What's in your Stress Bucket?


Imagine we all carry around these imaginary buckets. In these buckets, we collect our day-to-day stressors. Everyday we are adding these buckets. Everyone is adding different things to their bucket based on their experiences and what they perceive as “stressful”. Maybe it is an upcoming work deadline or challenges with balancing the kids’ extracurricular schedules or possibly even tension with your partner. Not all stressors are the same, some are bigger than others and therefore take up more room and weight in your bucket. For instance someone cutting you off in traffic is likely not as cumbersome as caring for your ailing parent. Regardless they are all adding to your bucket.  



When we think of stressors, we tend to think of challenging situations or our never ending to do lists, but there are other, more insidious stressors as  well. Stressors typically fall into three categories:


Emotional Stressors Situations and experiences that cause negative emotions. Think relationship issues, challenging work environments, death of a loved one. This is the type stress that people tend to be most aware of.  


Physical Stressors Imbalances or misalignment of musculoskeletal tissue  or bodily functions not working ideally. Think poor posture, a pinched nerve, inactivity or overly strenuous exercise.


Chemical Stressors Internal and external chemical exposures or internal chemical imbalances that prevent the body from functioning ideally. Think exposure to pesticides on our food, toxins in our cleaning products or hormonal imbalances.



When we think of our bucket, we need to take into account the cumulative effect of emotional, physical and chemical stressors. All of these stressors are added to a single bucket.


Overtime these stressors start to accumulate, and the bucket inevitably gets heavier and heavier. As this happens it is harder for us to carry this bucket and deal with the stressors we are facing. Eventually, the contents of the bucket may even reach the brim of the bucket and even start to overflow. This is the point where our body can no longer effectively manage the stressors. This is when we start to experience additional challenges and symptoms. We might be dealing with challenges like fatigue, issues with sleep, headaches or body pain, mood swings, skin issues, feeling overwhelmed, brain fog, digestive woes - you name it and stress can cause it. 


Imagine these symptoms are signals, your body's way of telling you “we don't got this anymore”. These symptoms are warnings that you need to change the stress you are dealing with before it causes more dysfunction in your body or more significant health concerns. These symptoms mean we need to deal with this bucket!


The good news is there are ways we can empty our buckets. We due this by using healthy coping strategies. These strategies work in two ways. First of all, they help to change your body’s perception of stress and your situation, think of it as a way to calm your mind and distract yourself from those stressors. This might be doing something you enjoy or something you find relaxing, like playing with you kids, having a hot bath or reading a book. Secondly, healthy coping strategies help to manage stressors by keeping your body functioning properly so it is better prepared to handle stress. This might be in the form of eating nourishing food, staying hydrated, or moving your body in whatever way you prefer. These healthy coping strategies are often referred to as self care. Self care looks different for everyone, simply do things you enjoy that leave your body, mind and soul feeling refreshed. 


Think of these healthy coping mechanisms as holes in your buckets that allow the contents to pour out. This reduces the load in our bucket, making it more manageable for us to carry. The more coping mechanisms you actually use day-to-day, the more holes in the bucket. And obviously the more holes in the bucket, the more the contents will pour out, leaving the bucket lighter and more manageable. 


Bottom line, there are two main ways to manage your overall bucket:

  1. Eliminate the stressors (avoid or reduce stressors)

  2. Use healthy coping mechanism  


Reflections:

  1. What are the major stressors in your life that are adding to your bucket?

  2. Is there anything you can do to eliminate or reduce what is being added to your bucket?

  3. What healthy coping strategies do you use to empty your bucket?

  4. Is there any way to add more coping strategies to poke more holes in your bucket?