Seeing someone you care about struggle with stress can be difficult. If you think a friend or loved one may be stressed out, you can help them cope by offering emotional support. Just being there and listening is often enough to help a stressed person feel better. If they want more practical help, sit down with them and talk about what’s causing their stress. Suggest some coping strategies and look for ways to help make their problems more manageable.
[Edit]Being Present and Supportive
Check in with your friend or loved one to see if they’re okay. If you’re concerned that someone you know may be dealing with stress, reach out and ask them how they’re doing. This can not only give you a better idea of what’s going on with them, but will reassure them that you care about them and are thinking about their wellbeing.
Say something like, “Hey, you’ve seemed kind of anxious and tired lately. Is everything okay?”
If they’re not in the mood to talk about it, respect their wishes. Just let them know that you are there if they ever want to talk.
It’s possible your friend or loved one doesn’t even realize they are stressed out. Asking them how they’re doing may encourage them to reflect on their feelings and recognize that they are struggling.
Let them know you are there for them. Your friend or loved one may be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help or support. Without being pushy or confrontational, let them know that you are worried about them and assure them that you want to help.
Try saying something like, “I’m concerned about you, and I’d like to help in any way I can. Please don’t be afraid to talk to me or let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
Ask them what you can do. Don’t assume you know what someone needs when they are stressed out. They may be looking for practical solutions, or they may just want to vent or even find a distraction from their worries. Instead of rushing to try and solve their problems, ask them for guidance about what you can do.
You could start by simply asking, “How can I help?”
If they’re not sure how to respond to such an open-ended question, offer some specific suggestions. For example, “Do you want to talk about it?” or “Would it help to go do something fun for a while?”
Listen to them if they want to talk. Sometimes just talking it out can help stress feel more manageable. If your friend or loved one says they want to talk, listen actively to what they have to say. Let them do most of the talking, and resist the urge to jump in or offer suggestions unless they ask you to.
Give them your full attention while they are talking. Put away your phone and turn off any noisy distractions, like the TV or radio.
Be empathetic and ask them questions to let them know you’re listening and encourage them to reflect. For example, “Wow, that must have been tough. How did you feel when he said that?”
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or rephrase what they are saying to make sure you understand them. For example, “So, it sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed with school work and also having some tension with your girlfriend. Is that right?”
Validate their feelings. Resist the urge to tell them to “snap out of it” or say things like “Cheer up, it’s not so bad!” Don’t judge their feelings or try to compare their suffering to someone else’s. Instead, let them know that it’s okay for them to feel the way they do.
Try saying things like, “That sounds really difficult. I’m so sorry you’re going through all that.”
Reassure them that their situation can change. When someone is stressed, they can begin to feel hopeless or overwhelmed, especially if they can’t see an obvious end in sight. Let them know that their current circumstances and feelings aren’t permanent, and that things can change for the better.
You could say, “Hey, I know things are pretty awful right now, but I really think it’s going to get better. This semester will be over soon, and then you’ll have a chance to rest.”
Challenge their negative self-talk without being confrontational. Some people tend to get down on themselves or become unrealistically negative when they’re stressed out. If you hear your friend or loved one doing this, gently challenge their statements and encourage them to think more realistically.
For example, if they say, “Ugh, I’m such a failure. I can’t do anything right,” respond with something like, “Sure you can! Remember what a great job you did on that project last month?”
Avoid vague or confrontational responses, like, “Stop talking that way! You know that’s not true.”[Edit]Offering Practical Coping Strategies
Help them identify the causes of their stress. Stress often occurs when someone is overwhelmed with too many problems or responsibilities. If your friend or loved one wants help coping with their stress, offer to sit down with them and try to pinpoint exactly what’s stressing them out. This is an important step towards making their stress feel more manageable.
Brainstorm with them about what their biggest stressors are. They’ll probably have some ideas of their own, but you can also help by offering your own observations or asking questions.
For example, you might ask things like, “How are things going at work? Are you getting enough sleep?”
Work with them to find solutions to solvable problems. Some sources of stress—like terrible winter weather—may be totally outside of your loved one’s control. Others, however, may be more manageable. Help your friend or loved one identify problems that are within their control. Then, work on breaking those problems down into bite-sized pieces so that they seem less overwhelming.
Make a list of their stressors and try to pinpoint which ones they can control and which ones they can’t.
Maybe a messy house is one source of stress for your friend, but the task of cleaning up feels overwhelming. Say something like, “Okay, let’s take it one room at a time. How about we start with the kitchen and go from there?”
You can also encourage them to drop obligations that aren’t really necessary or are causing them undue stress.
Share some of your favorite stress-relieving strategies with them. If you have any positive strategies for coping with your own stress, talk to your friend about them. Don’t pressure your friend into trying something or suggest that it’s guaranteed to work for them. Just say something like, “You know, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, it really helps me to take a break and go for a walk.”
Some good stress-relieving activities include meditating, doing yoga, doing something creative, listening to peaceful music, reading a book, or spending time with friends.
Invite them to do something fun or relaxing with you. Spending quality time with someone you care about is a great way to minimize stress. Encourage your friend or loved one to take a little time off from their worries and do something with you that you both enjoy.
For example, you might invite them to go see a movie you’ve both been excited about, take them to an art class with you, or invite them out for coffee at their favorite café.
Physical activity is another great stress-buster, so consider going for a walk or playing a round of squash at the gym.
Offer to help them with some of their responsibilities. If your friend or loved one is stressed because they have too much on their plate, taking some of the pressure off them can be a big help. If you’re able to take over any of their obligations or responsibilities, offer to do so.
For example, you might say, “Hey, how about I make dinner tonight so you can relax for a bit?”
Don’t offer to take on anything that you aren’t confident you can handle—otherwise you may cause yourself undue stress!
Encourage them to seek professional help if necessary. Sometimes, your friend or loved one’s stress may be too big for the two of you to handle alone. If you’re concerned about their wellbeing and don’t think you can do enough to help, urge them to talk to their doctor or a counselor.
If you’re really worried about them, you could call a local crisis line and ask for advice. They can offer tips on how to help your friend cope or connect you with resources that can help.
If you’re a minor, talk to a trusted adult about what your friend is going through. You could reach out to a parent, a teacher, or your school counselor or nurse.[Edit]Expert Q&A
What to say to someone who is stressed?Recognize that there is something going on with them that they are not happy with. They are perceiving a situation to be somewhat threatening to them, which is causing the stress. The person might have entered survival mode. Ask the person how they feel about the situation and have them explore their perceptions and thought patterns around the situation so that they can get to know themselves better and start destressing.
How do you calm a stressed person?Start by taking a step back, pausing everything, and looking at the trigger. Turn their attention to their thoughts and emotions and help them connect with their feelings. Help them describe what is going on and what the trigger event was and why they are taking it personally. They can then shift their attention away from the situation and onto other things.
How can I help a friend who is stressed?Ask your friend to go and investigate what is happening. Have them ask themselves about the triggering events and help them connect to their feelings about the situation. They need to internally go through their thoughts and feelings and how they are perceiving the situation.
Someone you know may be stressed out if they always seem tired or irritable, have trouble concentrating, aren’t eating or sleeping well, or don’t seem to enjoy things they usually like doing.
Don’t forget to care for yourself, too. Helping someone else cope with their stress can be stressful in itself. If you’re not calm and relaxed, it will be harder for you to help your loved one. Step back and take a break if you need to.[Edit]References↑ https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/for-friends-and-family/#.XFxiT817nb0