AS part of Stress Awareness Month’, last week we explored the overflowing stress bucket, a metaphor for the stress we carry around with us, and our ability to deal with it.

This week, we’re going to ditch the bucket and explore the concept of the stress sweet spot - that optimal zone where pressure fuels productivity without tipping into overwhelm. In other words, getting the balance right between a healthy amount of stress which is motivating and energising, and too much stress, which can be harmful to us.

I like to think we have three zones for our stress levels:

* The Challenge Zone: This is your sweet spot, where stress becomes a motivator, sharpening your focus and driving you to achieve. You might feel a healthy dose of excitement and anticipation – think of the pre-race jitters that propel athletes forward.

* The Apathy Zone: Under-arousal happens when stress is too low. Boredom sets in, productivity slumps, and you might feel a lack of direction.

* The Danger Zone: This is the overflowing bucket – overwhelm, anxiety, and exhaustion reign supreme.

So how can you recognise these zones?

Pay attention to your own body language. In the challenge zone, you might have a slight increase in heart rate or feel energised. Apathy might manifest as sluggishness or difficulty concentrating. Danger zone symptoms include headaches, muscle tension, and irritability.

Ask yourself how you feel about upcoming tasks. Challenge zone tasks feel exciting or important. Apathy breeds indifference, while danger zone tasks feel overwhelming or dreaded.

If you read my column regularly you are probably familiar with some of the things I recommend to help combat too much stress, I am a great believer in mindfulness, or ‘getting in the moment’. However, sometimes it is good to think outside of the box, so here are a few unconventional ways to manage stress and find your sweet spot.

Challenge yourself with play, think escape rooms, improv comedy classes, or even a friendly board game night. Playful challenges push your boundaries in a safe, supportive environment, boosting your resilience.

Immerse yourself in nature, doing something you wouldn’t usually do, such as simply sit under a tree. Studies show nature exposure lowers stress hormones and improves focus.

Channel your stress into creative expression. Write, paint, sculpt, or even learn a new musical instrument. The act of creation itself can be incredibly therapeutic.

Volunteer your time or skills to a cause you care about. Helping others can give us a sense of purpose and reduces self-absorption, both major stress relievers.

To keep ourselves on top form, and in that sweet spot, it is handy to remember what I call the ‘4Ps’: Positive Actions, Positive Interactions, Positive Thinking, and the fourth P - Purpose.

Training our minds to think positively can be incredibly good for our overall well-being. As humans, we are actually programmed to be on alert and look out for the negative, or for danger. In the modern world, with all our daily stresses and strains, it is easy to become overwhelmed. In many cases, our mindset can become negative without us realising it, as it can be a gradual process.

Retraining our minds to look for the positive in the everyday, can be really beneficial. Acting and interacting positively with others helps keep us in that sweet spot too.

Having or finding a purpose, is also incredibly beneficial, especially if we have had a life change, where perhaps we may feel we have lost some purpose, such as if we lose our job, or if we have recently retired. The same can be said when our children first leave home and the nest suddenly becomes empty. The thought of finding a new purpose can be stressful, but once we engage with something new, we start to feel good and we fire up our own ‘reward’ systems, which can really help us to cope so much better with things, again keeping us in that sweet spot.

Remember, stress isn’t your enemy. It’s your body’s way of saying, “Hey, pay attention!” Your sweet spot is unique to you. Experiment and find what works best to keep your stress wave manageable and propel you forward, not drown you.

* If you run any type of support group or activity in and around the Bradford area to help or support people with their mental health, then please get in touch so I can include details in a future column.

Anyone can struggle with their mental wellbeing from time to time. However, if you feel you are in danger of harming yourself or others then please contact your GP, go to A&E, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258

* Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England. Email