Most of us will experience stress at some point in our lives but how we deal with it can impact both our physical and mental wellbeing. Confiding in a close friend can really help us in our times of need, but what can we do to help those who are suffering alone? Stress can affect us in many ways, from our physical appearance to our actions, but sometimes it’s hard to recognise especially when people hide their emotions.
How to recognise when your friend is stressedIf you notice any of the following, it could be that your friend is suffering from stress:
- They are short tempered, impatient or irritable.
- They fidget more than usual, perhaps bite their nails, or appear nervous and scared.
- They struggle to make decisions and don’t seem to pay attention when you’re speaking. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, “stress activates some physiological systems, such as the autonomic nervous system, central neurotransmitter and neuropeptide system, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, which have direct effects on neural circuits in the brain involved with data processing.”
- They seem unhappy and unable to enjoy themselves.
- They lose interest in the things they usually enjoy.
- They forget things more easily and struggle to concentrate.
- Their food habits change and either they eat too little or too much.
- They smoke and drink more often or they start to use recreational drugs.
- Their spending habits increase.
- They either exercise excessively or stop their usual routines.
- They don’t want to socialise, and withdraw from friends and family.
Reasons why a friend may hide their stressOne of the main reasons that people hide their stress is because they don’t want to look like a failure, and they worry about what others may think of them. Although mental health has become much more of an open topic in recent years, people still find it difficult to let go of their pride and ask for help when they’re struggling. On they outside they might appear to have it all, but on the inside they’re fighting a constant battle to carry on as normal.
7 ways to support a friend who is suffering from stressIf you’ve noticed any of the symptoms above and you’re concerned that your friend is going through a stressful time, the best way you can support them is simply by being there and listening to them. By lending a non-judgemental ear and perhaps letting them know that you’re there for them no matter what, it might encourage them to open up and release their feelings. It’s likely that your friend won’t thank you for any advice as they just need some friendly support and maybe a distraction from their internal thoughts and emotions. Some of the ways you can help your friend is by:
- Enjoying a night together listening to your favourite music and reminiscing about past times.
- Encouraging them to take part in an activity with you, whether it’s a sport or something creative.
- Offering to help with their workload if possible or even basic household chores such as cooking, shopping or cleaning.
- Depending on what your friend might need help with, offering to organise their appointments, research information for them or simply be by their side when they need you.
- Listening to how they feel and being patient with them when they’re angry or bad tempered.
- Reassuring them that they won’t always feel this way and that things can improve.
- If they’re willing, trying relaxation techniques together such as yoga, meditation, or just walking in the countryside.