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Stress - Good and Bad Coping Mechanisms

Whether we like it or not, stress is an inevitable part of life. Some days there’s lots, some days there’s less.


On the days with less, some of us find coping manageable, some of us don’t.

On the days with extra stresses, planned or otherwise; the story can be very different indeed.

Do you find yourself sometimes blowing up over the smallest thing? Maybe you only spilled your drink or couldn’t find your keys; but your reaction is completely disproportionate to the ‘thing’ that made you explode? 

This could be down to you not maintaining a ‘buffer zone’ – and you ended up ‘spilling over’.

Let’s Look At The Stress Bucket

The Stress Bucket is a great way to visualise how we cope with what life throws at us. We need a buffer zone to allow us to manage life effectively. Too much stress can cause your bucket to overflow if you don’t have a buffer zone. We reduce stress levels and make sure our buckets don’t ‘spill over’ by having multiple coping mechanisms. The more we have, the better we cope.

The Stresses Filling Up Our Buckets

We’re all different, yet the types of stress that we deal with have general themes.

Intrapersonal Stresses

Start with just you, within yourself or your mind; such as poor mental or physical health, low self-esteem and personal stresses, such as money worries.

Interpersonal Stresses

Involve interaction with other humans. Relationships with partners, friends, children, family, housemates. Meetings, relationships and conversations.

Environmental Stresses

Involve your surroundings which can include new and unfamiliar situations or conflict between people. Noise, crowds, weather, war, disasters, air quality all can count.

Other Stresses

Not listed here, unique or personal only to you.

And let’s not forget…

Recycled Stress From Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Recycled stress comes from unhelpful or unhealthy coping mechanisms that may feel right or fun and seem to help at the time but are more harmful to you long term. Things such as avoidance, using drugs, alcohol, violence, self-harm or casual sex without boundaries.

So What Are Good Coping Mechanisms?

Practical Coping Mechanisms

Are things you use to change the source of the problem when you can. Used when you have influence over the situation. Things like healthy eating, exercise regimes, learning better time management skills, joining a social club, scheduling learning better skills.

Emotional coping mechanisms

Areused to reduce the negative emotions you feel. Emotion-focused coping mechanisms are especially useful when you cannot change the source of the stress. Things like relaxation, self-care, writing, meditation, talking to friends, seeking support from family.

What Are Your Coping Mechanisms

Do you have healthy coping mechanisms that keep your buffer zone in place? Take a look at the stresses going into your own stress bucket and the means you use to ‘empty’ that bucket of stress. Is the balance right and are you avoiding the temporary fix that recycles stress?

Looked at this way, people struggling to keep on top of stresses find it easier to picture what it is they need to do. There are plenty of free tools on such as the worry diary, journaling, mindfulness and wellbeing exercises that are proven to help.

And finally…

PoetsIN have a range of resources available for free. They’re easy to download and will help with all things mental wellbeing. It is as important to invest time in our mental health as well as our physical health. Visit: to get your copies.

Author: Paul Chambers, The Creative Mental Health Charity

Using wellbeing solutions steeped in innovative technology, Govox provides data and insights that helps leaders in schools , sports clubs and the workplace spot at-risk individuals and give much-needed support.


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