How to Support Someone Who Is Stressed

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on August 17, 2021
3 min read

It’s hard enough to be stressed yourself, but when someone you know is stressed, it can be difficult to know how to help. Learning to help others deal with mental pressure is a useful skill that could serve you well in many situations. There are many ways to support someone who is stressed.

Stress can happen when you go through life changes or face challenges that you’re not prepared for. Your body creates physical and mental responses to help your body adjust to new situations. Although stress isn’t always a bad thing, if you don’t try to relieve it or relax, it can take a toll on you.‌

Common physical signs of stress include:

Common emotional and mental signs of stress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Exasperation
  • Depressed feelings
  • Sadness
  • Panic attacks

Whether you want to help a friend, coworker, family member, or other acquaintance, a great first step is to help them understand that they are stressed. They might find it tough to come to terms with what they are going through. They may be ignoring their feelings.‌

You can be kind but direct when reaching out to them. You can let them know you’ve noticed changes in their behavior or other signs of stress. If you talk to them with a caring attitude, they may be more open to letting you help them manage stress.

It could be tempting to give advice right after offering your support. But how will you know what to say if you don’t first listen to how they’re feeling? You might end up just being a listening ear for your stressed-out friend, and that’s OK. Knowing that someone they trust cares and is offering their undivided attention could do wonders.‌

Another reason that listening is more important than talking is that it takes the pressure off of your friend. As they’re confiding in you, they should know that you’re there to support them, not push them to do something. If they aren’t ready to take action, that’s OK.

Talk about what might have caused the stress. Depending on how well you know them, you can give examples of behavior changes or new habits you’ve seen. Avoid accusing them of anything. You can have an open conversation where you each have the chance to express your perspectives.

A great way to help your friend get rid of stress is to exercise. Physical activity helps manage stress for many reasons. Exercise:

  • Increases endorphins. During exercise, the brain releases endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that help you feel good. Any activity that gets your heart pumping will release endorphins. You can suggest going on a hike, playing a sport, or taking a bike ride together.
  • Battles negative side effects of stress. Physical activity creates similar symptoms in the body that stress does, for example, the fight or flight response. Exercising teaches your body how to positively handle these symptoms. As your body learns that these signs of stress aren’t always negative, it will learn how to protect itself.
  • Offers time for meditation. Exercise allows you to let go of what might be bothering you. Your focus is on your body instead of your stressors. This is the body’s natural response when it gets moving. This can allow your friend to shed tension and calm down.

You can encourage your friend to do one of two things: spend time alone or spend time with others. This depends on their personality and interests, but it’s worth suggesting both as good options to manage stress.

Taking some “me time” can be relaxing. This can allow your friend to do some calm thinking about their situation and how they can make it better. If there’s a hobby they enjoy, they can take a break from the stress and throw themselves into it.‌

Suggest a fun activity that will engage their mind and distract them from the stress. Connecting with others could give them laughter, distractions, and a new perspective.

Remain positive as you try to support someone who is stressed. The best thing you can do is be present and supportive.