Stress is our body's natural response to a demand or threat. When we feel stressed, we have made two main judgements:
- We feel threatened by the situation
- We believe that we are not able to meet the threat
Everyone experiences some level of stress every day, and, in the right amount, this can be a good thing. It is the drive that gets us out of bed, ready for the day, and ready to function normally. However, stress can often turn bad when our stress is greater than our capacity to cope. If ignored, this can grow into a serious problem.
What is the stress bucket?
The stress bucket model (brabban and turkington 2002) demonstrates how stress works. It helps us to understand our current levels of stress, reflect upon our coping strategies and improve our wellbeing.
Imagine you have a bucket. The size of your stress bucket relates to your level of vulnerability. The bigger the bucket, the less vulnerable you are to stress. The smaller the bucket, the more vulnerable you are to stress.
As the bucket fills up with stress, it shows our capacity to cope.
Our tap relates to our coping strategies which help relieve stress. Our tap works well when we employ good coping mechanisms. If we fall into bad habits and apply bad coping mechanisms, our tap stops working effectively.
What makes someone more vulnerable to stress?
Your vulnerability is determined by several factors, including genetics, early childhood experiences, and level of social support.
What causes stress?
Everyone has different stress triggers. Common causes of stress include personal worries such as financial concerns, relationships, bereavements, physical health, and caring for family members. Stress can also be work-related and include workload, workplace conflict, and lack of perceived control.
What happens if we have too much stress?
If we experience too much stress, then our stress bucket can overflow. We may experience outbursts, become snappy with colleagues, or become withdrawn. In real terms, this is when problems develop causing issues such as mental and physical illnesses, and a general inability to go about daily life normally. Ignoring stress allows it to build up and this can harm our mental health - we must face it in order to manage it.
What coping strategies can we use to manage stress?
To prevent our bucket from overflowing, we need to implement appropriate coping strategies for dealing with stress. Bad coping mechanisms might include excessive drinking, over or under eating, smoking, bottling things up and lashing out.
Whereas, good coping mechanisms include exercising, meditation, hobbies, and helping others. Talking to someone you trust about your problems can also help to empty your stress bucket. Having support from others on how to make your life less stressful is an excellent step towards better stress management. It is also important that you are given the opportunity to talk about any stress problems at work so that you can identify how your workplace stress can be better managed.
How full is your stress bucket? What are your coping strategies for dealing with stress? Are they good or bad? How can you use the stress bucket concept to manage your mental health?
To find out more and discover other useful tools and techniques for managing your mental health, take a look at our Mental Health at Work E-learning course.