Are you properly managing your stress container?


Stress responses are as old as the human race – but even without the threat of actually being eaten, we still sometimes struggle with the effects of a stress response, says Dee Swinton of Dorset Mind.


Stress Awareness Month is fast approaching (April), and it’s a chance to take stock and check how we’re doing. Thanks to the pandemic, many of us have been experiencing a heightened level of stress and anxiety. Understanding this and being able to manage our stress is an important tool that can help to mitigate the effects stress has on our mental and physical wellbeing.

What is stress?

Stress is what happens as a result of our body’s ‘Fight or Flight’ response to a threat.
Back in the stone age this response would help us to quickly get away from predators. Nowadays, despite the lack of saber- toothed tigers, this response can still be triggered. It will of course be due to a wide range of less feral life stressors: work, money, family… just life in general.
It is important to note that a little bit of stress in our lives can be helpful; it’s what drives us to achieve our goals.

However, when our stress levels rise and we find ourselves moving towards being overwhelmed, it is important to reduce symptoms by using and utilizing various resources and techniques. One of the best of these is learning about our ‘Stress Container’ which can help us to visualise and contextualise our stress.

The Stress Container

As we go about our lives we’re exposed to a wide range of stressors, some of which we unintentionally keep with us and collect as we go, just like a sink collects water. This ‘sink’ represents our stress container, and the water is the stress. This stress can come from different ‘taps’ – different life stressors; one tap for example could denote our anxiety surrounding the recent pandemic, one could represent having to adjust to new restrictions. Another could be a difficult relationship.
If not managed, our containers can overflow, which is when problems arise. The amount our sink we can hold differs from person to person. One person maybe be able to collect more water before overflowing than another.

How to release the pressure:

Unblocking our sinks and letting some water out, even only a little at a time, is possible. When we feel that our containers are getting too full, we can take positive steps to reduce it. This can be achieved through positive actions such as getting active, connecting with nature, talking to friends and family. Or why not try out a new hobby or mindfulness/ yoga and see how it affects your stress levels?


If your stress levels become unmanageable, or your mental health starts to affect your daily functioning, the first step is to contact your GP. You can also find our support via this link.

If you reach a crisis, or need emotional support, ring the Samaritans FREE on 116 123, 24 hours a day.

We offer ‘Managing Stress, Anxiety and Burnout’ training and Mental Health First Aid Courses to both businesses and members of the public. Find out more by following the links or emailing


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