Helping a friend through Stress

Helping a friend through Stress

Have you ever watched in dismay as a friend faded in front of your very eyes from overwhelm, leaving you scratching your head wondering if there was ever the right moment to intervene?

12 months ago Jasmine was a fun loving friend, with 2 young children and a job that she could do in her sleep.  She would happily accept all invitations to dinners or events and be the first to make people laugh.

Jump forward 6 months, and Jasmine had taken on a new role at her workplace after a company restructure.  What this meant was that Jasmine now had more responsibility, works longer hours and is under resourced with unrealistic timeframes for team deliverables.

On the rare occasion she accepts a dinner invitation to your house, you notice she seems tired, and makes constant jovial remarks about the increased stress in her life.  Jasmine’s partner is now the brunt of many side remarks about the cleanliness of the house, and after a mediocre evening, she leaves early due to her 5am wake up call looming.

You catch her at the door and ask, “Are you OK?”  This version of Jasmine is verging on stressed, but has not yet spiraled in to Burn out, and her answer is the same as the other hundreds of thousands of stressed out parents; “I’m OK. What can you do, right?

Is now a good time to intervene?  Your friend is losing themselves in the fog of overwhelm.

You know what comes next; you’ve seen it a hundred times.  And so you ask,

“Is there anything I can do to help?”…

Oh that loaded question!

Jasmine wishes she could say Yes; she wishes she had the right to scream “Hell Yes, please help me!” but she knows that’s definitely not a socially acceptable response.  People don’t ask for help.  Other parents are going through this amount of stress and you don’t hear them crying for help, do you?  Therefore, Jasmine will soldier on with the robotic, practiced response that I’ve heard a thousand times:

“Thanks.  I’ll be fine”.

You watch, as over the coming months, Jasmine starts pulling away from her friends.  You hear the fragility in her voice as you connect via a rare phone conversation.  You listen as she tells you how her situation at work has worsened, how frustrated she is with her partner who seems to have taken being messy to the next level, and how exhausted she is from the amounting sleepless nights.

You catch up for a play-date, and notice how your beautifully calm friend lashes out at her children for small things like being noisy or running too fast, and your discussion revolves around all the things that are wrong in her life at that moment.

Your version of Jasmine has disappeared right in front of your eyes, and it breaks your heart to know that potentially you should have done something when you first saw her walk this spiral staircase.  Jasmine is now verging on full and final Burn Out.

Is it ever too late to intervene?

Is now a good time to boldly tackle the subject of stress?

We’ve been raised as a generation of overachievers.  We were not taught to ask for help by our teachers or parents.  If you fell over, you weren’t allowed a cuddle from mum once you reached a certain age, you were told to quickly get back up and be brave.  For decades we’ve been told we are weak if we need support; and thus it’s a learned trait – Harden up or keep quiet.

Now IS a good time to intervene.

Now is the right time to take your friend aside and give them an enormous hug and make a plan on their behalf.  Stop asking for their permission and just Do It!

I can guarantee you this; your friend will not ask for your help.  You must force it upon them and ride through the horror they feel by piling on the love and kindness.

It’s not hard to give your friend a little bit of much needed down time in their week;

  • Offer to vacuum their house.
  • Offer to swap babysitting nights each fortnight.
  • Buy them a beautiful journal to write down their frustrations each night.
  • Book a weekend away with the whole family, and tell your friend that they are expected to be there.
  • Ask your friend to help YOU to get fit, and insist they join you for a morning walk before the kids are awake so they get their daily dose of endorphins.
  • Set up a fortnightly Ladies/Guys only night, with the sole intention to burn off a little steam, whether by dancing, or comedy or exercise
  • Do talk to their partner and tell them you’re concerned and get their buy-in and support for your strategy.  Once they realize the possible doom that waits if they ignore the signs, they should be your biggest helpers.
  • Tell your friend that you’re worried and that you’re there for them.  Be forceful and don’t let them back away.

It really is as simple as;

  1. Acknowledging your friends stress, so they feel heard
  2. Providing a plan for them, so they don’t have to think about anything
  3. Being present, and having your arms wide open for hugs a plenty
  4. Going out of your way to send them fun videos or forcing them to laugh.

The impacts of stress and burn out on an individual are far wider and the ripple effect is catastrophic to marriages, whole family resilience, and physical health.

When is the right time to intervene? 

Right Now.


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