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How full is your worry bucket?

Have you ever stopped to consider the impact that what’s on your mind can have on your interactions with others? I recently had an experience where something that would never bother me was pushing me over the edge.
Can you relate? Read on and get to understand your worry bucket.

Have you had those days where something (or someone) that would never get under your skin just frustrates the hell out of you? You begin to think, ‘they are so much worse than usual!’ or ‘what has made them step up a notch on the whining or the negativity?!’ I’m sure you have been there. For me, this was an overarching mindset I recently carried for about a week. Someone who would never bother me whatsoever was really getting on my nerves. Their usual way of communicating had turned to what seemed like nagging and whining. What was worse was that I could do nothing to appease the issue. After considering why they had changed and coming up with a variety of possibilities, I asked myself this question:

What am I contributing to the problem?

As it turns out, I was more shortly fused, my stress levels were high and my sleep was poor. It turned out that I was actually the problem…my worry bucket had overflowed.

If you haven’t heard of the worry bucket let me briefly explain. Think of yourself holding a bucket and your worries, negative thoughts and emotions as water. Something that is heightening your stress levels such as a negative interaction with a colleague may put a cup of water in your bucket. Worrying about what to have for dinner may add only a quarter of a cup. Being abused by a customer may put in two cups while considering the thought of another COVID lockdown may add ten. The point is, stressors, both big and small, all add to our worry bucket. As we walk through work and life, we take this bucket with us.  If it’s too full or overflowing, it gets heavy to carry and we inadvertently splash others with negativity or stressors. 

While everyone may have a different size bucket to carry their worries, unless we take time to purposefully empty the bucket, we will inevitably at some stage experience the effects of an overflow.

How is this relevant to your work?

Sometimes, no matter what you do and what mood you’re in, colleagues for whatever reason may have their worry bucket so full with other things that their communication and performance is less than stellar. However, sometimes, it is you who is experiencing the overflowing bucket. Like everyone else, you’re human…

Emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to self-reflect and self-regulate their emotions. This comes from being able to the see the situation for what it is.  This is also what we want for all staff. The ability to live in the present and act mindfully to our situations rather than letting our emotions reign.

An overflowing bucket isn’t something to shy away from, it’s something to own and empty purposefully. We are accountable for our own actions, including what is in our worry bucket.

So how can you empty your worry bucket?

  1. Check the bucket! You can’t purposefully empty it without knowing what’s in there. Dig deeper and find what is there, why is it there and what can you do about it.
  2. Let your staff know if you’re overwhelmed. If you don’t feel comfortable telling them why your bucket is overflowing, that’s ok. To humanize a workplace, show true leadership and improve the workplace culture for everyone (including yourself), we must be vulnerable.
  3. Ask for help. Asking for help does not show weakness, it builds strength. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say!
  4. Look for things you can delegate to someone else. What needs to be in your bucket right now and what can you give to someone else? This is not to say you should shirk your duties, it is about looking honestly at what you need to be doing and what you don’t. Teamwork makes the dream work.
  5. Non-urgent things can wait. Identify what you can take out of the bucket for the time being. Put them aside and deal with them when you have more mental capacity to do so. Conversely, if there are urgent things that need to be done, get in and make it happen to get them out of your mind and out of your bucket. Did I just hear you say, ‘I don’t have time!’? May I suggest you re-read points three and four…
  6. Practice mindfulness throughout the day to bring you back to the present. We get so wound up in our thoughts we forget to come back to where we are. You can practice mindfulness by focusing on counting your breaths for 10 exhalations, focus on where you feel your breath in your body or how your feet touch the floor.
  7. Engage in activities that reignite you and help to decrease your stress. This may be a run, time with family and friends or simply allowing yourself to slow down.  

By taking the time to look within at what is in our worry bucket before blaming circumstances or others, we have the opportunity to increase our self-awareness. When we are self-aware, we can then move forward with purpose. A sense of purpose is a key ingredient to happiness.

If you feel that your worry bucket overflowing and would like some help working through it, consider coaching! I help Pharmacists sort through their worry bucket and formulate their own game plan on how to manage it in future. If you feel you may need something else, please reach out to the myriad of support services available. Specifically, remember that the Pharmacists’ Support Service is a free service specifically for Pharmacists operated by Pharmacists.

Until next time, look after yourself and take care.

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