Our Stress Container

We all have a set of COPING skills and this could be best represented by using a container or bucket that is our coping mechanisms.

If you are feeling resilient your container may have room for plenty of pressure before you start to struggle and feel overwhelmed or stressed, but if you are feeling vulnerable your container may be small and fill up quickly. When we have no or low coping mechanisms Stress can be rather overwhelming.

So what goes into and fills up your stress container, perhaps the Pressure, Work Load, Change, Life events, Conflict or deadlines and our Perception of the effects of these issues on hand are going test our coping mechanism. 

Managing our coping mechanism requires that we have a ‘tap’ or outlet on our stress container that we can turn on to relieve the stress. Not everyone has the same coping mechanism or stress container size. Some have bigger containers and can take on more stress than others and even thrive under their accepted level of stress. Others have a smaller container and cannot manage the quick or continued rise of the level in their stress container.

Things that continuously go into the stress container

Pressure – this is usually based on time, feeling that there is a lack of time, and too much to do in that allotted time. It is the feelings of potential failure to achieve, feeling trapped, worrying about deadlines. Being in a state of anticipation, like presenting a report to the company or worrying about the future and perhaps a lack of confidence.

At times the situation seems to be out of control, and you are touching lots of issues but not closing them out. Then there is the daily encounter of your colleagues, commuters, clients, family, and social media contact overload.

Workload – This could be an increase of workload for either a short or long duration – like a project over and above your normal workload or an increase due to retrenchments and business adjustments. It just never seems to end despite trying to break it into manageable chunks it feels like the more one does the more the load increases.

Perception – When we are facing a situation where the pressure and workload appear to be unmanageable and you start thinking ‘I cannot cope’, ‘this is too much for me’, feeling hopeless and inadequate. These are not reality, but your perception of the reality of the situation you are facing. It is these types of thoughts and subsequent behaviours that could send you into a tailspin of being overwhelmed.

Life Events – Life has a way of adding stress, pressure, Anxiety to our lives at the most inappropriate times. Some of these life events may include – Bereavement, Moving home, Changing your job, Growing a family, Getting married , Getting divorced, Out of work, Homeless, Financial constraints, Managing Change and a host more.

These and other life stresses and anxiety quickly build up and your stress container starts to overflow. All is not lost here are some things to consider.


If you are feeling overwhelmed or not managing the relief of your stress container, talk to someone in HR, your line manager, GP or Friends.


Things that drain the stress container

Split up big tasks – If a task seems overwhelming or difficult to start, break it down into easier chunks and give yourself credit for completing them. Also know as chunking down.

Be more active – Being active, exercise, walking, running, cycling, can help you to burn off nervous energy. It will not make your stress disappear, but it can make it less intense. It also releases the right chemicals into our bodies to counteract the effects of Stress.

Allow yourself some positivity – Take time to think about the good things in your life. Having an attitude of gratitude makes a significant impact to our well-being. Each day, consider what went well and try to list 3 things you are thankful for.

Plan ahead Planning out any upcoming stressful days or events – a to-do list, the journey you need to do, things you need to take – can really help. Doing so will highlight potential stress pinch points and give you time to consider alternatives.

Take up a hobby – Do things that you really like to do and be creative, take up crafting or pottery, archery, learn to play a musical instrument, take up gardening or whatever is in your line of interest.

Breathing and Mindfulness – When we are able to manage our breathing we bring our Thoughts, Emotions and Behaviours under control. Being fully present in the moment helps us to evaluate our situation and make better decisions. Applying these methods / techniques brings a sense of calm to you so that you can manage the situation.

Challenge unhelpful thoughts – The way we think affects the way we feel. This is the KEY to making a lasting change in our lives as we manage our thoughts.

Ask for help – You don’t have to do everything yourself, trust your colleagues to apply their skill sets and grow . Asking for help is the first and biggest step to managing your stress container.


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