Sometimes it can feel really difficult to untangle what is stressful in our lives, and what we can do about it. Have you ever felt that you were coping with stressful circumstances then little things tip you over the edge? The stress bucket model (Brabban & Turkington, 2002) shows what’s happening.

We all have stress in our life, in fact some stress can be good to motivate ourselves. Some stressors may be completely out of our control, for example illness or world events. Some may be from our relationships, saying yes when we really want to say no, people expecting more than we feel able to give, lack of boundaries. Some may come from our jobs – not being happy, difficult commute, long hours, demanding bosses, lack of fulfilment.

The stress bucket (excuse my very basic drawing skills!) shows these stressors filling up the bucket in differing amounts. We may be able to cope with a stressful job, but it takes up most of our bucket. We may then have a power cut, and not being able to watch Netflix may make the bucket overflow so we “snap”. We may have lots of areas of our lives causing us stress so we can’t tell what is stressing us most and what we can do about any of it. This can mean our bucket feels like it’s always overflowing and we can’t stop it.

Why not try drawing your own stress bucket to see what’s going on for you? It can sometimes be clearer on paper than going round and round in our heads.

Now imagine your bucket has a tap on it. Activities that lessen our stress levels will open the tap and lower the water in our bucket, allowing us to cope better with stressful issues, large and small. Here are some ideas to open the tap:

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Talking to someone
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Creative activities
  • Time with friends

What could you add? Not all activities work for everyone, it’s worth taking some time to try out what works for you, especially when there is still some space left in your stress bucket. It can be really useful to work on making them into a habit so they can lower your base level of stress and be easier to use when you really need them.

Reference: Brabban, A. & Turkington, D. (2002). The search for meaning: detecting congruence between life events, underlying schema and psychotic symptoms. In A. P. Morrison (ed.), A Casebook of Cognitive Therapy for Psychosis (Chapter 5, pp. 59–75). New York: Brunner‐Routledge.