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Supporting Stressed-Out Loved Ones

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July 16, 2021 | Published by


We all want to be there for our partners, friends, family and loved ones going through a stressful time. However, we don’t always know what to say or do, or we fear saying or doing the wrong thing. In this blog we’re discussing tips and methods to talk and help people we care about experiencing heavy stress.

1. Help them to recognize there’s a problem

It can be a lot easier to see signs of stress in other people than it is to see in ourselves. Moreover, some people may see the problem but don’t want to admit they’re struggling with something. Unfortunately, some of us push on and try to drive through it until we’re close to collapse. Many of us are dying to talk to someone about our troubles but aren’t sure how to bring it up and feel embarrassed. Sometimes it just takes a conversation that starts with “Hey, how are you really?” to get things going.

2. Listen

This might be the most important tip in the entire article. Listening can be what people going through issues with stress need the most. Sometimes just having someone listen to you can make a significant difference in how you feel. Talking through problems can help put things in perspective and even spark ideas for solutions. You may not have to say a word; the key here is to listen and give someone your full attention.

3. Help them recognize their triggers

We all have things that trigger more stress and anxiety in us than usual. By having conversations with others dealing with stress-related issues, you can help them sort out what is triggering their current troubles. Triggers can be a sensitive topic, so tone and tact will be important here. You’ll want to do your best to remain calm, objective and avoid judgment. This is also an opportunity to help the person identify things that help them feel better and less stressed. For example, you may mention to your partner how good the both of you feel after taking a walk together at the local park.

4. Offer practical solutions

You may not be able to offer solutions to any of their problems, but that’s not the point. However, there are things that you may be able to help fix. Say your friend is stressed about being without a car due to a surprise breakdown. You live near their home and work and offer them transportation for whatever they need until they get their car back. Maybe you offer to help them clean up a yard they’ve been neglecting due to not feeling well. Sometimes little fixes and favors can go a long way in relieving stress.

5. Reassure them that stressful things will pass

With some stresses, people just want to know there’s a way out. Reassuring them that there is, or that this certain event will pass. You’re not looking to give toxic positivity statements like “everything’s OK” or “people have been through worse things.” If a relative is stressed about starting a new job, you can tell them that the newness will pass. After a few weeks the new job will feel like a regular job, and it will provide a chance to work in a fresh environment and meet new people.

6. Offer some relaxation techniques

Not all of us are great at practicing stress-reducing techniques and activities. You may know what works, or what to try, but you are too tired, stressed, and blah to do anything. Here’s where you can offer suggestions of things you know work for them, or perhaps things that work for you you think they might enjoy. Better yet, offer to do something together. Sure, there are things the person should do on their own to help, but an offer to join in (bowling this weekend?) may make it easier for them to accept and participate.

7. Know when to call for backup

We are all capable of amazing things, but sometimes we can only help so much. You may find that your loved one’s stress and troubles goes deeper than what you can offer. It may be time to recommend they see someone more equipped to help them, such as a therapist or grief counselor. There is never any shame in asking for or needing help, so don’t let them brush or shrug it off. Offer to help them find someone, if they ask and you feel comfortable.

References:

  1. 7 Ways to Support Someone Who Is Stressed. CABA. https://www.caba.org.uk/help-and-guides/information/7-ways-support-someone-who-stressed
  2. How to Manage Stress. Mind.org.uk. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/for-friends-and-family/

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