Understanding Mental Health Using the Stress Bucket 

Understanding Mental Health Using the Stress Bucket 

Amanda Hipkiss-Torrance

Master NLP Coach, EFT and MRA Practitioner (May 2024)

Just a quick one today, I wanted to share something with you that I have used a lot in the past to help people, families and professionals understand why we might struggle with our mental health. 

Simply put, any mental health diagnosis is the result of stress. To illustrate this, I’m going to use the concept of the stress bucket created by Brabban and Turkington (2002) based on Zubin and spring’s (1977) Stress Vulnerability Model. 

The idea is that we all have a stress bucket; a space where we keep all of our stress. Depending on factors like our genetics, neurodiversity or our experience of our early years we may have different size buckets. For example, someone who has experienced childhood abuse may have less space for stress whereas, someone who has no family history of mental health problems may have more space. 

As we experience life our bucket fills up with everything that causes us stress.  Anything from family or relationship problems, loss of a loved one and ill health to pressure at work, financial issues to being late for work. 

As you can imagine our bucket can get full pretty quickly. Then what? Yup, it overflows. When this happens we can experience all sorts of problems with our mental health, from depression and anxiety to psychosis.  

Now, I know you’re probably thinking this doesn’t sound great Amanda, there’s a LOT of things to feel stressed about, how do we not end up overflowing all the time? 

It’s ok, I’ve got you. We put holes in our buckets! The holes are made by the things that we do to help us feel less stressed, more resourced and that bring us joy. 

I think it’s important to note here that some of these things may end up causing more stress in the long term, for example drugs and alcohol can feel great at the time but can sometimes add to our problems. In fact, I’ve worked with lots of people who found that substances made their psychosis worse or even caused it. 

Don’t worry though, there’s lots of other ways to make more holes. Here’s just a few: 

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Connecting with others
  • Getting outdoors – check out grounding 
  • Exercise and finding ways to move that bring you joy 
  • Talking therapies and family therapy 
  • Coaching 
  • Alternative or complementary therapies such as reiki, homoeopathy or acupuncture 
  • Eating things that make you feel good and give you energy
  • And of course self-help techniques such as EFT 

Not only are these great ways to reduce stress for someone who’s struggling, making sure that you are doing these things regularly can mean that you reduce the risk of problems with your mental health. 

So, if you only do one thing after reading this, start by making a hole! 

And if you need help making holes in your bucket then give me a shout here


Zubin, J., & Spring, B. (1977). Vulnerability: A new view of schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 86(2), 103-126