One reader commenting about my last blog said that I was telling my client to “get well and she would immediately feel better.” I need to explain things more clearly. Having gone through four years of depression myself, I am horrified by anyone saying anything approaching, “just get over it.” Let me use my own understanding of the stress bucket to explain what I mean by this illustration.
In my early years of depression, I didn’t fully grasp how devastating stress was to my condition. Once I grasped the concept of a stress bucket, there was finally something I could do about my depression other than taking medication and going through psychotherapy.
Let me give you an example of one day. Three years ago, I was having a particularly stressful day at work anyway when a co-worker came storming into my office to challenge me on why something had not been completed that day. There was an explanation, but I could see he was looking for an argument, and I was ready to put him in his place, and he seemed to sense that. Knowing my stress bucket was filled to the top, I asked if we could discuss the matter the next morning after we both cooled off, and he agreed. This was not my usual method of operation, but my awareness of how stress could affect my mood guided me into doing things differently.
That evening, I was confronted with an aggravating computer glitch that turned into a full-blown high-stress situation when the customer service person I was talking to was rude and less than helpful. Instead of becoming angry and yelling at the person, I calmly told her we were ending the conversation and I’d deal with it another day.
I had successfully kept my stress bucket from overflowing but it was still too full for me to look forward to a peaceful night of sleep. What I didn’t need is any more stimulation, including watching TV. So I sat in a chair, read a novel for the better part of an hour, and then listened to soothing music before going to bed. By the time I turned off the lights, my stress bucket was less than half full and I was rested when I woke up the next morning.
During the days before I understood the stress bucket, I would have had the argument at the end of the day, lost my temper with the computer person, and watched an action-filled detective story on TV. That night I would not have slept well and would have woken up the next morning tired and on the edge of depression. A couple more days like that and my hovering on the edge of depression would have been replaced by being sucked into the pit.