As we put 2021 behind us and move forward into 2022, many of us find ourselves with resolutions for improvement. Regardless of the goal, helpful coping skills for stress will help make it achievable. As stress builds up, our bad habits take over and the visualisation of your stress bucket is one of the most effective ways of keeping stress at bay.

Regardless of intentions, stress takes us away from our composure. This may look like snapping at loved ones or more serious actions. However it looks for you, a bad coping strategy will make life much harder.

With the new focus on mental health, coping models for emotions are reentering the forefront. As the last two years have taught us, finding a way to cope is critical for life. Throughout quarantines, job losses, and other disasters over the two years, it is hard to imagine living well without a good way to cope.

One way to better understand our psychology is through helpful imagery. The mental image that best describes the need for a release from stressful triggers is the Stress Bucket model.

In this article, we’re going to discuss this model in detail. We will also talk about ways in which you can put this model into practice in 2022. Any way in which a person is attempting to better themselves must first begin with a mentality. A poor attitude accomplishes only a few tasks in a large amount of time.

What is a Stress Bucket?

A stress bucket is a useful way to better understand the mechanics of coping. The basic explanation of the image is to take a bucket and imagine that it’s filling up with your stressors. These stressors add weight to the bucket like water, filling it up over time until it overflows.

Here’s a helpful visualisation on The Stress Bucket from the UK’s NHS.

The Stress Bucket leaking is good for mental health
The Stress Bucket (Leaking!)

Stressors

Stressors can come from work, family, finances, education, or any other part of your life. Stressors are not necessarily bad things either! Family is a great example of this. Most parents will agree that there are times when their children stress them out. That doesn’t mean that they don’t love their children, it only means they have to find a release for the stresses that they feel.

Read more: The Top 5 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Experience Daily Stress

As that bucket continues to fill, there are two options. Either, that bucket can reach the top and begin to overflow or you can relieve some of it from the tap. The former is when bad things usually happen. When our bucket overflows, we fly off the edge or yell or stomp or make fools of ourselves.

That stomping around is a way to cope. It’s a way to vent the pressure that’s building up inside. It’s just not a good way. It would be better to let out a little bit of water at a time. The way to do this is through healthy coping mechanisms.

Healthy Coping

In a mental health model, healthy coping strategies refer to ways to get rid of the stress that attaches itself to us throughout our lives. Healthy coping mechanisms are a way to acknowledge that there is no escaping stress. Instead of attempting to shove it away or escape it, we can embrace and move past it as it comes.

We will get more into the exact ways to do this below but the commonality is time and effort. When stress comes our way, the bucket gets filled every time that we try and ignore it. There are various ways in which we ignore the emotions and events that come up. 

Ignoring stressors and taking them on “in your bucket” is another way of ignoring the tasks of life. And, when we ignore the tasks of life, we ignore life itself.

Relieving the Tap

Some of the ways to cope in a healthy manner include:

  • Play with a stress ball – one of the simplest and most effective ways of relieving stress throughout a busy day or mentally challenging period you’re going through is by playing with a stress toy like a ball or fidget spinner.
  • Exercise – It is often forgotten how much stress we hold within our bodies. A tensing of the jaw or rounding of the shoulders are good examples. Exercise helps to break this tension up while also releasing endorphins to help boost your mood. If you’re near water like a lake, river or beach then why not take up paddle boarding?
  • Meditation – Meditation allows practitioners to take an emotion or thought and sit with it until its completion. By meditating on emotion or concern, many are able to find relief from it. 
  • Maintaining a clean living space – Cleaning up your area signals to your brain that the place you’re in is worthwhile. It also brightens up your living space and makes it more enjoyable to be in.
  • Focus on a task – Hobbies are a great way to do this but it doesn’t have to be that in-depth. Listen to music or go for a walk and focus on how many birds you can see. Anything that is able to break and hold your concentration. 
  • Practice breathing exercises – Your breath is a reflection of your mental state. Through breathwork, you can signal to your brain that it’s time to calm down. Breathing exercises–when done correctly–can signal to your brain that everything is okay. Follow along with our Behaveo Breathwork Guide.
  • Take Care of Yourself – This is a broad category because everyone is different. Taking care of yourself is going to look like something else for everyone. You are worth the time and effort that it takes to take care of yourself. That could be through the methods listed above or additional measures. For some, it could be through cutting off a bad friend or social engagement. Anything else that relieves your bucket or removes a source that fills it is a great form of self-care.

How to Use Your Stress Bucket in 2022

The mental health model has been on the forefront since lockdowns first happened. Though it was for terrible reasons, this has been an unexpected positive. More and more, people are seeing the importance of taking care of themselves. Mental health strategies allow for healthier coping mechanisms and attitudes. 

As 2022 comes around, implementing the stress bucket model into your life is a great way to work on a year that is better than the last. There are a lot of ways to bring this strategy into your life but, to get started, the easiest way may just be on paper.

Keeping a journal helps when working on a mental health strategy that can assist you when you need it. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t along with triggers and other concerns. By keeping track, you are able to refer back as time goes on.

Additionally, keep track of the daily activities that you do for yourself. At the end of the week, it can be powerful to look back and see all the times you went for a run or meditated. Alternatively, when you are feeling more stressed, you may look and see what is missing or needs improvement.

There are a lot of things in our lives that are beyond our control. With our health, there are even more. A freak medical condition is as likely to hit you as a freak bus is, it seems. There are, however, ways in which we can safeguard the happiness of our lives can. While nothing can guarantee it, several things can invite happiness and peace into our lives.

Healthy coping mechanisms like the ones provided in the stress bucket model are a way to do just that. By focusing on our reactions to the outside events of our lives, we can improve ourselves mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Charlie Penwarden

Former mental health nurse turned consultant with a critical focus on human behaviour research analysis and the optimisation of mental health management to prevent illness and promote life harmony.