This week I have been talking buckets. Different buckets but all 3 play their part in a balanced life.
Let me talk you through them!
The 'Stress Bucket' - also called the 'Stress Container'
Our lives can be filled with stress in the same way that a bucket fills with water. Drop by drop the bucket begins to fill until that last drop of water creates the overflow.
We all have a stress bucket. The size of the bucket is individual. Some people will be able to hold a larger quantity of ‘stress’ than others.
The stresses of life will flow into the bucket each day. Sometimes a drip, sometimes it is more of a pour. It is not something that we can prevent from happening, it is however something that we can learn to manage.
We cannot prevent the drops of water from coming in, however, we can ensure that we do not allow the levels to rise to the point where the bucket overflows and we feel the feelings of overwhelm, stress and anxiety, and at its worst, burnout and breakdown.
The key is to understand what helps us to empty the stress on a regular basis. If you have a routine and structure that releases the water, then the size of the bucket is negligible.
What releases and empties the water will be different for all of us. For me, it is time alone, music, laughter and fun, basketball, walks, and exercise.
For others, it will be books, wine, running etc.
For those of us who are more introverted, we will need time alone to rest and recharge and empty the bucket. For those of us who are more extroverted, we will need to be with other people to recharge and energise us and ultimately empty the stress bucket.
It is important that we all have something that releases stress and keeps the water level low and the outflow constant.
It is important to understand when our ‘stress bucket’ is nearing full. What do you notice when your stress levels are rising? What feels different for you? How do you find yourself responding in a different way? What are the signs that you see?
When you see the signs, what do you do to take action?
It is also important to recognise this in friends, family and colleagues. It is much easier to see this in others than to see it in ourselves. Whilst it is not an easy conversation, it is an important one. Encourage others to be ok with saying that they are not ok. Reaching out for help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness.
It only takes one last droplet for a bucket to overflow. That’s why sometimes it is that one small thing that ‘tips us over the edge’. Keep the stress levels low and this reduces the risk of overflow.
TIP: Do something every day that will reduce the level. It doesn’t have to be much, or for long but take that time to empty the stress bucket a little. If you don't do anything now, just try one thing for a small amount of time and increase it from there over time.
The ‘Phuket’ Bucket ;-)
(not the place in Thailand)
This is a separate bucket, however, it may significantly help you to reduce stress levels.
How often are you losing time and energy by focusing on something that is not in your control?
You may find that you are increasing your stress levels as you try to change something that is completely out of your control or influence.
Sometimes we cannot control something, whether it is in the past, or simply not within our circle of influence then this is the ‘stuff’ that you may want to chuck in this bucket.
When something happens, ask yourself this
Can you change what happened? – If yes go back and rectify it
If you can’t change it what did you learn from it?
If you can’t change, or control it then choose how to respond it.
Sometimes, the best response is to chuck it in the ‘Phucket’ bucket, and move on.
TIP: Ask yourself what is currently in your 'stress bucket' that could go into the 'Phuket bucket' and immediately reduce your stress levels and help you feel better?
The Bucket List
As well as having a ‘tap’ that releases the stress, it is good to have positive areas of focus to work towards.
In stressful times, one way to help balance things out is to focus on something positive.
It is also incredibly important to have things to look forward to. Short, medium and long term.
Do you have a bucket list? What is on it? When was the last time you did something to work towards it?
Life is about balance. It is about happiness and fulfilment and making best use of the time that we have, in a way that works for us.
A successful life will look very different to each and every one of us, it is a very personal choice. The important thing is that we are living life on our own terms. Staying true to our values. Fulfilling our needs. Building good connections and healthy relationships with those around us. Being part of something bigger than ourselves.
How do you check in to ensure that you are doing this?
A bucket list may predominantly be made up of places to go, and things to do. It can also be centred around your legacy.
How do you want to show up in the world in your lifetime?
How do you want to be remembered?
What imprint do you want to leave behind?
TIP: Start with the end in mind! How do you want to be able to look back on your life? How do you want to see the person you have been? What do you want to have achieved?
Then you can start to reflect and plan how you can make this happen.
This a slightly tenuous link but if you want a feel-good film I do recommend the ‘Bucket List’ - you will most likely need tissues!
May your stress bucket be empty and the bucket list long, and if I can help you in any way please reach out and ask!
First published Sept 2017
Revised and republished Nov 2022