Taking care of your stress bucket

To mark University Mental Health Day on 7th March,  an activity was run across all library sites during four days at the beginning of March. Its goal was to give us a safe space to discuss mental wellbeing in the workplace for our benefit and the benefit of our users.

Have you ever heard of the stress bucket? We all have one, and it keeps filling up with stress. We need to constantly open taps to get rid of the stress and ensure that the level inside does not become overwhelming. Sometimes it can be difficult to create those taps, and that is why we decided to have a collective brainstorm on this!

From Tuesday 5th lunchtime to Friday 8th in the evening, a ‘stress bucket’ was put in the staff kitchen at Northampton Square. It was ‘filling up with stress’ as the week unfolded and our challenge was to find ideas of ‘taps’ to prevent it from overflowing.

Bucket filled with causes of stress written on paper and a few paper taps with ideas to relieve stress stuck to it
Stress bucket in the staff kitchen
Bucket with paper taps in the kitchen
Stress bucket and paper taps to be added

To ensure that staff at all sites and in all teams were able to join in, we also added them to a Library Stress Bucket Private Discussion on Yammer. This platform was for posting ideas of taps, and also receiving updates on the state of the bucket.

All were invited to join in, and the contributions were not expected to be personal. This was meant to be a collective brainstorm to share ideas and tips, not a discussion of personal experience of issues.

We gathered all the tap ideas generated during this fruitful exercise and would like to share them in this post so that we all have a place to refer back to when our stress bucket becomes too full.

Here are the tap ideas that were shared during that week:

  • Go to the cinema : lose yourself in a story on the big screen, and share the experience with complete strangers sitting around you. A great way to “hang your brain up”. Go by yourself or with friends.
  • Bash peppercorns with a rolling pin!
  • Try and get out of the building at lunchtime, weather permitting. Just to unwind and get a little quiet time.
  • Use your imagination to make/create something.
  • Go for a swim or cuddle a guinea pig!
  • Knit a scarf – a very relaxing rhythmic movement and creating something useful too. You could even donate the final product to someone to get the double feel good bonus.
  • Repetitive and rhythmic creative activities – knitting, crochet, playing an instrument. Anything two handed that requires thought and a degree of concentration works well  – and you can combine it with a TV programme, audio book, etc. If you want to learn, YouTube is your friend.
  • Run.
Paper tap with 'run' written on it
Tap idea
  • Do a crossword.
  • Listen to an audible book. Works at night in bed or on the train. Especially if your eyes are to tired to read.
  • Read a book or play a video game – become someone/ something else for a while. Save the galaxy, kill the dragon. Steal a car or put some tiles in specific order – whatever tickles your fancy.
  • Listen to a good classical music radio, especially one where the radio staff don’t talk very much and, when they do, they have a soft and soothing voice.
  • Listen to some music.
  • Practise yoga.
  • Stroke a cat.
  • Talk to a plant or a tree.
  • Smile.
  • Watch the squirrels in Northampton Square.
  • Eat more local vegetables.
  • Eat fruits.
  • Drink water.
  • Read short comic strips online to de-stress. Watching videos of people draw is also super relaxing for some reason! Start drawing yourself: there’s something nice about putting pencil to paper and enjoying creating without the pressure of wondering if its good or not.
  • Leave at 5pm!
  • Look out the window for a few minutes.
  • Write a list.
  • Hug cats or look at pictures of cats (not the same, but it works because of their funny expressions)!
  • Start planning your next holiday. Crashing waves, warm sand, a gentle breeze ruffling your hair. Well, at least the image is nice. Take a break from work and start browsing the web for your next holiday.
  • Give someone a compliment.
  • Go outside for lunch.
  • Laugh. Listen to a funny podcast, read a funny book or watch a comedy. It’s great to laugh!
  • Experience awe.
  • De-clutter your desk/wardrobe or kitchen drawer.
  • Make a cake.
  • Research something you’ve always wondered about.
  • Watch a comedy film or series.
  • Talk with friends or family about the cause of stress.
  • Do a sudoku.
Paper tap with 'love doing sudokus' written on it
Tap idea
  • Watch DIY SOS, Master Chef, Strictly, etc.
  • Have a good cry.
  • Go for a long walk, the faster the better !!! Stomp out the stress !!
  • Have a regular Friday morning treat, for example a gluten free cinnamon bun from Beyond Bread which is on your way to work. It is delicious and a great way to start a Friday!
  • Cuddle puppies or watch puppy videos online, it is soothing.
  • Horses and horse riding.
  • Iron! It is really therapeutic – seeing all these creases and mess just disappear before your eyes and making it all smooth.
  • Talk about it with someone you trust.
  • Write it down and reflect on it.
  • Do a daily meditation or mindfulness at the start and end of each day.
  • Eat your favourite food / snack (in moderation) or watch your favourite TV show.
  • Burn some incense.
  • Pray.
  • Breathe.
  • Write a letter to yourself.
  • Manage your time well.
  • Exercise.
  • Eat dark chocolate / chocolate.
  • Have a relaxing bath (with milk, honey and possibly rose petals).
  • Cook something you’ve never cooked before but really want to.
  • Eat a healthier diet.
  • Drink chamomile tea.
  • Smell some lavender oil.
  • Practise gratefulness.
  • Go to the park / garden.
  • Go to bed early.
  • Pamper yourself.
  • Pick up a new hobby.
  • Try and get to the root of the problem.


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