/or excessive stress can have on both our physical and mental wellbeing.
There are so many tips, tools and strategies that can be implemented to help reduce stress levels but this time, I’m going to share just one simple but effective tool that can be used in so many different ways. So, before I explain about using a “Stress Bucket” as a tool, I’d like to reiterate the understanding of stress:
What is stress? -When does it become a concern?
Stress itself is not a problem. In fact, stress chemicals, like cortisol are extremely helpful to us as they energise the body and heighten our focus and courage. It is part of our survival mechanism. This gives us the ability to take action and enables us to cope with daily challenges, to perform at our best and to reach our goals.
On the flips side, it becomes a concern when prolonged and excessive stress can impact a person’s cognitive, physical, emotional and psychological and behavioural functioning. That is when it starts to occur daily or on regular occurrences. When you get stressed out there is a physical logical response that happens in your body and that response can hamper your health, wellness and mental health. An example of signs that you might be stressed is constant tiredness, feeling sick, loss of sex drive etc…
The key to addressing your stress is about self-awareness and taking action to address this. Remember, that everyone and some time or another encounters stress. It is not uncommon, especially now…
To really get to grips with understanding about stress we need to understand the human brain. If you wish to know more about this then click here for my YouTube video on ‘Tour of Human Brain to understand Stress’
Let’s get right to the tool of using a ‘Stress/Wellbeing Bucket” as a metaphorical idea.
If our negative thoughts are not dealt with, in time they become accumulated and in this case within a bucket. So, imagine if we worry 20 to 30 times it goes straight into the bucket as 20 different events. The thing to remember id that our brain doesn’t really know the difference between reality and imagination and because of that, very quickly in no time at all our bucket begins to fill up.
Therefore, when our stress bucket reaches its maximum capacity and begins to overflow, our brain moves from the intellectual sensible part of the brain down to that primitive where we go into the flight or fight part reaction state that your body and mind exhibit in times of crisis depends on stress to pull the trigger. The trouble is, when stress gets out of hand, the barrel is pointing your way! Under stress, your adrenaline starts pumping and the cortisol level jumps up, raising the blood sugar level. The focus is shifted from the digestive and immune system, and your body goes into a full alert mode.
Did you know that this part of our brain has 3 default ways of responding which are?
Anxiety Anger Depression
It’s important to understand that whilst these 3 responses do not necessarily mean that you are suffering with an anxiety disorder or with depression, however, it does mean that you will perhaps exhibit many of the symptoms that are associated with anxiety and depression.
Don’t worry as there is good news. And that is that believe it or not that you have the capacity to have more influence over this process than you think! The trick here is to become self-aware and take action on it by learning how to release the unwanted stress from your bucket.
The idea of a bucket is a management tool/ analogy to help you understand, manage and use this as a practical tool.
- The size of the bucket depends on each individual on how much stress they have and can take. The bigger the bucket is the more you can take- the smaller the bucket, the less you can take.
- At the top of your bucket imagine the elements of stress that you have going on, so this goes into the bucket like Finances, Work, Family, Sleep Deprivation, Nutrition, Health Issues/Concerns etc…
- Slowly your bucket begins to fill up and eventually you will get to the points where you will begin to have such as low libido, constant tiredness, low vitality, frustrations, feeling sick, depressed, over-emotional, overwhelmed, lack of focus or motivation, and these are just some of the symptoms.
- What we need to do is EMPTY the Bucket. So, the way this is done is to image a tap at the bottom of your bucket and you start to slowly release the valve to allow for the stress to flow out. This is done by finding possible solutions to stress. An example of key destressing solutions are Sleep, Get Active/Moving, Eat Well and Rest. The idea here is finding the solutions that work for you and helps resolve the problems around that stress.
- Something that I like to do is to note down the level of stress it is causing out of 10, (1=low and 10=high) – then to reassess the stress level once you have released the valve.
Why not put it into practice? Activity:
Step One- Think about the size of the bucket – the worksheet enables you to choose a size to reflect how vulnerable the person feels they are in relation to managing the stresses in their life.
Step Two- Ask yourself or get someone to ask you, to think about the things that could go in the bucket, all the things that contribute the stress in their life.
Step Three- Answer the following questions as you begin to find helpful and unhelpful strategies:
- Do you have any evidence to support your feelings?
- What can you change?
- What can’t you change and need to accept?
- What am I in control of?
- What can’t I control?
- What needs your urgent attention?
- Who can anyone help you?
Step Four- Ask yourself or get someone to ask you to consider the helpful and unhelpful coping strategies that I/you employ. Are there any unhelpful strategies that I/you could reduce and any helpful ones I/you could increase?