How Full Is Your Bucket?

others Sep 13, 2015

I mentioned the other day in my post about emotions and essential oils, about the analogy of our buckets and the amount of stress in our lives. I’ve really been pondering that for the past couple of days so I thought I’d write a little more about it.

The original conversation was at the essential oil convention this week. One of the speakers was talking about how we each have a bucket, and into that bucket goes everything we do, everything we’re responsible for, everything we juggle – taking care of children and managing their schedules, financial stress, busy jobs, other family commitments, putting time into one’s marriage or relationship, health concerns, and then the ever-shrinking element of trying to take care of ourselves.

If our buckets are 95% full at any given time, just on any and every regular day, then we’re operating at a pretty high stress level. Now granted, some stress can be positive stress, and not everything in the bucket is necessarily a negative thing, our buckets are also filled with good, fulfilling, positive things (in fact, most things in our buckets have good aspects and more difficult aspects, but that doesn’t make them “bad” overall).

But, if our buckets are 95% full on any given day, there’s no space for anything to go wrong. In fact, there’s no space for anything at all. Imagine you’re at pretty full capacity, you have to get up early in the morning to get all the kiddos ready for school – clothes laid out, lunches and snacks made; it gives you all of 30 minutes to get yourself ready for work, but you hurry off and slide into your desk each day just in the knick of time. You eat lunch at your desk, and race out in the afternoon to get home in time to rush the kids to after school sport practice, or in time to make their dinner, then once they’re bathed and down for bed, you have to face the bills that need to be paid, emails that need to be sent, then there’s getting ready for tomorrow. If all of that happens with a schedule that has 10 minutes to spare here, and 20 minutes to spare there, what if something were to go wrong? What if you got a flat tire on the way to work, or what if your boss needed you to finish an extra report that you’d been putting off because there never seemed to be time? Or the dog was throwing up and needed to get to the vet. In that case, you can see that even within a single day, if your bucket is too full, it can easily overflow.

But that occurs in a bigger sense too, and now I’ll relate it to myself because I know that I’m living with a pretty full bucket (not that the every day description above doesn’t relate to me either!!). I have a medical practice where I see patients three days a week. That practice also needs to be managed – staff managed, finances and bookkeeping managed, patient communications managed. Then I am writing a book, which I do on Tuesday’s for 2 hours and sometimes Mondays for 1-2 hours. Then I am a representative for doTerra, usually teaching a couple of classes a month and having 1-2 meetings per week. Then I have this blog, which I post 5 days a week. Along with a husband, two dogs and a 2-year old, that’s a pretty full bucket.

I’m fully aware of this and am working to take something out. But the thing that’s going to come out is my book, and the only way it’s coming out is for me to finish it!! The practice is my mainstay and primary income source – it can be pretty heavy going a lot of the time, but it’s not going anywhere. Teaching about essential oils and writing my blog are my two favorite, fun things, so once the book is written I’ll reallocate some of that time to these other two pursuits. Some I’ll just keep as free time – space. Already Fridays are my absolutely free day, Valentina and I spend the day together. We might meet a friend for breakfast or lunch, and if not I’ll take her out somewhere in the afternoon and we’ll just hang out. Knowing I have that open, empty day is so crucial to my getting through the rest of the week. It creates space for me, and it’s my most cherished day.

So here is the important question … how full is your bucket? Is there any space at the top or is it so full that it could overflow at any given time? And if it’s pretty full, what does that mean for your stress level, and subsequently your own health? What does that mean for your emotional capacity? If your bucket is so full, your stress level is so high, then chances are you are more prone to being irritable, resentful, angry, bitter.

I know for me, if I don’t take care to have enough space in my own life, I’ll start resenting my work, and even my patients Isn’t that a terrible thing to say, and I say it with the knowledge that some of them will read this. It’s not that I don’t love them, because I do – it’s just that if I am not taking care of myself, I’ll blame it on everyone else but me. If I’m feeling pushed, or short, I’ll resent the things that I feel are pushing me. But the reality is that I choose everything that’s in my bucket, so if I’m not coping with it all, I have no one to look to but myself.

I realize that a lot of things are just a given – the necessity to work while trying to raise kids, the stresses that come with being a stay-at-home mum, the financial stresses of keeping it all together either way, putting time and effort into your marriage or relationship. In our society, everyone’s bucket seems to get pretty full. For some, having a full bucket is a badge of honor, as if it being so busy, all the time, feeds their self-worth and sense of importance in the world.

My encouragement to you, and not because I know it all, simply because I’m looking at my own life now through this lens, is to see where you might be able to create more space. What would it mean to you to not be rushed every day, to not feel like you are juggling 100 things at any given time? What would be required to make more space for yourself? Do you ever have time simply to stare out the window and think? Or not think? Or go sit at a cafe and have a latte, just because you feel like it? Do you feel that if some speed bump came along, such as an illness or an unexpected bill, you would have the capacity to deal with it, or would it be the thing that pushed you over the edge?

I have a friend who is a master at this. Her name is Stephanie, and she has a blog called IChooseLove. I encourage you to check it out. Steph is very aware of space, and capacity. She’s newly married, has relocated to northern California to where her husband is based, they’re buying a house, she runs a non-profit to support adolescent girls which she keeps up remotely, she teaches yoga. It’s not that Steph isn’t busy, or doesn’t have a lot going on. But she maintains space in her life at all times, and is very conscious of it, and there are few people I know who radiate such peace and such calm.

I find that finding peace in our busy world is pretty tough. But I know the thing that takes away my peace right away, and that is having my bucket too full.

Perhaps we can all try to find one or two ways to reduce our load, and create some space in our lives. I’m nearing having the book draft completed, and am excited for that opening up some space. I’m also about to interview a personal assistant this week who I’ll work with just on specific projects to help me get things done that aren’t getting done now, because there doesn’t seem to be time otherwise. They’re my two big ones. An area still to work on is that I want to get back to pilates because I miss it. I finish with patients at 3.30 on Thursdays but have the nanny til 6, so that’s the space I had previously created for pilates, but I let other things get in the way. I didn’t prioritize that time, so someone else did it for me!

Certainly it’s hard with kids to find space. I understand that. But we all have opportunities to make small changes. Make sandwiches for lunches on the weekend and freeze them, have clothes laid out the night before instead of having a scramble in the morning, allow an hour to get ready when it usually only takes 1/2 hour, just in case something goes wrong. I’ve taken to getting up an hour before Valentina does in the morning, just to have some time to myself, to get bookkeeping done or write a blog post. I love early mornings, and for me that gives me time to myself so that when she wakes up, I’m happy to be 100% present with her.

Full buckets are terrible for ones health, especially the adrenals. They usually have us grumpy and irritable. And ironically, less productive.

So my challenge is to find one or two ways to lighten your load. Go for it!! Best of luck!! And let me know what you came up with!!