Managing Your ‘Stress Bucket’

This week’s blog was written by our Assistant Psychologist Gabby Donaldson.

Now that schools have re-opened, I wanted to reflect on the different emotions we might be feeling at the moment.  

The thought of being back in the classroom may bring about many different feelings for each individual. For those who continued to go to school during lockdown, you may be feeling excited at being able to see your friends again, or worried because more people are back in the school. For those who have recently returned to school, you may feel happy to be back in school and happy to see your teachers and friends. However, it is normal to be feeling worried or even low at this time. Opening schools is the first stage of the roadmap out of lockdown and it can feel rather scary to be part of that, having spent the previous months at home in a lockdown. So, before you read on, I want you to pause and have a think. Think to yourself: How am I feeling about being back in school? What is causing me to feel this way? Is there something I am most worried or happy about?

It is really important to continue to check in with how you are feeling and recognise the times when you may be feeling a little bit wobbly. It is OK to feel this way. We are all in this together and there are times when we all feel a little bit anxious. Being able to identify the emotions we are feeling and recognising what causes us to feel this way is really important in helping us to manage these big feelings.  

Worry is a big feeling which many of us are experiencing at the moment and this can lead to us feeling overwhelmed with our feelings and unsure of how to manage them. At Headspace Guildford we really like the analogy of ‘The Stress Bucket’ when thinking about anxiety. Imagine yourself carrying a bucket around with you wherever you go. Imagine there are rain clouds above you, which rain into your bucket every time you experience different types of stress. This stress may include thoughts about the virus (I’m worried I will catch Coronavirus in school), concern about catching up with schoolwork (what if I am unable to catch up on all the schoolwork I have missed) and fear about being sent home again (I am worried someone in my class will catch coronavirus and we will have to work from home again for 2 weeks). With every worry and stress you have, your bucket fills up more and more with water (these are your worries building up). This can make the bucket heavy to carry, and even overflow, meaning your worries may become difficult to manage.

There are many ways to manage your ‘Stress Bucket’ and this is the part where you can get creative and think what it is that you enjoy doing, or what helps you feel better when you are having a wobbly day. For example, there are techniques you can use when you are feeling anxious such as:

  • Taking some slow, deep breaths
  • Talking to someone you trust
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Exercising
  • Keeping a diary to write down all your thoughts and feelings

It is also useful to think about activities which you can do more frequently to help release some of the stress. This could include:

  • Making time to read each day
  • Getting creative – you could do some drawing, painting or baking
  • Spend time outdoors – now that the weather is starting to get a little nicer, you could think about spending more time outside to enjoy the fresh air
  • Mindfulness activities
  • Sports activities
  • Anything else you enjoy doing!

With every activity you enjoy, or thing you do to manage your worries, the taps at the bottom of your bucket open and let some of the water out, releasing your worries and helping you to cope with your feelings a little better. 

Now that schools have re-opened, it is really important to keep checking in with yourself, notice how you are feeling and identify what is causing you to feel this way. Notice when your ‘Stress Bucket’ is becoming too full of water and think of ways to stop your bucket overflowing. Recognise it is OK to feel worried at this time but be sure to give yourself lots of time for self-care and things you enjoy doing as this will make all the difference in the long run and make your bucket a lot easier to carry!