Powerful CBT coaching tools to empty your stress bucket

These CBT Coaching tools are simple yet powerful. You may know you’re stressed and you may know how to feel less stressed but are you still overwhelmed at times with stress? This article will describe a real life example of our stress bucket overflowing and how to prevent it.

Picture two scenarios: 

  • Scenario 1: Although it’s busy, you’re feeling relatively in control of things at work, you’ve managed to eat your lunch and had a good chat with a co-worker about something pressing which now feels in control. Perhaps you had a really good walk and catch up with a friend last night, which has left you feeling supported with some stress at home. 
    Then, something unexpected and perhaps a little stressful comes across your desk that needs a bit of thinking about. It’s a bit annoying maybe, we have a bit of a moan to our co-worker about having to do it – but we accommodate it and get it done. Perhaps we’re able to congratulate ourselves about being able to pivot and move with the needs of the job.
  • Scenario 2: You were late to work that morning, there’s stuff at home that you need to get done when you get in and you had to work through your lunch as there is too much on your plate so you’re running on caffeine. You also had to cancel your plans at the weekend with your friends because of stress that’s going on at home.
    And then that same unexpected piece of work comes across your desk. Instead of it being slightly annoying – its disastrous. You find yourself feeling as though you’re spiralling out, self critical thoughts about not getting enough done earlier in the week to accommodate any potential crises are raging. As a result, you’re snappy with co-workers or struggling to say to your boss that there is just too much on your plate.

Quite a difference. Same piece of unexpected work, but different reactions and consequences. One way we can understand why we might have such different responses is the concept of the Stress Bucket.

Imagine a bucket sitting underneath a tap. The bucket represents our emotional capacity, or the amount of life stress we can manage at any given time. The tap above it represents life stressors or pressures. Because life is full of stressors each day, the tap drips water into our bucket regularly. Sometimes life is only a little bit stressful with little drips filling the bucket up slowly. Sometimes there is a lot of stress in our lives, meaning that water from the tap rushing into the bucket, hastening the filling of the bucket. If the bucket reaches capacity it begins to overflow and spill over.  This is how it can feel emotionally – we reach our limit and then all the emotions, self criticism or worries spill over, and can leave us feeling vulnerable – like in Scenario 2. 

CBT Coaching tools to reduce the stress bucket overflowing

We create holes in the bucket – which are any activities or outlets we do or use in daily life, in order to let the water run out. These holes are anything that can alleviate stress even a little bit and are different for everyone. It might be making time to have a chat with friends, a walk at the end of a stressful day, hitting the gym or a yoga class, even having a good old dance around to your favourite music.  Or making time for a favourite TV show, practising meditation, going to therapy regularly or being creative.

It can be as basic as trying to eat regularly, or making sure we get enough sleep if we can. Any valued activity – something that makes you feel calmer, more in control or just generally feeling better counts. And you can have as many holes in your bucket as you like, as long as they don’t turn into stressors themselves!

Looking back at Scenario 1 and Scenario 2, there are clear differences. The capacity of the bucket is the same of course. In Scenario 1 there are things you have done in your daily life to ‘poke holes’ in your bucket in order to let some of the water (stress) drain out. This has prevented the likelihood of the bucket filling to the brim, meaning that if something unexpected does occur, we have a bit of capacity to accommodate it. In Scenario 2, there are no holes in the bucket, meaning that the bucket is already full, and this extra stress has caused the overflow. 

It is simple, in principle – but it can be a bit tricky in real life and can take a bit of practice. But have a look and see what ‘bucket holes’ you might already have, to see if they could be used more, or if there are easier changes you might be able to make in your weekly routine to start. You might find that the more you think about what helps alleviate stress for you, more options present themselves!

Sometimes having some guidance in this can help, two heads are better than one after all!

This is where CBT coaching can be of benefit. There is good evidence to the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural coaching. If this is something you would like to know about, or maybe you have some ideas but need a bit of steer (or some extra skills to help you implement change) then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced team for a no-obligation consultation call. Email info@bebrilliantlifecoaching.com or click here for our coaching service contact details.

Written by Jenny, CBT Coach at Be Brilliant Life Coaching.

Meet Jenny life coach and psychological therapist
Jenny, CBT Coach
%d bloggers like this: