Thursday, September 21, 2023

How To Help Someone Who’s Stressed

Try To Think Differently About It

SUPPORT: How can I help someone with anxiety and stress?

The first thing I tell people who are stressed to do is to try to think differently about it. This is a practice that you get better at over time, but you can start now by asking What is within my control and what is not?

There are so many circumstances outside of our control that we can release through prayer or other spiritual practices. This helps to free us from this tendency to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.

Write Down What Youre Grateful For

Focusing on the positives in your life can help bring things into perspective during these uncertain times. It could be your partner, parents, friends, or Facetime.

Speaker | Business Coach, Coaching Collaborative, LLC | Author, Gossip: The Road to Ruin

When someone is stressed, they simply want to be heard.

Feeling sorry for someone doesnt usually help and at times can make the situation worse, because when the victim goes into that mood, they want sympathy and want to be right about the upset, therefore they will give you justification to prove their upset.

Related: How to Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself?

Help Them Identify Their Triggers

Your independent observations of someone’s behaviour can help them identify patterns that they hadn’t noticed before.

This can be a sensitive topic, as it will mean drawing attention to negative thoughts or feelings, so remaining calm, objective and non-judgemental is important.

In the same way, you could also help someone identify situations and activities that help them to feel less stressed and more in control. For example getting outside for a walk, taking a relaxing bath or reading a book.

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I Am Here If You Want To Talk About It Or Not

This response is not dismissive and shows the person that you care about and want to help. Whether or not they say yes and are open to talking is their choice. Having the option available will be appreciated.

Sometimes when a person verbalizes that they want to be left alone, they may not actually mean it. In my experiences with clients, they report wanting their negative thinking and feelings to leave/stop. Sitting quietly with a person may benefit some individuals.

How Can I Help

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You: Can I help you with anything?

Them: No, Im ok. Thanks.

You: Alright, let me know.

I think weve all experienced this exchange before. Instead of asking if you can help, try asking how you can help. This rephrases the question and makes it easier for them to visualize different ways you could be there for them.

It also lets them know that youre willing to help in any way they need. If they need someone to switch their laundry, thats you. If they need someone to read over their project, thats you. If they need someone to get them ice cream, thats you.

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Youre Not Alone Ive Got Your Back

You never want them to feel alone or like their concerns dont matter to anyone else. Remind them they dont have to face this alone or to keep it all to themselves. You want to be there to listen and to help in whatever way you can.

You dont hesitate to stand up for or stand with them, whatever it might cost you. Youre the friend they can always count on.

Validate Their Feelings And Experience

When somebody is stressed, their inner critic is often chastising themselves for struggling. We are often quick to offer advice or remind them why they shouldnt be stressed. But by doing that, we are dismissing, rejecting, or judging their feelings.

Instead, try summarizing and repeating what they said back to them. Like this:

  • You are stressed because you lost your job and are unsure about how you will pay rent this month.
  • You are anxious about leaving your house because you are afraid of getting sick.

Then offer non-judgemental empathy through phrases like this:

  • It makes complete sense you are stressed right now.
  • Id be stressed if I were in your situation.
  • It must be really hard to be under all this stress.

Board-Certified Family Physician | Author | Speaker

I loveusing what I call the BREATHE checklist with patients, family, and friends.

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What Makes Us Stressed

Many things that can lead to stress: bereavement, divorce or separation, losing a job or unexpected money problems. Work-related stress can also have a negative impact on your mental health. People affected by work-related stress lose an average of 24 days of work due to ill health.

Even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a job promotion or going on holiday can be sources of stress. If you feel stressed in these situations you may struggle to understand why or be unwilling to share your feelings with others.

Do The Opposite Of What Your Fear Is Telling You To Do

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Stress is really a form of anxiety . And the secret to relieving any form of anxiety is to do the opposite of what the fear says to do. If someone is stressed, their fear is telling them to scurry about trying to fend off everything they imagine could go wrong.

Doing the opposite might take the form, then, of freezing, physically, and refusing to move until youve taken back control of what you will do in the next momentno longer dictated to by the fear.

Of course, the fear will try to seduce you to rush back into the same old action, threatening you with all sorts of imaginary disasters if you dont, but we want to stand still and resolute, refusing to move off our mark, like a warrior .

After a couple of minutes, the anxiety and stress evaporate, and if you refuse to move until you no longer have to continue with your previous action, it will evaporate completely. At that point, we make a marvelous discovery: the fear wasnt real!

At most there is a manageable problem to deal with most of the time we find there was no real problem at all. As Michele de Montaigne said, My life was filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened!.

When we achieve this realization, we are free to choose our actions in the next moment, without fear, without stresssimply from the awareness of what serves our higher purposes best.

And usually, we will choose to continue doing exactly what we were doing before, only this time with freedom and a renewed sense of purpose!

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Show Up In Specific Ways

While checking in with a loved one and asking, “How are you?” is well-intentioned, you might better serve your friend or family member by offering help in specific ways, Caraballo says.

Think more along the lines of “How can I make this day easier for you?” That may look like assisting in everyday tasks such as grocery shopping or meal prep, which can feel particularly daunting and burdensome when stress levels are high.

“This way, your loved one doesn’t have to feel the pressure of defining their feelings but may instead focus on resolving problems, or at least on making them better,” says Caraballo. “And that can make all the difference when someone is feeling really overwhelmed or stressed out.”

If Someone Has A More Serious Anxiety Problem Avoid Stigmatizing Them

What can we do for folks with more serious issues? People experiencing things like panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking may fear that theyre literally going crazy. Helping them may feel beyond your ability.

You can still be supportive in many ways. When someone is experiencing significant anxiety, its helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasnt changed. Theyre still the same person theyre just suffering a temporary problem situation that has become out of control. Theyre not broken and who they are hasnt changed. To the extent possible, you can help the person stay connected to positive aspects of their identity by participating in or encouraging their interests and hobbies.

Sometimes, individuals who have chronic anxiety problems arent interested in changing. For example, you might be friends with someone who has agoraphobia or an eating disorder, but their condition is long-term and stable. In these cases, you can be accepting of that person so that they dont feel isolated. Being matter-of-fact about their limitations without excessively shaming them or insisting they should pursue becoming normal is often the best strategy.

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Remind Them Of The Calm After The Storm

Stress often comes from a particularly busy or painful period of time in our lives, but its unusual for anyone to live a perpetually stressful life that is truly concerning with how stressful it is 24/7.

Remind the person that there is a calm after the storm, just as soon as they get through these mid-terms or after the school year lets out or when theyre on honeymoon just soaking up the sunshine and not having to think about table layouts.

This does depend on what the person is stressed about, but trying to help them see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel can go a little ways towards keeping their brain focused on the positives rather than the storm they are in.

Immediate Relief But Unhealthy Solutions

Signs of Caregiver Stress

Im certain Im not alone in resorting to bad habits that provide temporary relief, but in the long-run, bear unhealthy consequences. This may beg the distinction of the band-aid versus a solution, with the former sparking additional problems and the latter calling for a non-harmful way to ease suffering.

Need an example?

How about emotional eating? How about drinking to excess? What about the on-again-off-again smoker who returns to a pack a day during times of stress?

What about stress that morphs into anger let loose on family, or withdrawal from socializing? Arent these behaviors destructive as well?

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How Do You Comfort Someone Who Is Stressed

Its not always easy to know what to say to someone who is stressed.

Maybe you know what to say when youve been where they are, but even then, you may not respond the same way.

And its tougher when youve never experienced what theyre going through.

Start by doing your best to empathize with them, even if you can only try to imagine what theyre feeling.

A strong aptitude for empathy helps, but its not enough on its own. Its the trying that matters most.

Try to see things from their perspective. Even if whats bothering them doesnt bother you, never assume that they must be overreacting.

Put yourself in their shoes for a bit and try thinking about what youd need to hear.

Never Tell Them Not To Worry

Dont tell a loved one to not worry so much, since this is difficult for someone to do, especially if they are right in the middle of a very stressful time. People who are stressed also dont want to hear what you do to calm down since different things work for different people.

If you really believe that you have an idea that may help them, save it for a time when they are calm, collected, and can listen to what you say to determine if it will work for them.

People who are under intense stress also do not want to be burdened by other problems, so try to avoid talking about yourself or things that may worsen their ability to think clearly.

Alyssa Shaffer

Author, How to Beat Stress: The Scientific Guide to Being Happy

Stress can come into your life like a passing cloud or a major storm. It can be as small as running late to pick up your kid from school or as crushing as suddenly losing your job or facing a serious illness. Luckily, there are ways you can manage stress without letting it overwhelm you.

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Ask For Solutions That They Have Already Tried

If they request solutions for managing stress, start by asking what theyve already tried. They may have done it all already and you suggesting better sleep will again fall flat. If you have an idea that they havent tried, only then should you suggest it to them.

Lisa Hutchison, LMHC

Licensed Psychotherapist

When someone is stressed, they are feeling overwhelmed by their own thoughts or outside pressures. Stress is subjective, meaning what one person feels stressed about, another may not. Dont assume a person is stressed, they may not be.

Get Curious About The Situation

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Thats what we do as therapists. We dont get overly involved or have an emotional response, rather we get curious. Asking someone for more information about whats distressing them is a smart place to start.

Rather than giving advice or suggesting solutions, asking questions will show the person that you are invested in them and their experience. It feels much less dismissive to say Tell me more about that than it does to tell someone what you think they should do to lower their stress level.

Talking about the situation, and the emotions that are underneath the stress will help someone process through it.

It helps to be a good listener and to approach the situation as one you want to learn more about, not one you want to fix with your suggestions.

Let your natural instinct for curiosity lead you to seek a better understanding of the stressors. People really do appreciate feeling validated and truly heard.

Susie Levan

Hypnotherapist | Life Coach | Author, Getting to Forgiveness

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Ask For Help Or Ask How You Can Help

One of the hardest things to do when youre stressed out is to ask for help.

Sometimes you may feel too overwhelmed to ask for help, or be in such a high-stress situation that you dont even know what kind of help you need. If youve ever felt this way, your partner has definitely felt it, too.

Thats why the best thing you can do is take a breath and ask them what kind of help they need. For example, a pile of dirty dishes may not normally be a big deal to your partner, but if they feel stretched to the limit already, that pile of dishes is going to look impossibly large.

You can respond to your partners stress by simply asking them about it and how you can support them. We are more likely to miss the mark when we assume, Hardy says. I would recommend taking something off their plate When you give them less to worry about in other areas, you are supporting them inadvertently.

How Do I Help A Stressed Friend Or Loved One

Its difficult when we feel the heavy weight of anxiety bearing down on us, but watching a loved one deal with it can be just as hard. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear from our meQuilibrum community is, How do I help my partner/child/sibling/parent/friend whos really stressed? So we decided to dedicate this weeks Cup of Calm to providing concrete ways you can help a loved one in distress return to a place of calm and capability.

Its common to feel frustrated or powerless. The key? Counterbalancing the physical symptoms of anxiety and helping to put the issue in perspective. Here are five actionable ways to do just that:

2. Get them moving. Next, help them begin to calm down their body. Encourage them to take a deep breath, which reduces anxietybreathing deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which balances out the sympathetic nervous system and works to calm us down. Ask them to take 5 to 10 deep breaths, or try walking them through a breathing exercise. Offer them a drink of water, which eases an upset stomach and dry mouth. Then, get active. When Shattés kids feel nervous, he takes them on a walk, because anxiety has that motivational piece of wanting to run away, he says. Behaviorally, walking forward is the exact opposite. Moving toward something shows you have nothing to fear.

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What You Can Do To Help

Once youve had a conversation and they know youre there for them, ask if they need support and let them know youre willing to help. You might suggest doing something fun together like working out, watching a show or movie and talking about it afterwards, or simply connecting by phone or facetime.

As with any stressor, self-care can go a long way in helping with anxiety. If theyre feeling overwhelmed, here are some other things they can do to help: eat a good diet, exercise regularly, avoid drugs/alcohol, take breaks, lean on friends and family, and modify their environment to reduce stress like keeping their room or workspace clean and organizing and sticking to a routine or schedule.

Listening to music or a podcast can also be calming or soothing, as can journaling, taking a walk, disconnecting from the news or social media, or performing some deep breathing or meditation. These apps or sites are a good place to start:

Breathing And Relaxation Exercises

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Many people find exercises that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation to be helpful in relieving stress. The playlist below will help you to understand how stress works and start feeling better. These exercises can be done anywhere and are designed to help you feel more relaxed in general, as well as helping you feel calmer if you are becoming stressed.

This playlist is free to download, and you can also stream it using the Soundcloud website or app. You can download and listen to individual tracks if there are particular exercises that work best for you. If youre listening to it for the first time, its best to start from the beginning.

To access a BSL version of this playlist, .

Find out more by checking out these 10 stress busters.

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