Stress management – the glass of water analogy

This story made its way around the Web a few years ago. I saw it just recently. Some reviewers quibble about the physics or other merits of the story. I think, however, that it makes a good point. While overcoming struggles can make us stronger, rumination and dwelling on problems is bad for our mental health (see this BBC article that summarizes the results of a large study published in the journal PLOS One in 2013).

…brooding too much on negative events is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety and determines the level of stress people experience.
–  reporter Denise Winterman,

Now, here’s the story. I hope you will find the image to be helpful.

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: ”How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!

By Anonymous; I was not able to find the name of the person wrote it originally.

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