Helping a friend with stress

Got a mate who’s always stressed out? Sometimes people aren’t coping and they need a mate to step in and help them out. Learn about some of the common causes of stress, figure out whether you should step in, and get some tips on helping someone with stress. If nothing helps, maybe there’s something else going on.

This will help if:

  • Your mate is always stressed out
  • You’re worried someone isn’t coping
  • You want to know how to help

What are some common causes of stress?

Stress is a natural response when faced with challenging situations, and it can actually be really helpful in small doses. It can energise you and make you feel more switched on to help you manage pressure and deal with tricky situations. However, too much stress over a long period of time can become unhelpful and hard to deal with. 

Everybody has different reactions to stress. However, some of the more common things that tend to stress us out are:

  • Relationship issues, including family, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Deadlines, whether school, work or uni
  • Living in a difficult circumstance with family or flatmates
  • Financial stress (especially if they live out of home)
  • Unrealistic expectations of themselves or others 
  • Taking on too much at one time

When you should step in

Stress impacts everyone at some point or other. If you notice that your mate is constantly stressed out and rarely, if ever, feels like they’re on top of it or in control, it’s probably a sign they need some time out or support from a friend. You might find that they’re:

  • having trouble concentrating
  • not enjoying the things that they usually enjoy
  • having trouble sleeping or eating
  • finding it really hard to switch off
Sometimes you can help someone with stress just by recommending some tactics that work for most people. 

How to help someone with stress

First up, let them know that you’ve noticed how stressed they are, and that you’re worried that they’re not coping all that well. Maybe they need to vent with someone, and that can help a lot. Talking stuff through may help them figure out what’s bothering them.

You can suggest:

  • Try a bit of problem solving: Work with them to figure out what’s stressing them, break it down into small steps to get through it, and try and figure out some ways to stay motivated.

  • Schedule in time out: They will probably benefit from learning some of the top ways to relax.

  • Use positive coping strategies:  Unproductive coping strategies include things like, wishful thinking, self-blame, excessive worrying, ignoring the problem, and keeping things to yourself.  Positive coping includes things like, making immediate and short-term goal lists, focusing on the positives, seeking help to get things done, improving relationships and friendships and physical activity or exercise. See our fact sheet on building better coping skills for more info. 

  • Suggest toning down the stress factors: Sometimes people are just totally overloaded with work and activities. In these situations, it may be worth brainstorming what things they have to do and what they can stop or postpone. 

When they need something stronger

If nothing’s working, maybe there’s something else going on. It could be that they are just an easily stressed person, or it’s possible there might be something more serious at play. 

If you think the problem is bigger than you both can handle, it may be worth enlisting the help of a parent or teacher. Sometimes just talking to an experienced adult or health professional (like a counsellor or your GP) can make all the difference. If you don’t know anyone around you who would be suitable, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 22 July, 2016
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