April is Stress Awareness Month which gives us an opportunity to stop and think about how difficult stress can be, and the impact it can have on all aspects of our lives.
It can seem like life can throw stresses our way from all angles, it could be our school/college work, jobs, friendships, relationships, Covid, international conflicts and anything in between, or a mix of all of them! As the days and weeks roll by, we can be so occupied with the demands of our lives that we forget to stop and think about all of the things that are causing us stress, and after a while we may start to feel burnt out.
Lewis, one of our Child Wellbeing Practitioners shares a useful activity that can help us understand how we experience stress and what we can do to help reduce our stress levels.
The ‘Stress container’ is a useful activity that is sometimes used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions but is something we can all have a go at ourselves.
Step 1 – At the top of the activity sheet, you can write or draw everything in your life that you feel is causing you stress, these are the external factors such as schoolwork, arguments with friends etc. Writing this out can help make the stresses seem less overwhelming than when they are all bottled up inside our heads. You can imagine this as every stress that you write here is like pouring water into your stress container, the more stresses you have – the more water that is being poured into the container.
Step 2 – Next you can write inside the bucket the stressed thoughts you are carrying around with you, this may be something like ‘I’m really worried about this exam I have coming up’ or ‘I can’t stop thinking about that argument I had with my friend at school’. The size or amount of these thoughts you’re experiencing determine how ‘full up’ your stress container is, you may like to give this a rating from 0 (empty) to 10 (full/overflowing). You can imagine that carrying a bucket that is full of water around with you all day can quickly become frustrating and problematic, getting in the way of the things you’re trying to achieve and enjoy.
Step 3 – At the bottom of the container we can write out all of the ways in which we vent our stress through whatever outlets we have in our lives, such as exercise like your favourite sports, something creative like arts or music, speaking with your close friends a family, getting outdoor, or anything you’re passionate about. This is like turning on the tap on your stress container which vents the stress or ‘water’ in your stress container and makes it lighter and easier to carry around with you and helps to stop stress from getting in the way and being problematic.
If it looks like you have a lot more going into your container than you do going out, then it doesn’t take long for your stress container to get really heavy and begin to overflow, which is when people may start to resort to some less healthy coping mechanisms, so it is really important to take time to look after yourself and spend time doing the things that you love and help you de-stress ?
You can download our stress container worksheet here