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How full is your stress bucket? A tool to visualise your stress level & manage it more effectively

Excess stress is a key driver of poor performance, negative mental health, absenteeism, and resignations. As Motivational Mappers, we often see, in much more detail than most, how stressed people are at work by the results of their Maps and the coaching conversations we hold.

As coaches, business advisors, and trainers, it's useful to have some tools to help our clients with stress. The Stress Bucket is a brilliant model that I use to help my clients visualise their own stress, and the behaviours they use to manage it. I’ve found that it really helps people to consciously recognise their behaviours and to begin taking steps to change them and actually manage their stress.

I’m currently writing a new online course on Personal Resilience. This is an excerpt from it:

The Stress Bucket is a wonderful model. Imagine a bucket, as basic or as glittery as you like. Add two taps at the bottom, and a pressure release valve at the top, and fill it with all your tasks, responsibilities, and problems. Is your bucket full, or is there room for more?"

When our Stress Bucket is full, we can feel overwhelmed and that things are out of our control. It’s very useful to recognise our own symptoms of stress, as well as other people’s. Some people get headaches, spots, cold sores, or tense shoulders. Some find they have little patience or tolerance for people. Some struggle with sleep. Some want to eat or drink more, to be alone or to be distracted and busy. When we notice our symptoms increasing, we can take action before our Stress Bucket overflows or bursts.

Going back to the taps and pressure release valve on our bucket. The first tap is opened through unhealthy habits - this is a false tap, which appears to reduce stress but actually increases it long-term. The second tap is opened through healthy habits. And the pressure release valve is opened through distractions.

  1. Distractions are a useful way to lower the pressure in our Stress Bucket, to create a little more time and space to get things resolved. E.g. binge-watching box sets, nibbling, occasional drinking and focussing on work. If you’re doing it to avoid feeling stressed or out of control, then recognise it’s a distraction with a temporary effect.

  2. Unhealthy habits are similar to distractions but taken to an extreme level, e.g. excessive drinking, substance misuse, overspending, over-working, and excessive risk-taking.

  3. Healthy habits are the ideal way to balance your stress levels and strengthen and expand your Stress Bucket so you can handle more without feeling overwhelmed. These include motivating work, feeling fulfilled at work and home, exercise, quality sleep, time with people who support and encourage us, fun activities, talking and listening, meditation, and happy music.

Questions: How full is your Stress Bucket? What are you doing to reduce your stress? What healthy habits can you start today?

It’s such a great model as it is so easy to visualise and apply to your own behaviours. I really recommend having a go at building it into an existing workshop around motivation for your clients or developing some resources and talking points to integrate it into mental health and wellbeing management strategies for your teams, or using it for yourself.


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