By Emma Johnston

4 min readPublished On: September 28, 2022Categories: Mindfulness
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Most of us have experienced those periods in our lives where bad luck or bad news seems to follow upon bad luck, following on bad luck, and so on. They do say bad things come in threes
so perhaps that’s why it happens!

Regardless of the reasons, it is important to manage our emotional state when the world does seem to have it in for us.

Stressful events compounding on one another can cause us sleeplessness, unhelpful and sometimes distressing ruminations (worrying thoughts), a sense of overwhelm, tearfulness, anger, irritability, or turning to unhelpful (maladaptive) coping strategies such as drinking or overeating. If this is you, read on!

It has long been theorised that our ability to cope with things is like a bucket. The bucket is a different size for different people, but every time something stressful, traumatic, or difficult occurs, our coping bucket fills up a little. Bit by bit, the bucket can fill up more and more until at some point, the bucket will inevitably start to overflow. How do we know when our coping bucket is overflowing? That’s when those symptoms mentioned above start to manifest. For me, I know that the overflowing bucket looks like poor sleep (waking very early and being unable to get back to sleep), unhelpful ruminations (worry starts to intrude in my mind – and not just worrying about the stressful issue – I tend to start worrying about all sorts of things), and I can feel overwhelmed.

At ThinkWise we see many clients who have reached a point of their coping bucket overflowing, and they report feelings of overwhelm, stress, poor sleep, low mood, changed eating or alcohol habits, or even sometimes disturbing thoughts around not wanting to wake up. Psychologists assist clients to work through solutions to issues that may have solutions, or assist in adjusting to situations and moving forward in life in a new way.

However, there are things you can do as well if you are feeling that your coping bucket is sloshing over the edges;

If you aren’t sleeping well, try to maintain a regular bedtime and time that you get up regardless. Often we find that people who are not sleeping well will sleep in or go to bed later, however this most often perpetuates the problem of poor sleep. My go to strategies include not looking at the time, reading my book if I’m awake in the middle of the night (on a kindle so I don’t have to turn the light on) and making sure I still get up and follow my usual morning routine even if I feel I haven’t slept at all.

Maintain your physical routine – it is now more important than ever to make sure you are going out for a walk or going to the gym, going out for a jog – doesn’t matter what it is, but moving your body will help you feel more grounded and less overwhelmed.

If you have found yourself drinking more regularly than usual, or drinking a larger quantity of alcohol than usual, the first thing to do is ask yourself why your drinking habits may have changed. If they have changed in response to stress, it can be useful to find some alternative activities to do, such as going for a walk in the evening, taking a bath or calling a friend, prior to having a drink to give yourself the opportunity to reconsider having a drink..

If you are finding that you are beset by ruminations, or troubling thoughts that make you feel helpless, it can help to go out for a walk, or write the thoughts down and tell yourself that you are able to deal with the issues that you have written, given yourself reassuring mantras (such as ‘this too shall pass’) or engage in some meditation practice to learn the way to not hook into your thoughts, but rather to let them drift in and out of your mind. We have some meditation recorded which you can access here.

Overall, the best thing is to be aware when your coping bucket is overflowing by being mindful of the changes or symptoms of distress you may be experiencing, and please, be gentle with yourself. We can all feel overwhelmed and exhausted; there is no need to beat yourself up over this, or feel guilty about the way you are coping at the moment. Just take some time out for yourself and seek help from a professional if you are needing additional guidance.

Contact us for an appointment if you think that your bucket is overflowing.

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