Mindset Series – The Emotional Energy Sand Bucket

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Mindset Series – The Emotional Energy Sand Bucket

In this latest blog episode Aaron discusses the importance of emotional energy and it’s availability when dealing with the day-to-day stressors and pressures that we all face. The use of the sand bucket analogy helps us to understand the things we need to be aware of that are emptying our emotional sand bucket as well as those things we can do in order to keep the bucket filled.

The Emotional Energy Sand Bucket

I want you to think about something I regard as emotional energy. Simplistically put, I refer to emotional energy as our ability to deal with stress and pressure at any given time. It’s a constantly changing mind state that ebbs and flows and is unique to each individual.

An analogy I like to use is to think about it like a bucket of sand. The sand within the bucket represents our emotional energy or resilience to day-to-day  stress and pressure. When the bucket is full we cruise, we live free and we find ourselves more and more in the flow state; our ability to deal with stress and circumstances as they arrive is at its greatest, we see challenges as adventures and obstacles as opportunities. When the bucket is empty however we feel down, lethargic, unable to deal with even the smallest of stressors and the big life changes can completely cripple us.  

The sand bucket analogy is brilliant as it allows us to simplify something hugely important to our wellbeing. If we can just keep our bucket mostly full of sand then our day-to-day pressures – bills, deadlines, car repairs etc. will seem trivial and we can use our energy wisely – in the pursuit of goals, dedicated to family or of service to others.

But don’t get me wrong, a metaphorical bucket full of sand won’t save us from the life events that dump the bucket upside down. Break ups, passing of loved ones, loss of employment or custody battles won’t just miraculously be effortless. But what it will do is position us to best tackle these “bucket dumpers” as I like to refer to them as.

The question is, how do we keep the bucket mostly full? And the answer is just as simplistic (theoretically) as the analogy itself. 

Firstly we need to identify the things that take sand from our bucket and remove them from our lives where we can. As mentioned we are all vastly different but some of the common things that remove sand from our bucket include:

  • Work stress
  • Family issues
  • Relationship issues
  • Bills
  • Mortgage
  • Car repairs and services
  • Financial stress
  • Staff meetings
  • Work deadlines
  • Organising holidays
  • Spilt chalk (gym owners will relate)

The list goes on and on and removing just a few of them will greatly benefit our mind state. The problem however, is that the majority of these sand stealers are not things we can just eliminate from our lives. We can live in the moment or choose to ignore them all we want but the fact of the matter is they will not just disappear. 

The key then, is to tip the balance in favour of the things that fill our buckets up, the things that add sand to our bucket, and this is where many of us fall down. We spend so much time caught up in the activities that remove our sand that we fail to spend any time on the things that actually add sand to our bucket. And whilst we may be able to operate on an empty bucket for periods, this is not a sustainable approach and in time that bucket will become completely empty and at that point we have no sand left to give. I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there. It’s not fun. It’s not healthy. And it’s not necessary.

So take some stock, think about the things you do, for you, that add sand to your bucket. I’ll give you a few freebies that add the most sand, for most people:

  • Clean eating – so important, so overlooked.
  • Exercise – surprise surprise.
  • Sleep – an easy one
  • Recovery – stretching, body work, massage etc.
  • Meditation – does not need to be spiritual just something in the moment – for me snowboarding
  • Sunlight – a couple of hours every day
  • Human connection – even introverts benefit from human connection. We are tribal creatures after all
  • Service to others – again, we are tribal, we are genetically programmed to release serotonin, dopamine and other “happy hormones” when we help others

These are all the “obvious” ones. For the most part we are well aware that we need all of these things but how many on the list do you honestly do on a day-to-day basis?

Then there are the things unique to you as an individual that add sand to your personal bucket. Identify them, understand the value and importance of them and then relentlessly pursue them. It could be yoga, float tanks, CrossFit, golf, surfing, snowboarding, book clubs, wine clubs, hiking, reading, dog walking, crosswords, or any number of things. What’s important is that you identify the specific activities that add sand to your personal bucket. Be careful here. adding sand and immediate gratification are two very different things. I could eat a donut right now and I would be in a happy place for a minute or two but it surely does not add sand to my bucket in the long run. 

So take stock. Ask yourself, what am I doing to add sand to my bucket? How much sand do I have to give? How can I add more? And what will be the consequences of running out of sand?

As always,

Stay Awesome,

Coach Aaron

The Emotional Energy Sand Bucket

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