Your BFF is going through a seriously tough time. Maybe they’ve got a huge deadline at work, or a family crisis, or an ongoing health problem, or boyfriend drama. Whatever the cause is, they’re seriously stressed out and, like the good friend you are, you want to help them feel better. Here are eight techniques you should try to support and encourage your stressed-out friend wherever they are in life.
Know their preferred coping mechanisms.
Different people react to stress differently. Some people want to talk it out, constantly processing their feelings until the stressor is gone. Others prefer to distract themselves with work, chores and other projects rather than dwelling on their feelings. Know your friend’s preferred coping method and offer support accordingly. If your friend doesn’t like to wallow in their feelings, constantly pressuring them to talk things out will only make them more stressed. If you want to be truly helpful, remember that they may not have the same coping mechanism as you, and keep the focus on them and how they’re dealing with the stress.
Help distract them.
Sometimes what your friend needs most isn’t a pep talk, but rather something to take their mind off whatever is stressing them out. Brainstorm some stress-busting activities you can do together. Maybe you can throw on some cute sports bras and take an exercise class together, or go for a picnic outside, or just have a low-key wine night at home. Consider what your friend likes to do and what helps them destress and volunteer to take care of the coordination details so they don’t have to add one more thing to their to-do list.
Check-in with them.
When you’re in a really stressful situation, it’s easy to feel like nobody knows or cares about what’s happening to you. A simple check-in via your friend’s preferred method of communication, even if it’s just a quick text, reminds them that they’re not alone and that someone else is thinking about them. Even if your friend doesn’t want to have an in-depth conversation right that second, just letting them know that they’re on your mind might do them a world of good. Make sure to choose a check-in method that your friend will appreciate. For example, some people love phone calls, while getting an out-of-the-blue ring will cause some people’s blood pressure to spike immediately.
Offer them some perspective.
When people are really stressed, they often catastrophize, imagining the absolute worst-case scenario even if the chances of them happening are very slim (or even nonexistent). As a friend, you can provide a much-needed reality check and gently remind them that the worst-case scenario probably won’t come to pass—and even if it does, it probably won’t be as bad as they fear it will be. This reminder might be just what your friend needs to pull them out of a stressful spiral.
Avoid toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity refers to the belief that you should completely ignore all your negative emotions and focus on being relentlessly positive. While you might have good intentions in constantly encouraging your friends to look on the bright side, this encourages them to repress their feelings and invalidates their emotions. Instead, acknowledge their feelings, be they positive or negative, and help them explore what those feelings mean. For instance, if they’re constantly sad and angry over their job, then they might need to seek out some new opportunities rather than trying to constantly maintain a good attitude in a bad environment.
Give them some motivation.
Everybody needs a hype person, and this is especially true in a stressful situation. Instead of shaming your friend for not being positive enough, commit to hyping them and encouraging them that they can do this. It often helps to have concrete examples in mind of past situations where your friend did succeed or persevere. When people are in a stressful situation, they often focus on the bad and selectively forget the good, so they might need a little push to remember times that they did in fact succeed in the face of odds.
Take something off their plate.
Speaking of to-do lists, in some situations, the best thing you can do for a stressed-out friend is to help them with some boring yet necessary tasks. When it’s really crunch time, they might not have the time or space to take care of basic tasks, such as cooking or cleaning. Offering to drop off some food during an especially bad week might be just the pick-me-up they need to make it through a stressful time. It might not be as exciting as a wine night, but it’s sure to be appreciated!
Give them gifts they will love.
If receiving gifts is your friend’s love language, then giving them something special might be just what they need to feel better. Make sure to give them a present they will want to receive. If they live in lazy day outfits, then don’t give them a super expensive power suit! It doesn’t have to be big or expensive to make an impact. It just has to be personal. You can even write them a handwritten card if you don’t really have room in the budget for gifts right now. Sometimes, it really is the thought that counts.
You probably can’t remove the stress from your friend’s life, but there are other things you can do to encourage them during this trying time. Try one or more of these eight tips to help your stressed-out friend when they’re overwhelmed and under pressure.