What are some common causes of stress?
Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, and it can be helpful in small doses. It can energise you and make you feel more switched on and able to deal with tricky situations. However, too much stress over a long period of time can be hard to deal with.
Some of the more common things that tend to stress people out are:
- relationship issues, including family, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends
- deadlines, whether school, work or uni
- living in a difficult circumstance with family or flatmates
- financial stress (especially if you live out of home)
- unrealistic expectations of yourself or others
- taking on too much at one time.
When you should step in
Stress impacts everyone at some point or other. If a mate seems constantly stressed out and rarely, if ever, appears to be on top of things or in control, it’s probably a sign that they need support from a friend. You might find that they’re:
- having trouble concentrating
- not enjoying the things they usually enjoy
- having trouble sleeping or eating
- finding it really hard to switch off.
How to help someone with stress
First up, let them know that you’ve noticed how stressed they are, and that you’re worried that they’re not coping very well. Maybe they just need to vent, and knowing that they can talk about things with you might help. Talking stuff through may help them figure out what’s bothering them. Here are some suggestions you could make.
Make things more manageable
Try a bit of problem solving. Work with them to figure out what’s stressing them, break it down into small steps that will be easier to get through, and try to figure out some ways to stay motivated.
Schedule time out
It’s they’re super stressed out they might not be taking any time out for themselves. They’ll probably benefit from thinking about ways to relax.
Use positive coping strategies
Without even knowing it, people often adopt unproductive coping strategies, such as wishful thinking, self-blaming, excessive worrying, ignoring the problem, and keeping things to themselves. On the other hand, positive coping includes things like:
Tone down the stress factors
Sometimes people are just totally overloaded with work and activities. In these situations, it may be worth brainstorming what things they really have to do, and what things they can forget about or postpone.
When they need more than you can offer
If nothing’s working, maybe there’s something else going on. It could be that they’re just an easily stressed person, or there might be something more serious at work.
Getting help If you think the problem is bigger than you both can handle, it may be worth seeking help from a parent or a teacher. Sometimes just talking to an experienced adult or a health professional (such as a counsellor or your GP) can make all the difference. If you don’t know anyone around you who would be suitable, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
How do I help someone with depression?
Knowing they have the support of family and friends can be really important for someone who is experiencing depression. As a friend, though, it can be difficult to know what to do. Some tips include:
- Be there to listen. If they feel like talking, ask them how they’re going. Ask them what you can do and what they find helpful.
- Know when is a good time to talk. If you want to bring up a sensitive issue with someone, try to choose a time and place when you’re both comfortable and relaxed. Avoid talking to them about it if they’re upset.
- Take their feelings seriously. If someone is suffering from symptoms of depression, it isn’t possible for them just to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ or ‘forget about it’. If you imply that they can change how they’re feeling if they just tried harder, they’ll know you’re not taking their feelings seriously.
- Become informed. Find out more about depression to help you better understand what someone is going through.
- Encourage them to get help. If you have a friend with depression, it’s really important that they seek help. Recommending that they go and visit their GP is a good first step. You could offer to go with them if they’re worried or need extra support.
- Let them know about support services. If your friend isn’t comfortable with speaking to someone face-to-face, there are online and email counselling services. You could also recommend the ReachOut NextStep tool, which recommends relevant support options based on what the person wants help with.
- Talk about suicide and safety planning. Let your friend know that you’re worried about them, and ask if they’ve had thoughts of ending their life. Learn how to have a conversation about suicide, and ask how you can be a part of safety planning.
- Back down if they aren’t ready. If you think a friend needs to visit a mental health professional but they don’t respond well to the suggestion, don’t force the issue or put too much pressure on them – it could put them off getting help. In the meantime, try to encourage them to speak to someone else they trust, such as a teacher or family member, as a good first step.
- Respond to emergencies. The exception to ‘backing down’ from encouraging your friend to get help is if you think they may be in danger or at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. In this case, seek help immediately. Call 000 to reach emergency services and also tell someone you trust.
The importance of self-care
It can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting and upsetting to deal with someone who is experiencing depression. You can be there to support your friend only if you look after yourself first.
- Monitor your mood. You might be really worried about a friend with depression, but it’s important that you also monitor your own mood and stress levels. This could include rating your mood out of 10 each day, to track how you’re going.
- Don’t give up the things you enjoy. Always make sure you've got the time to do your favourite things.
- Make time to relax. Relaxation is great for helping you to unwind and deal with stress.
- Set boundaries. You aren’t going to be able to be there for your friend all of the time. Set some limits around what you’re willing, and not willing, to do. For example, you might decide not to take any phone calls in the middle of the night, or not to miss social events just because your friend isn’t up to going.
- Ask for support. It’s important that you’re getting your own emotional support. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling.