MHFA introduced me to the stress bucket. It’s so simple really. That we all have our “buckets” – into which all of the stresses of life flow. And which, if the stress becomes more than our bucket can handle, will overflow – at which point we can start to experience symptoms of mental ill health. We can use coping strategies to help tap the bucket, and allow stress to flow away in a healthy and manageable way.
However, no matter how hard we try, no matter how good our coping strategies – exercise, medicines, meditation – no matter how much we avoid the things we know are bad for us – sometimes life throws in a brick and makes it impossible to avoid the inevitable splash.
I’ve been coping pretty well with a high level of workplace stress, money worries, concern about family – for a long time. Mindfulness has been a massive help, improving my sleep; also being realistic and kind to myself – letting go, accepting that the task at hand is too big for me to be able to do everything perfectly, and that is ok. These things have helped me keep my anxiety and depression at bay – most of the time. But a few weeks ago we suffered a tragic loss – my mother-in-law passed away. She had been ill for some time, but was not expected to go when she did, and it was a horrible shock. The intervening few weeks, funeral arrangements, and supporting my husband, father-in-law, and the rest of the family – have been hard, and very very sad.
Coming out of the other side, and finding our way through this new world, is difficult. Death is a part of life, but I don’t think it is ever easy to say goodbye. And Death is a particular problem of mine, as I have written about before. I have had a few very low days, and struggled to face work (and a particularly stressful issue there) after my bereavement leave – but I am coping. I am taking it day by day, and trying not to let my philosophical thought processes about the nature of life and the universe spiral into destructive negative thinking. And I come back to kindness. Not beating myself up that I am not able to be Mrs happy-go-lucky, Mrs totally reliable, Mrs energetic and on the ball – not right now. I am dealing with a brick in my bucket as well as the usual heavy flow of stress, so it is going to take more of an effort to be on an even keel. And the only thing that will help break up that brick, help learn to deal with the loss – is time, and love, and that’s ok – it has to be.
[Come and learn more about the Stress Bucket and Mental Health First Aid in Hebden Bridge in September…]