One week after receiving my registration and there I am, sat on a busy acute hospital ward at the nurse’s station with staff buzzing around me like bees. It only seems like yesterday I was sat in the lecture theatre at university. But now there I am sat with my mentor watching her write a list of jobs to be completed. The list continually getting longer just like an overdue shopping list. As I stare down, I could feel my thoughts and feelings swirling round inside me like a tropical thunder storm, thoughts including “this is not for me” and “what have I done?”

I suddenly felt an overwhelming spark inside me, I felt so overwhelmed at the sheer mass of jobs to be completed. It was like a fire of worry had ignited inside me. Well, that fire soon turned into a wild fire, igniting all these different feeling such as worry, anxiety and self-doubt.

I turned to my mentor and sheepishly uttered the words “I don’t think I can do this”. As the fire of feelings grew, I muttered the words, I could feel tears run down my face, like rain drops running down the windowpane. My mentor provided reassurance, and we broke everything down together.

We found the solution to minimising that spark from igniting in the future, was to engage in regular clinical supervision on a one to one basis, peer discussions with other OT’s in the office and most importantly to work on prioritisation skills. All these solutions were like having a shield in battle, which would protect me from the anxiety and stress.

Outside of work, I drew on my own expertise as an OT and used the power of occupation to structure my day. I found that as an OT, I didn’t practice what I preached, I struggled at first to switch off from work and find that occupational balance.  Using occupations that I enjoyed was like using a shield in battle outside of work. Reading, running, walks and socialising with family and friends were all used as self-prescribed occupations and my very own treatment plan.

The Stress Bucket.

I also found using the stress bucket analogy to visualise my thoughts, feelings and coping strategies helpful. The stress bucket is an analogy which helps to explain stress. The bucket fills up with stress and thoughts over time (water). If the bucket becomes full and begins to overflow, we can begin to feel overwhelmed. In order to avoid the bucket becoming full, we need to create holes to allow the water to escape (intervention/occupations). For more information on the stress bucket please visit

The stress bucket was something I was made aware of in university and then reminded of in practice by my clinical lead. We found with the right tools and armour, we changed the “I can’t” into “I can”.

It is with thanks to my previous mentor and peers I am now able to manage my stress and prioritise and manage my own caseload. But most importantly I understand the power of self-belief.

Written by Paul Wilkinson

This project is funded by the Elizabeth Casson Trust. If you’d like to learn more about the project you can do so via this link and the team behind it here

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Photo by Delaney Boyd via Unsplash.