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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How to Empty Your Bucket & Handle Stress

I actually felt sorry for the person in the waiting room with me at the Veterinarian's office last week. She was so impatient and I could tell her blood was boiling. The Vet was behind in his schedule and there were a lot of people and their pets piling up in the waiting room. She kept sighing loudly for all of us to hear, mumbling under her breath and getting impatient with her dog. She was causing a small spectacle and the psychologist in me wanted to talk her through it. I know even our Golden Retriever Sophie could feel that this lady was a bit uptight. She may have been having pre-summer burnout which I talked about in this FOX 4 TV segment last week.

We all have days when our tolerance level is lower and we feel stress sooner. For this woman, it wasn't about the Vet being slow or the waiting room being too full. It was about the other stressors in her life. She was having what I call an "exaggerated response" to waiting for her turn. I believe everyone has a bucket inside of them. When something causes stress, frustrates you, makes you angry or requires a lot of attention and energy the bucket starts to fill. When your bucket fills completely you will have an exaggerated response causing you to overreact to the simplest of stressors. Some people call it "wigging out," "losing it," and "going postal." You may be getting a 10 minute oil change and it takes longer than 10 minutes and you "lose it" when normally this delay wouldn't be a big deal. Click here to watch my video explanation of your bucket. A few things that tend to fill my bucket are: new technology in my business (I recently converted to a Mac), packing for a vacation with my 3 boys and folding laundry. Things that can fill your bucket are:

Ways to empty your bucket are:

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Exercise

  • Spending quality time with friends

  • Spending quality time with family

  • Church involvement

  • Volunteering in the community

  • Hobbies

  • Reading

  • Staying organized

  • Meditation

Be careful not to choose ways to empty your bucket with activities that cause it to fill back up and cause even more stress. Sarah Ferguson just attempted to empty her bucket in a way that caused it to refill. Some poor choices for emptying your bucket are:

  • Marital affair

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Substance abuse (illegal and prescription)

  • Smoking

  • Gambling

  • Gossip

  • Overeating

  • Antisocial activities like stealing, lying, behaving impulsively

  • Withdrawing from social activities and groups

  • Borrowing money and not repaying it

To stay in the Smart Zone, anticipate what will fill your bucket so you can get ahead of it. I build in training time when I add new technology to my business to help minimize my stress. When traveling I build in an extra day to pack to avoid being up until 2:00 a.m. the night before. And when you feel an exaggerated response coming on instead of saying, "I'm so stressed out. I can't handle this," say, "I need to find a way to empty my bucket." I know that everyone in your life, including your pets, will appreciate it.

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