I think it’s safe to say that we all have stress in our lives. Even though experiencing some stress is completely normal, it is important that we learn good ways to cope with it so we can stay as happy and healthy as possible.

What is stress?

Before we start trying to figure out how to manage our stress, we should know what exactly stress is. Stress is the body’s response to pressure. In other words, it is the feeling you experience when there is increased pressure in your life, which can make you feel overwhelmed. Although a little bit of stress is ok as it can be used to motivate you, chronic stress (too much stress that is happening all the time) can have an effect not only on your mental health, but your physical health too. We don’t want that! To make sure this doesn’t happen, we need to find some helpful ways to keep our stress at a lower level.

What is a stress bucket?

The stress bucket exercise is a method that can be used to identify your stress, as well as manage it. Remember, everyone is different, has had a range of experiences and has different stress levels, so we will all have a stress bucket that is unique to us.

So, let’s learn how to make one!

1. Either visualise or get out a pen and some paper and draw your own bucket.

The size of your bucket will be unique to you as the size of our bucket can be influenced by our life experiences so far, our mental health and what we are going through at this moment in time. These things can make the bucket shallower, meaning it may fill up faster.

2. Put a tap on the side of the bucket.

Your ‘tap’ is a metaphor for coping strategies that can be used to help manage the stress. If we don’t use a tap to release the stress, the bucket will start to overflow. This can cause that overwhelming feeling. We often display this feeling through becoming short tempered or not wanting to do the things we normally do.

3. Now, put everything that has been causing you stress into the bucket.

As you let the things that are causing you stress flow into the bucket, the level of ‘fullness’ will start to rise. What is important now is how full your bucket is, and whether it is in danger of overflowing. We’ll talk more about what to do if your stress bucket is too full below.

Once you’ve filled your bucket with all your stress, the next thing to do is answer some questions. By answering the questions listed below, you will be able to see how full your bucket is, what it is exactly that is causing your stress, and what you need to do in order to deal with it so you can release that pressure you may be feeling.

What makes you feel stressed? – Some examples: relationships with parents or carers, school life, friendships, school work, etc

What signs are there that your stress bucket is overflowing? – Examples: being angry, sad, short tempered or unhappy, etc

How do you currently relieve stress? – Examples: socialising, exercising, reading, hobbies, etc

Once you’ve thought about what is in your bucket, it’s important to think about how you can relieve some of the stress on you. This is where good coping strategies are important. Not all coping strategies are good and can in fact add to your stress (which would just reverse all the hard work you have put in trying to reduce it). Replacing these bad and possibly damaging coping mechanisms with helpful ones is vital to reducing your stress. By doing this, you find that you’ll be able to manage your stress a lot better as well as build skills such as determination and resilience.

What are some helpful ways I can manage my stress?

If you already know some helpful coping strategies that work for you, then that’s great! Carry on doing those things. However, if you don’t know any, or you want to learn some new ones, we’ve put together some ideas that will hopefully help you get your tap working and start emptying that bucket.

Helpful de-stressing activities

  • Exercise – Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety as well as making you feel happier. This is because it releases endorphins (these are the hormones that make you feel good).
  • Relaxation – Using breathing techniques or just taking some time to calm your mind is a great way to reduce your overwhelming feelings and it can also help you sleep better.
  • Hobbies – new hobbies, learning a new skill and finding new things that you are interested in can help you have new experiences, have fun and also make some new friends!
  • Talking to trusted people – talking to trusted people in your life can really help you de-stress. Whether it’s your friends, a parent or carer, a teacher or your therapist, a problem shared can be another way to help you cope. You don’t have to ask (or receive) advice either. Ask them just to listen for a bit, if that’s what you would prefer.

Less helpful de-stressing activities

  • Drinking alcohol/smoking/using drugs – Drinking, taking drugs or smoking too much is unlikely to help you feel less stressed in the long-term. In fact, it can make it more difficult to deal with stress over time.
  • Eating too much/too little – Your favourite food can be a comforting treat when you are feeling stressed. But eating too much or too little can start to impact on both your physical and mental health.
  • Withdrawing from friends – Distancing yourself from others can be a sign you’re feeling stressed
  • Lashing out at others – Being more short-tempered than usual can also be a sign of stress. Sometimes, you might want to lash out to relieve stress too.
  • Sleeping too much – We know teenagers need more sleep than children or adults. But sleeping too much too often to escape stress isn’t going to be helpful.


Having a little bit of stress is a good thing and it is impossible for your stress levels to always remain low. So, don’t get worried if you experience a little bit of stress. The main thing is to make sure your stress levels don’t get too high and become unmanageable. Using methods such as the stress bucket can help you keep them at a good level, so your stress doesn’t affect all areas of your life. Make sure to reach out to someone you can trust if you are struggling and need any help.