Stress is just a natural part of life sometimes, so it’s not surprising that you may come across someone who is stressed whether it be a friend, family member, coworker or even stranger.
Figuring out what to say to someone who is stressed can be the hardest, as you don’t want to stress them out even more and want to help them calm their stress.
It can also make a difference what they’re stressed about, as your reaction would be different to someone who is stressed out about schoolwork and getting motivated to study versus someone who is stressed out because their wedding might have to be cancelled last minute because the venue caught fire.
This handy guide to what to say to someone who is stressed should help you navigate the waters and be a supportive and comforting voice.
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1. Tell Them That You’re Ready to Listen if They Need to Vent
A lot of times, stressed people just need someone to vent to.
Their mind is going a million miles an hour, and they really just need a listening ear so they can get it all out and get focused again.
Telling someone who is stressed that you’re available to listen and that they can vent to you is a perfectly acceptable thing to say and let’s them know that you’re emotionally available for them to dump onto if they need to.
They might not take you up on it, but just knowing that you’ve offered and that they have someone to turn to if they do need to cry or vent or complain is priceless.
2. Ask if There’s Anything You Can Do to Help
Sometimes, people are stressed about very specfic things.
Maybe they have an intense schedule all week or there are so many tasks on their plate that they are finding hard to juggle.
By asking if there’s anything you can do to help and genuinely meaning it, it gives the other person the ability to either turn you down or use it as a chance to reach out and tell you that actually they would love some help.
Don’t offer this if you don’t really mean it, as you won’t want to be stuck in a situation where someone takes you up on the offer to help and then you don’t actually have the time, but if you are genuine about it, offer!
3. Offer to Help in Specific Ways or Tell Them You’re Going to Help
If you know the person well, you can offer to help them in certain ways that you know is going to help them.
For instance, ” I know you’re really stressed because Susie needs 50 cookies for the bake sale tomorrow, but I really don’t mind helping. I’ll pick her up and she can come bake cookies with me. How does 3pm sound?” or saying something like, “Okay, I’m coming over to help you pick napkins for the wedding. You don’t have a choice! Be there in 20 minutes!”
Sometimes, it’s hard for people to reach out and ask to help, so if you have a close enough relationship where you can just show up and help based on knowing what they need, all the better.
4. Remind Them Of the Calm After the Storm
Stress often comes from a particularly busy or painful period of time in our lives, but it’s unusual for anyone to live a perpetually stressful life that is truly concerning with how stressful it is 24/7.
Remind the person that there is a calm after the storm, just as soon as they get through these mid-terms or after the school year lets out or when they’re on honeymoon just soaking up the sunshine and not having to think about table layouts.
This does depend on what the person is stressed about, but trying to help them see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel can go a little ways towards keeping their brain focused on the positives rather than the storm they are in.
5. Tell Them How Strong They Are
When you’re wondering what to say to a stressed person, just think about encouraging people giving them praise with how they’re handling it.
You can say, “I know it’s hard to juggle homeschooling all 4 of the kids at once, but you’re doing the best you can and that’s all anyone can ask. You’re a great mom!” or “You can totally do well on this test, I know you know the history of Mongolia better than anyone! You’re so smart and you’ve got this!”
6. Try to Come Up with Ideas to Fix Things – IF They Are Open To It
A lot of times, people who are telling you they are stressed are not actually looking for you to fix it for them.
Sometimes, they really just want to vent and that’s all.
However, there are instances where a person could really do with suggestions on how to fix their problems that they maybe haven’t thought of, and you can help brainstorm.
It could also be that you can offer them resources like, “Want me to put you in touch with my mom who had to go through the same thing when she tried to renew her license?”
However, offer to help them brainstorm or come up with solutions first before just going for it, as it could be the opposite of what they need.
7. Sympathize and Send Your Best Wishes
If you don’t know them well, you can stick to the basics of just sending your best wishes and giving them some sympathy with an “I’m sorry you’re so stressed!”
It shows that you care, but it doesn’t go over board on trying to counsel the person in front of you in the check out line.
8. Don’t Tell Them Not to Be Stressed
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s to tell the person not to be stressed, even in a lighthearted way like, “Hey! Don’t be stressed! It’s all going to be okay!”.
Allow them to feel their feelings and be stressed if they feel that.
You telling them not to be stressed is not going to make it so, so use the suggestions above instead and skip that bit.