How Fivium use the Stress Container Model to Support their Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing

Here at Fivium, our people’s health and well-being is at the forefront of our people strategy, we want to break down the stigma surrounding Mental Health and the Workplace by addressing issues head-on.

Our Wellbeing programme of events is designed to both keep the conversation going around stress and mental illness and also to normalise life challenges that we all face from time to time. We provide support and guidance and help our people really show up at work and feel empowered to be their true selves.

We are proud to have joined the Time to Change campaign, led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to continue to build a working environment that is supportive to all and nurtures balanced, successful and happy individuals. We have 3 fully qualified Mental Health First Aiders and 3 supporting Wellness Ambassadors. One of our Mental Health First Aiders, Adam Horrell, shares his thoughts on the Stress Container Model below.

Adam writes: In the same way that fat in our diet isn’t itself necessarily a bad thing, neither is stress. However, too much stress can make you ill when not kept in check. I wanted to share and put my perspective on a model called the Stress Container that is taught in the Mental Health First Aid course by MHFA England that I recently attended. I think everyone should be aware of this model because it helps us understand the link between the stresses of daily life and the mental health problems that can occur when these stresses exceed our individual tolerances.

In the model, your personal level of vulnerability to stress is represented by the size of the container. The bad news is that, as in many walks of life, it seems that each person’s capacity to cope with a given amount of stress is different, so you’re at a disadvantage if you’ve been dealt a bad hand. The good news is that although your container size may be relatively fixed, there are mechanisms that you can control to keep problems from developing.

Imagine the day-to-day stresses of life filling up your stress container, if you take no action in the form of helpful coping strategies, your container will fill up and eventually overflow. Once the container overflows, problems develop. The symptoms will be different for everyone, but they could be irritability, tearfulness, indecision, inability to concentrate, tiredness, headaches, stomach pains etc.

A tap at the bottom of the container is either opened or closed by the introduction of helpful and unhelpful coping strategies respectively. Examples of helpful coping strategies are exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting quality sleep. Examples of unhelpful coping strategies are drinking alcohol, overeating and overworking.

I reflect on this model regularly. For example, I’m acutely aware that I have a number of big changes in my life at the moment; I recently not only moved house but also moved to a completely new area of the country! To some people, this may not seem like a lot of stress, but from past experience, I know that my container will be reaching its capacity if I don’t take measures to open the proverbial tap.

With that in mind, I’ve cleaned up my diet, made sure that I am consistently training in the gym and I’ve re-engaged with my meditation practice. It’s worth noting as well, that we take on some stresses optionally, so I’m making sure that I know what my current priorities are so that I can say “yes” to things that are important and feel comfortable saying no to things that are less so.

Some helpful coping strategies that you can employ at work could include:

  • Communication with team members about your workload or other challenges - Standups and retrospectives are a great place to share concerns with your teammates and get help with your workload
  • Speaking with your work workplace BFF
  • Talking to your wellness ambassadors
  • Taking breaks

Fivium also supports mental health in the workplace through the following initiatives that people can engage with:

  • An Employee Assistance Programme with Simplyhealth, where our people can have access to a counselling service with either face-to-face or remote sessions to work through the issues with a professionally trained expert.
  • A guided meditation group that meets every morning, people can join in the office or remotely and work through a meditation programme. Morning meditation helps set the tone for the day and promotes good focus, contentment and optimism.
  • Regular Tea and Talk sessions, whereby we discuss topical or important factors that might be affecting our well-being and if there's anything we can do as an employer to help further support people. Our aim is to become a workplace free from the stigma of discussing mental health in the workplace and we believe the biggest example of this is talking about it openly as a company, supporting each other and providing practical advice or potential solutions and ensuring people get help if they need it.
  • A whole host of other activities from nutrition cooking demonstrations to office chair massages and coaching sessions on Strengths and Beliefs.

We hope that this model helps to clarify the relationship between stress and mental health problems and empowers our people to proactively monitor and manage the factors that can prevent issues from developing.

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