Stress Management – My Cup Theory

Imagine your life as a cup. It doesn’t really matter what kind of cup it is; glass, plastic, stainless steel, whatever. The idea is: cups have a finite space for storage.
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Emotionally, humans are very much the same. We go through our lives storing stress, unpleasant emotions, and traumatic events. Each of these things provides us with another layer of space used within the finite storage of our cup. Eventually, our cup becomes full. We have no more room to cope with the pressure of every day living.
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So, what happens when our cup becomes full? Well, the same thing that happens to any cup, it overflows. It can be an immense stressor, like the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or relationship break-up that may cause your cup to overflow. However, it could be a series of smaller stressors, like a flat tire, no change for the parking meter, or an empty milk carton in the refrigerator that causes your cup to fill up and eventually overflow.
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When the overflow happens, it can look very different depending on the person experiencing it. As with any spill, whether it be real or metaphorical, it’s impossible to control where the overflow goes. Some people end up sobbing on the floor for hours, some punch holes in walls, some get drunk, some act on suicidal thoughts, some simply shut down. Sometimes people feel relieved after an overflow, like some pressure has been released, and for a brief time they can go on with their life. That is, until something else happens, another stressor comes along. Then they overflow all over again. This pattern can play out over and over. Sometimes people can make a life of having one crisis after another. The problem is, they have haven’t dealt with the layers that lead to the overflow in the first place. They still have no room within their cup to cope with the new stress, because they haven’t addressed the old stress yet.

What every cup needs is an effective release valve. A way to address and work through some of the layers in your cup in a healthy and safe manner. Here is a list of some of the potential ways that people can cope with the layers in their cup:

  • Meet with a counsellor on a regular basis,
  • Find a friend or a family member that you can trust to share your feelings openly,
  • Use daily exercise to release tension and stress hormones,
  • Use journal writing to work through difficult emotions,
  • Use mediums such as art or music to express yourself,
  • Healthy eating can increase your stress tolerance level,
  • Join a stress management support group in your community.

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