Helping a friend who is stressed

18 September 2020 , Posted by Rachel Bate & Julie Loveny

Have you noticed a friend seeming stressed more and more frequently these days? Stress is a normal reaction to a challenging situation, but if someone is stressed consistently it may be a sign that they aren’t coping and they could benefit from support from a friend.

A common thought about stress is that all stress is bad, but the truth is stress can actually be a positive thing in small doses. It can make you feel more energised, alert and motivated to get things done, but there is also stress that can take a negative effect on your mental and physical health. If you are concerned your friend isn’t managing stress and finds it very difficult to gain control or ‘switch off’ and may need your help, here are a few ways you can support them:

– Have a chat: talk to them in a comfortable environment about what has been stressing them out, there may be a few factors involved and it’s okay if they are not up to sharing everything, but knowing you’re there to talk may be a great help to them. Maybe they just need to vent a little, so never underestimate the power of a good chat.

– Plan some time off: they may be feeling overwhelmed with tasks and feeling like they can’t slow down. Taking some down time may be just what they need, so encourage them to plan things in advance to ensure they can still balance their important tasks and relaxing time.

– Making things easier to manage: if they are happy to talk to you about what is stressing them out, try to work together to break things down into smaller steps to create a less stressful environment for them. Talk about goals they may have set or want to set, and ways to achieve them and maintain motivation. Also consider if they are doing too much, and perhaps need to stop or postpone certain activities and/or responsibilities where possible. Also, sometimes using tools such as journals, diaries or apps can help people make sense of thoughts, take time to relax and track their progress.

– Remember the physical side: your physical health is important, and many factors of your daily life can play a part in feeling overly-stressed. Making time for physical exercise each day and ensuring you keep a healthy diet can help reduce stress levels, and additionally can increase your energy and motivation to complete tasks. Sleep is another important factor to consider in maintaining good physical health, if your friend is not able to keep up a decent, consistent sleep pattern it can be a big cause of stress.

– Encourage outside support: If they require more help than you feel you can offer, it is completely fine to let them know about getting help from others, and it may be that there is something else going on and could benefit from speaking to a health professional such as their GP, a counsellor or a psychologist. Seeking help may be a difficult step to take but could be very valuable in decreasing stress levels and supporting positive mental health.

Stress can be difficult to deal with, especially over a long period, and can be caused by so many different factors. Having the support of a close friend can be exactly what a person needs to feel better, and sometimes being able to ‘get it all out’ and vent may take some of the stress away. For when they need a little more help, let them know of the value of talking to a health professional, but if they aren’t up to speaking to someone face-to-face just yet there are online and telephone counselling services they can access.

Remember, you are a great support to your friends but also to yourself. Monitor your own stress levels, try to take on only what you can handle, and practice positive coping skills, such as making goals, seeking help when necessary and maintaining good mental and physical wellbeing. The ability to manage stress will build resilience, which can help you cope with challenging situations, maintain a sense of control in life and highlight your inner strengths.