How to Help People With Stress

by Michelle Key

Stress is a biological necessity for human beings that stems from the fight or flight reflex. When you become alarmed or feel in danger, your body produces adrenaline, your pulse increases and blood flow to certain organs reduces to help prevent injury. While this response is useful and important, prolonged periods of stress will begin to have negative effects on sleep, concentration and overall mental state. If someone you know is experiencing extreme stress, you may feel helpless. In fact, a few simple words and actions can make a huge difference.

Ask about the cause of the stress and how the person is feeling. Listen carefully and be supportive by expressing that you understand those emotions. If appropriate, offer a hug or other form of affection.

Offer whatever tangible help you can. If the person suffering stress is a parent, this could take the form of babysitting. For a stressed co-worker, assist with work tasks. Help with the small things, such as running errands or preparing meals, can make a real difference in how someone copes with larger stressors.

Plan something fun for the person under stress. Get concert or movie tickets, or schedule a dinner or a picnic. Stress often results from an imbalance between work and play. Scheduling a fun activity not only helps fix this imbalance, it also reminds the stressed person that relaxation is important and provides him with something to look forward to doing.

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  • Avoid false empathy. Although you want to express your understanding, implying to someone under stress that you know exactly how she feels negates her individual experience. Platitudes, philosophical suggestions and forced optimism have the same effect. Refrain from those behaviors as well.

About the Author

Michelle Key has been writing professionally since 1999. She has written training manuals, technical guides, press releases and marketing and fundraising materials for clients including Ruby Tuesday Inc. and Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Key attended Maryville College, where she majored in writing/communications and music. She became a certified chiropractic therapist/assistant in 2002 and spent 2009-2010 attending naturalist certification courses at the Tremont Institute.

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