Understanding the stress bucket: Tools for managing stress

Picture this: you're carrying around a bucket, and with each passing day, drops of stress fill it up. You can only hold so much before it overflows. This simple analogy is what therapists refer to as the 'stress bucket'. Understanding this concept can be a game-changer in how we navigate the challenges of everyday life.


Imagine your stress bucket as a container that holds all the stressors you encounter throughout your day, big and small. Work deadlines, family obligations, lack of sleep, anxiety, health concerns, relationship issues, financial worries – they all contribute drops to your bucket.
Now, everyone's bucket is different in size and shape, influenced by factors like genetics, personality, and life experiences. Some might have a small bucket that fills up quickly, while others have a larger one that takes longer to overflow. No bucket is better or worse, the key is to get to know, understand and manage your own stress, to keep yourself feeling well and healthy. 
In order to stop our buckets from overflowing, we must find activities and tools to help us to lighten the load. There is a range of coping mechanisms we can use, which help us to open the tap at the bottom of the bucket and release some of the stress. 

Good coping tools: Keeping your bucket in check

Mindfulness and meditation

Take a breather. Mindfulness and meditation allow you to step back from the chaos and find peace in the present moment. Just a few minutes of deep breathing or focused meditation can help lower stress levels and prevent your bucket from overflowing.

Physical activity

Sweat it out. Exercise isn't just about staying fit; it's also a powerful stress buster. Whether it's jogging, yoga, or dancing in your living room, moving your body releases endorphins that combat stress hormones.

Healthy habits

Nourish your body and mind. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated are essential for managing stress. When your body is well cared for, it's better equipped to handle whatever life throws your way.

Social support

Lean on your people. Talking to friends, family, or a therapist can lighten your load. Sharing your feelings and experiences with trusted individuals strengthens your resilience and provides much-needed emotional support.

Finding fun

Embrace joy. Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and laughter. Whether it's going to the cinema, doing a puzzle, embracing a hobby, or listening to feel-good tunes, carving out time for fun is crucial for maintaining your mental well-being.

Time management

Prioritise and delegate. Feeling overwhelmed often stems from trying to juggle too many tasks at once. Learn to prioritise your to-do list and delegate responsibilities when possible. Breaking tasks into manageable chunks can make even the most daunting projects feel achievable.

Beware of these stress bucket saboteurs

It’s really important to be aware if any of your coping mechanisms tend to be unhelpful coping strategies, like some of those listed below.


Ignoring your problems won't make them disappear. Avoidance might provide temporary relief, but it only adds more weight to your stress bucket in the long run.

Substance abuse

Turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism is like poking holes in your bucket. While they might offer temporary relief, they ultimately contribute to a faster overflow and can lead to more significant problems down the line.


Striving for perfection is a one-way ticket to stressville. Accept that you're human and that mistakes are a natural part of life. Embrace imperfection and learn to be kinder to yourself.

Negative self-talk

Your inner critic can be your worst enemy. Constantly berating yourself only adds unnecessary stress. Practice self-compassion and challenge negative thoughts with positive affirmations.


Saying yes to everything is a surefire way to overload your stress bucket. Learn to set boundaries and say no when necessary. Remember, it's OK to prioritise your well-being.

Understanding the stress bucket is the first step towards effective stress management. By incorporating healthy coping tools into your daily routine and avoiding common pitfalls, you can keep your bucket from overflowing and navigate life's challenges with resilience and grace.

So, next time you feel your stress bucket getting heavy, remember: you have the power to lighten the load. If you're ready to make some changes in any area of your life and to do the inner work to make it happen, book in for a free discovery call to chat about how I can help you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Peterborough, Cambs, PE6
Written by Emma Humphrey, Wellbeing & Mindset Coach and Dynamic Hypnotherapist
Peterborough, Cambs, PE6

Emma holds a distinction-level diploma in personal performance coaching and is a dynamic hypnotherapist. Emma help's women who are ready to let go of all that doesn't serve them & to heal so they can live life more fully & purposefully, embodying the truth of who they are and to experience more love, joy, freedom and abundance.

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