When someone close to us is feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it can be difficult to know how to help. Sometimes we may even find ourselves avoiding that person for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. But withdrawing like this can actually make things worse.
There are in fact some very practical things you can do to support someone who is feeling stressed.
1. Help them to recognise there’s a problem
It’s easier to spot signs of stress in other people than it is to see them in ourselves. And often people don’t want to admit, even to themselves, that they’re starting to struggle.
Unfortunately, this means many people plough on, despite the warning signs, until they can no longer cope. If you’ve noticed changes in someone’s behaviour that suggests they’re feeling stressed, reach out to them. Let them know that you’ve noticed they don’t seem quite themselves.
Talking things through openly with someone we trust can help us see things differently and find new solutions. Even just knowing that somebody is there to listen can make a huge difference. Giving someone who is feeling stressed your time and undivided attention is one of the best things you can do to support them.
3. Offer reassurance
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to see a way out of a problem. Reminding and reassuring someone that this won’t last forever and that the situation can improve, will help them keep things in perspective.
4. 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.
5. Offer practical support
If there’s a specific issue that’s causing someone to feel stressed such as money worries, bullying at work or relationship problems, you may be able to help them find practical solutions that make the situation easier.
6. Help them relax
Relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindful breathing exercises can help us stay calm. When practised regularly they improve and strengthen our response to pressure. And regular practice is easier to stick to when you’ve got someone to practice with. Help your friend take back control by encouraging them to take mindful pauses whenever they start to feel overwhelmed. This 10-minute body scan is a good place to start.
7. Support them to seek professional help
Unfortunately, there is a still a sense of stigma around mental wellbeing and mental health that prevents many people from seeking professional support when they need it. Talking to your friend about discussing things with their GP, or going with them to an appointment could be the push they need to reach out.
If you know someone who is struggling with stress, let them know about CABA. We offer free, professional counselling to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, their husbands, wives, life partners and dependent children up to the age of 25. Wherever they are in the world. All of our services are free and strictly confidential.
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