From time to time, we all go through stressful periods in our lives. Some of them are mild enough for us to cope on our own. Others strike us so severely that we may need external help to get through. This is where close friends come in.
There’s nothing disheartening as being clueless on how to help a friend who is stressed and needing you the most. A helpless friend is not what you would want to be. These tips will help you to guide a stressed friend through a low period in their life.
1. Just Listen
Encourage your stressed friend to pour out their heart to you. Sometimes you don’t have to offer solutions, just a listening ear. Even though listening is one of the skills we lack the most, it’s very helpful when you’re dealing with a stressed out friend. They will talk about what they are going through and will expect you to listen and understand. Don’t reprimand them or show them they are to blame in any way; even if they are.
You can use what they tell you is troubling them to formulate ways to help them. Only keep it your secret.
2. Help Them Carry Out Certain Activities
When stressed out, one tends to feel overwhelmed by even simple household chores. At times it may involve obligations outside of the house. Volunteer to help them while keeping them company. Apart from giving them a sense of relief, this will also avoid lonely situations for them that may lead them to focus more on their problems. It will also give you more time to have them share their thoughts.
Don’t make it appear to them that you view them as incapable, make it look like you are doing it together as friends, and keep it as normal as possible.
3. Encourage Them
Sometimes stress is brought by failures that lower a person’s self-worth. In such cases, your friend will benefit a lot from encouraging remarks. Let your talk be positive and reassuring. Brighten them up by showing them how things are bound to improve. How it once happened to known people and how they finally overcame it. You could also use yourself as an example.
Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking.
4. Take Them Out
Stress is often aggravated by staying indoors. Invite your friend for a day out, and you will see how helpful it is. Visit exciting places together to make the forget about their life a bit. It may even involve just taking a stroll down the road if time and finances are a factor.
Avoid taking them out at night. They need adequate sleep and late nights out may be detrimental. If your schedule doesn’t allow for daytime outings, plan for a short early night one. A phone call inviting them is preferable than getting them from their places; it’s less intrusive.
5. Exercise Together
If your friend was in a work-out routine, chances are they may have stopped. Encourage the to continue, or even to start, by having them join you. Take them to the gym if possible, or you can do it in the house with the help of DVDs.
A jog in the early morning will make them start the day happy and rejuvenated. Exercise helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol and helps improve blood circulation.
6. Do Meditation or Yoga Together
Meditation relaxes the mind and helps a lot with stress management according to this study. Your friend will benefit a lot if you take them to these classes and have them stay to the end. It would be easier for them if you join them for support purposes.
7. Have Them Eat Right
Certain foods only help to worsen an already stressed mind and body. Too much sugar produces low moods that will make a stressed person duller. Encourage them to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables that help keep stress hormones low. Bananas are especially good for this as well as most citrus fruits. Yogurt can make a person with low moods cheer up.
If possible, have them include some oily fish in their diet. They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which alleviate stress symptoms in the long run. There are also supplements that can help your friend get more omega-3 in their diet.
You can suggest to them these foods, or you can bring them over when you visit.
8. Get Them a Helpful Book or Magazine
If your stressed friend is an avid reader, take advantage of this. Look for magazines that talk about how to cope with stress and bring it to them. Also, magazines with stories of people who triumphed against depression will encourage them.
Motivational books are also helpful. They shouldn’t be too voluminous though, lest they become a source of stress. Here’s a great book from Mayo Clinic on stress management that you can get them.
9. Have Them Fully Engage in Their Hobby
People get the most pleasure when they do what they like most. As a friend, you probably know what your pal’s hobby is. It could be painting, dancing, traveling or any other activity. Your stressed friend will considerably cheer up and show signs of recovery if you direct them toward something they enjoy.
Even if it means getting time off work for you and your friend, go ahead and do it. Health is important, and stress that’s not managed can progress to a more dangerous condition.
10. Get Them Professional Help
When helping your friend, never ignore the intervention of professional counselors or psychiatrists. They may be all that is needed for your friend to recover from the stressful situation. This is important especially in extreme cases where depression is evident. Your friend may be reluctant at first, claiming they aren’t severely stressed. It happens in most cases but do not assume it’s true they aren’t.
Keep on encouraging them to visit a professional. It helps if you suggest to accompany them there if they are not willing to go by themselves. Only tell them you will not step into the counselor’s room, so they are assured of secrecy.
Lend a Helping Hand to Your Stressed Out Friends
When your friend is stressed out, you are the person they can rely on; the person to offer a shoulder for them to lean on. Failing them during this difficult time is the last thing you would want to happen. The memory that you helped them get back to their feet will forever remain with them. Which is the reason why you should gather all the information you need to offer the help and be a friend indeed.
See 170 more stress management techniques.