Teaching about the “stress bucket” in schools by @sam_oldale

A few months ago I went on a Mental Health First Aid in schools course. We learnt about the stress bucket.

So it goes like this.

Basically we all have a stress bucket. If it gets too full as the stresses of life flow in to it, it will over fill and over flow and we will begin to feel overwhelmed. Coping strategies are like a tap on the bucket and should be used to allow some of the stress to be released and will prevent us from becoming overwhelmed. If our stress bucket gets too full we can suffer from mental ill health. Some life events such as bereavement, illness etc. can cause our buckets to overflow quite quickly but sometimes small life stressors can build and accumulate also causing our buckets to fill.

So upon returning from this course I enthusiastically wanted to explain the concept of the stress bucket to my PSHE pupils.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by @Sam_oldale and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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So here is what I did.

I explained the concept of the stress bucket by giving pupils a handout. Pupils had to individually reflect on things that would cause their own stress bucket to overfill. I then divided my class into four groups. I give each group a bucket which included a drop of food colouring, a jug to fill the bucket and a scenario.

The four scenarios were:

  1. Your pet dies
  2. You are diagnosed with diabetes
  3. You fail an exam
  4. You are late for school

Each group had to discuss the scenario and agree how much stress it would cause them. They then had to fill the bucket with the amount of water which they felt represented the stress caused.

After this they had to discuss ways to reduce the stress caused by the scenario they were given.

Here is a picture depicting how much water they put into their stress buckets (apologies for the spelling error ‘your’ should be ‘you’re’).

IMG_1668 (2)

I was shocked to see that “failing an exam” was filled to the top but it does illustrate how much pressure pupils feel to do well in exams.

We discussed each scenario in great depth and reflected on how pupils could reduce the stress if such a scenario were to happen in real life. We spent a long time discussing worries over failing exams and how to reduce exam stress.

I actually think this lesson was a valuable lesson for me a teacher. It helped me to realise what my pupils were most stressed about at that point in time and to respond to that in the best way I knew. It gave them an opportunity to discuss this openly among their peers and to come up with some suggestions of coping strategies to reduce their stresses.

So I would highly recommend it to other teachers to use. A very insightful activity for form teachers to do with their tutees to find out how they are coping with school and the stresses of growing up.

I would like to encourage or convince other schools to become involved in the “stress bucket challenge”.

So what does it involve?

1.Approach your head teacher/ employer and ask him/her for funding for one member of staff ( or more) to attend a Mental Health First Aid training course.

If you are interested in becoming a certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer check out the MHFA on the following links



2. When that member of staff has completed the training they can share good practice with other members of staff.

3 . Interested members of staff are to be given time to teach the concept of the stress bucket and coping skills to pupils.

So why bother ?

Because we all experience stress and talking about stress and learning about coping skills reduces stress and improves mental health. Its time to talk, its time to change and its time that schools take mental health just as seriously as physical health.

So spread the word.

Can your school rise to the challenge?

I hope so.

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