Helping a friend with stress

Got a mate who’s always stressed out? Sometimes people aren’t coping and they need a friend to step in and help them out. Learn about some of the common causes of stress, figure out whether you should step in if someone is showing signs of stress, and get some tips on how to help them or how to recognise when there’s something else going on.

This can help if:

  • your mate is always stressed out

  • you’re worried that a friend isn’t coping

  • you want to know how to help them.

Boy talking to a counsellor about stress

What are some common causes of stress?

Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, and it can be helpful in small doses. It can energise you and make you feel more switched on and able to deal with tricky situations. However, too much stress over a long period of time can be hard to deal with.

Some of the more common things that tend to stress people 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 you live out of home)

  • unrealistic expectations of yourself or others

  • taking on too much at one time.

When you should step in

Stress impacts everyone at some point or other. If a mate seems constantly stressed out and rarely, if ever, appears to be on top of things or in control, it’s probably a sign that they need support from a friend. You might find that they’re:

  • having trouble concentrating

  • not enjoying the things they usually enjoy

  • having trouble sleeping or eating

  • finding it really hard to switch off.

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 very well. Maybe they just need to vent, and knowing that they can talk about things with you might help. Talking stuff through may help them figure out what’s bothering them. Here are some suggestions you could make.

Make things more manageable

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

Schedule time out

It’s they’re super stressed out they might not be taking any time out for themselves. They’ll probably benefit from thinking about ways to relax.

Use positive coping strategies

Without even knowing it, people often adopt unproductive coping strategies, such as wishful thinking, self-blaming, excessive worrying, ignoring the problem, and keeping things to themselves. On the other hand, positive coping includes things like:

Tone 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 really have to do, and what things they can forget about or postpone.

When they need more than you can offer

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

Getting help If you think the problem is bigger than you both can handle, it may be worth seeking help from a parent or a teacher. Sometimes just talking to an experienced adult or a health professional (such as 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?

  • Ask a friend if they’re okay.

  • Recommend the ReachOut NextStep tool, which provides personalised support options for stress.