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Stress

Explains what stress is, what might cause it and how it can affect you. Includes information about ways you can help yourself and how to get support.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is affecting all our lives, and we know that our usual advice may not currently apply. Some ways of looking after yourself or getting support might not be possible or feel realistic during the pandemic.

We hope that you can still find information here that helps. You can visit our coronavirus information hub to find lots of information on coping during the pandemic.

This page is for friends and family of someone who is experiencing stress, who want to support them.

It can feel difficult if someone you're close to is feeling stressed. You might find it hard if you can't help them change the situation that is causing them stress. But there are still lots of practical things you can do to help.

Help them notice signs and symptoms of stress

Often, someone might not notice that how they feel or behave is a sign of stress. For example, this may include having problems sleeping, or drinking more alcohol than usual.

You may be able to see these signs in someone else. This could even be before they recognise it themselves.

If you've noticed this, you could let them know and ask how you can help. Try to be gentle when starting this conversation, in case it is something they are not aware of or feel sensitive about.

Listen to how they feel

Having a chance to talk could help them feel calmer and more able to deal with their stress. Being there for them and listening without judging them can help.

“[My friends can help by] making me a cup of tea, holding me while I cry, making me laugh...”

Reassure them

When someone is in the middle of a stressful time, it can be hard to see when it might end. Let them know that situations change and can get better.

Help them relax

You could help them research relaxation techniques and find ways to practise them. For example, this could be a weekly yoga class, or setting aside time for breathing exercises at home. This might become something that you could do together.

“[When I'm stressed I need friends to] hug me. It's amazing how good a single hug can feel.”

Help identify their triggers

It may help to talk about things you've noticed that might trigger their stress. But remember that they might also find this conversation stressful. Try to stay open-minded and avoid judging them. Being patient can also help.

“Not putting extra pressure on me... letting me know they're there but that I don't have to do anything.”

Help with causes of stress

There are many situations or experiences that can cause stress. You might be able to help them look for support for some of these issues. For example, this could be help with debt, housing problems or difficulties at work.

Support them to seek help

You could help them contact their GP, go with them to an appointment or do some research on mental health and wellbeing. See our pages on helping someone else seek help for more ideas.

Look after yourself

If someone around you is very stressed, you might feel stressed too. If this happens, try to take a step back and look after your own wellbeing. Having good wellbeing can make you feel more able to help someone else.

See our pages on wellbeing to find tips for supporting yourself.

“[I want them to] understand that I may be irritable but I don't mean to hurt them in any way.”

This information was published in March 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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