Stress is one of the most common mental health conditions that everyone is likely to experience at some point in their lives. While small amounts of stress can help us to react quickly in some situations and respond with productive solutions, continuous and extreme levels of stress can have the opposite effect causing us to be slow to respond and see a decrease in our productivity.
Stress produces cortisol, which over time can have significant negative effects on our physical health (e.g. heart problems, digestive issues, and weight changes) as well as our mental health – leading to depression and anxiety.
If you think someone is struggling with stress, here are some simple ways you can support them.
Simply talking about how you’re feeling and what’s making you feel stressed can be a great outlet for people who are struggling. Voicing your feelings can make them feel more manageable and help you find solutions much more easily.
Make it known that you are there to listen if they need you and even start the conversations if they seem hesitant themselves.
Never underestimate the power of asking “how are you?”
Help them to relax
It can be difficult for people who are struggling with stress to relax. Even in their downtime, they’re likely to be thinking about and dwelling on the things that are causing them stress – making it difficult to truly switch off and recover.
Make the first move and invite them to do relaxing activities (e.g. a walk, movie night or spa session) with you.
Read more: How can mindfulness help with stress?
However, depending on the person and the cause of stress, they may not respond well to you trying to ‘distract’ them from their problems. In this instance, find small ways you can help to free up their time (like running errands or doing chores) so that they can then relax on their own terms.
It can help both you and the person struggling with stress if you identify triggers that make their stress worse. This can help you avoid the triggers altogether, or, if that’s not possible, prepare for them and practice coping techniques.
For example, if you find that hunger and dehydration tend to make their feelings of stress worse, encourage them to carry around snacks and a bottle of water to limit how often these triggers can impact them.
Find solutions to overall causes of stress
As well as the triggers for momentary occurrences of stress, it is useful to know what is causing longer-term stress. These are often more difficult and complex to solve, but simply having an understanding of them can help you to empathise with and support those close to you.
Common causes of long-term stress include financial difficulties (e.g. debt), workplace pressures, caring responsibilities, and lifestyle transitions (e.g. moving house).
Ultimately, finding a solution to these overall causes of stress would be a massive help to those who are struggling. For example, putting those with financial struggles in touch with a debt advisor, or helping those with difficulties at work find new employment.
However, in reality, many of these common causes of stress are rooted in complex issues that take time to be fully resolved. Again, those struggling with stress may appreciate it more if you can find ways to help them with the everyday tasks in life (e.g. school pick-ups or shopping trips) so that they have more time to work on resolving these issues themselves.
822,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020 – 2021. Stress can significantly impact productivity, long-term health, and morale at work. Make sure your company is equipped to support employees with stress and other common mental health conditions by completing our 2 Day Mental Health First Aid course or our Mental Health For Managers training programme.
Help them stay physically healthy
Many of the behaviours and coping techniques people have for stress can actually make stress worse in the long run.
According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, 46% of people in the UK reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.
While their focus is on the stressful situation, do what you can to help them stay active, hydrated, and well-nourished. Invite them for a walk, invite them for dinner (or help them prepare it if you live together), and avoid outings that would encourage unhealthy behaviours.
It can be heart-breaking when those we care about are struggling with mental health conditions like stress. These tips can help you support them without being overbearing or condescending.
If you want to learn more about stress, how to prevent it, manage it, and support those with it, sign up for our Understanding Stress online course. You can complete it in your own time (approx. 1 hour) and it only costs £30. All proceeds go to our #Headucation campaign to provide training to teachers that helps them support school children with their mental health. Adults need help dealing with stress – so why do we expect kids to manage it on their own?