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Taking Control of Your Energy Bucket

(And Your Finances!)

Stress tends to be viewed as a negative emotion or experience, but it is important to recognize the important role it plays in life. While it is critical to develop strategies to prevent too much stress from accumulating, there is also value in identifying ways we can harness stress as a motivator for positive change. Like with every emotion and experience in life, balance is key. I’m not a mental health professional, but I have learned of a few useful ways to put stress in a new and helpful perspective.

Years (and years) ago, I attended a conference for Child Welfare professionals. Many talented and enthusiastic presenters were sharing their insights, programs, and research on a plethora of topics related to Child Welfare and the profession of helping others. Among those presenters was a university researcher who focused on understanding the physical impacts of stress. He wondered if stress, in addition to a mental toll, created measurable negative impacts on one’s physical health.

To support his theory, he completed a number of tests. One study involved comparing the brain scans of caseworkers and battlefield medics. He noted that in the scans, the parts of the brain that glowed in response to work-related stress were the same for both professions. This was a very interesting observation that lends credence to the difficulty of being a caseworker.

I think the presenter recognized the audience was becoming a bit glossy-eyed. Perhaps by the technical nature of the information, or perhaps because we had all just finished lunch and were ready for either a coffee or a nap. So, the presenter gracefully summarized his research findings in an impactful and memorable way.

The researcher gave the following analogy, which I hope sparks a similar moment of clarity for you, as it did for me:

Imagine, if you will, an ordinary bucket. This bucket is filled with energy. Some people naturally have very high levels of energy, some have less. The point is, this energy in the bucket is yours.

When we decide there is something important in our lives, we assign energy to it. This can be a task we need to accomplish or something we have been putting off. The amount of energy we assign depends on the importance of the task. (And, this can change over time, too!) As we assign more energy to more tasks, the amount of energy available in the bucket goes down. The energy is finite– only so much can be assigned.

Now, here’s the key: there is tension in this assignment of energy…the energy wants to return to the bucket. This tension is the physical manifestation of stress! Because of this tension, an effective way to manage stress can be by accomplishing tasks. Checking an item off your to-do list can be a good way to return energy back to your bucket.

It is important to note here that there are sources of stress that we have control over, as well as those we do not. While we may have control over our to-do list, systemic powers such as racism and sexism contribute to complicated stressors that we don’t necessarily have the ability to change. Luckily, however, we do have the power to prioritize, seek support, and focus on what we can change. Navigating stress using this approach may help us find the energy we need to deal with the more complex sources of stress in our lives.

The bucket analogy is a great way of thinking about how we can reframe stress as a catalyst for positive change. Identifying what is drawing on your energy can be the first step in working towards change – in big and small ways. It could be fixing that leaky faucet in the bathroom, picking up the dog poo in the backyard, scheduling that dentist visit, completing a spending plan (aka Budget), or readjusting your financial plan after bringing a child into the home. This made perfect sense to me because when I complete something on my ‘To-Do List’, I feel fantastic! Heck, I sometimes add things to my ‘To-Do List’ just so I can cross it off!

Start by making a list of the things you would like to get done and assign priority to each task. In fact, part of this process can include identifying tasks you can remove from the list, in order to make room for items that hold more importance to you. It also can be helpful to remember that this list is not yours to complete alone. Most likely, there are many opportunities for you to reach out to your support system for backup.

And, if you find there are financial matters that make it onto the list, consider reaching out to us. For instance, we can help if you have energy from your energy bucket assigned to:

  • Starting a First Job

  • Getting Married

  • Having your First (or Second…or Third…or…) Child

  • Changing Jobs (Career Pivot?)

  • Navigating a Divorce

  • Starting a Business

  • Sending Kids to College

  • Selling a Business

  • Caregiving for an Elderly Loved One

  • Caregiving for a Child

  • Planning for Retirement

  • Estate and Legacy Considerations

  • etc…

We are happy to be a resource for you in your quest to return energy back into your bucket. We know that when you reclaim energy by getting finance-related tasks done, you can then dedicate that energy to more important priorities to allow you to be the best parent, friend, neighbor, and community member you can be.

After all, our Mission at Better Pockets Financial is to Help You Create a Positive Impact in Your Pocket of the World.
Josh Newell, CRPS®

Josh Newell, CRPS®

Financial Planner and Co-Founder at Better Pockets Financial