In this brief guide, we cover how to help someone with stress, what you can do to help them through stress and what sort of help may be relevant if what you are doing isn’t working.
1. Help them reconnect with the present
When someone you love is stressed it might be a reaction to say “calm down” or to “just relax.” But this may not be possible, because anxiety has a physical component that you can’t always “think” your way out of. Anxiety is triggered when we perceive a threat, and that perception, accurate or not, causes a release of adrenaline. The feelings are real, the sensations are real, so don’t invalidate them. Instead, help your loved one reconnect with the present moment. You can do this by asking them to close their eyes and notice their body or what’s going on around them: the feeling of their feet touching the ground, the weight of their hands in their lap, the quiet hum of an air conditioner or heater.
2. Get them moving
Encourage them to take a deep breath, which reduces anxiety—Ask them to take 5 to 10 deep breaths, or try walking them through a breathing exercise. Ask them to go for a walk, go food shopping with you. Anything that will distract their mind.
3. Help them get perspective
When anxious thoughts are rattling around in our mind, it’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed. Simply naming our worries can bring some much-needed clarity. Turn on the light for your loved one by asking them to clearly verbalize what they fear. The trick is to get those thoughts out of their head and into the light, so they become less scary—and less believable. By helping your loved one rationalise their fear you are likely to make them feel better.