When a Loved One Is Stressed

Reviewed Apr 30, 2016

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Summary

  • You can’t fix another’s stress.
  • Everyone reacts to stress differently.
  • Helping a loved one can be difficult.
  • Stay positive.

Managing personal stress is hard enough. Trying to manage the stress of a loved one is nearly impossible. If a loved one is under extreme stress, it’s only normal to try and lighten their load. But remember that you can’t fix another’s stress because stress is a reaction to an event—not the event itself. If you see it as your job to manage someone else's stress and relieve his symptoms, you can easily set yourself up for failure—causing more stress for everyone involved.

Here are 10 things to remember when you are worried about a loved one who is stressed:

  • Understand that everyone handles stress differently. Their tolerance for stress and coping style will be different from yours. Notice their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
  • Stay in the present. Ask, “What can I do right now to help?” Insist on specifics, even if it is just something like picking up the kids or running an errand.
  • Remember that fear is the most common underlying emotion associated with stress. Fearing the loss of a relationship or job, or just getting old, can feel overwhelming. Talk about the fear.
  • Stay positive. Express your concern, love, and willingness to help. Avoid ruminating about the negative.
  • Stay in the solution. Explore the long-term and short-term solutions to your loved one’s stress. Determine the first step. If there are no easy answers, ask what could be done to improve the situation by 10, 20, or 30 percent.
  • Refuse to feel guilty if you're not stressed, too. It's perfectly OK to have fun, participate in activities you enjoy, and socialize with friends even if your loved one isn't able to do those things right now due to stress. You certainly won't be able to provide emotional support if you don't stay happy and healthy yourself.
  • Suggest a getaway, even if only for an hour or 2. If possible, arrange an overnight or weekend away. Offer to help clear the schedule and make the arrangements.
  • Remember that timing is everything. Initiating a discussion of your loved one’s stress level the night before her big deadline or while the kids are screaming might not be well-received. Choose a quiet and uninterrupted time to talk things over. If necessary, ask for an "appointment" just to talk.
  • Also remember that little things mean a lot. Find small ways to brighten your loved one's day. Send an unexpected card, a plant, or flowers, or surprise him with a book or small gift.
  • Realize that helping a loved one can be difficult. Accepting help is often more difficult. If you meet resistance, back off for a while and wait for a better time. Don't take it personally if your loved one is not receptive. Remember—she’s stressed!

If things get worse

Symptoms of stress, tension, and anxiety are sometimes symptoms of an undiagnosed illness or condition such as depression or even endocrine problems such as thyroid disease. Your employee assistance professional (EAP) can help you sort things out and map out a plan of action. If your loved one is not improving or is experiencing severe physical or emotional symptoms, get her to a doctor as soon as possible.

By Drew Edwards, MS

Summary

  • You can’t fix another’s stress.
  • Everyone reacts to stress differently.
  • Helping a loved one can be difficult.
  • Stay positive.

Managing personal stress is hard enough. Trying to manage the stress of a loved one is nearly impossible. If a loved one is under extreme stress, it’s only normal to try and lighten their load. But remember that you can’t fix another’s stress because stress is a reaction to an event—not the event itself. If you see it as your job to manage someone else's stress and relieve his symptoms, you can easily set yourself up for failure—causing more stress for everyone involved.

Here are 10 things to remember when you are worried about a loved one who is stressed:

  • Understand that everyone handles stress differently. Their tolerance for stress and coping style will be different from yours. Notice their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
  • Stay in the present. Ask, “What can I do right now to help?” Insist on specifics, even if it is just something like picking up the kids or running an errand.
  • Remember that fear is the most common underlying emotion associated with stress. Fearing the loss of a relationship or job, or just getting old, can feel overwhelming. Talk about the fear.
  • Stay positive. Express your concern, love, and willingness to help. Avoid ruminating about the negative.
  • Stay in the solution. Explore the long-term and short-term solutions to your loved one’s stress. Determine the first step. If there are no easy answers, ask what could be done to improve the situation by 10, 20, or 30 percent.
  • Refuse to feel guilty if you're not stressed, too. It's perfectly OK to have fun, participate in activities you enjoy, and socialize with friends even if your loved one isn't able to do those things right now due to stress. You certainly won't be able to provide emotional support if you don't stay happy and healthy yourself.
  • Suggest a getaway, even if only for an hour or 2. If possible, arrange an overnight or weekend away. Offer to help clear the schedule and make the arrangements.
  • Remember that timing is everything. Initiating a discussion of your loved one’s stress level the night before her big deadline or while the kids are screaming might not be well-received. Choose a quiet and uninterrupted time to talk things over. If necessary, ask for an "appointment" just to talk.
  • Also remember that little things mean a lot. Find small ways to brighten your loved one's day. Send an unexpected card, a plant, or flowers, or surprise him with a book or small gift.
  • Realize that helping a loved one can be difficult. Accepting help is often more difficult. If you meet resistance, back off for a while and wait for a better time. Don't take it personally if your loved one is not receptive. Remember—she’s stressed!

If things get worse

Symptoms of stress, tension, and anxiety are sometimes symptoms of an undiagnosed illness or condition such as depression or even endocrine problems such as thyroid disease. Your employee assistance professional (EAP) can help you sort things out and map out a plan of action. If your loved one is not improving or is experiencing severe physical or emotional symptoms, get her to a doctor as soon as possible.

By Drew Edwards, MS

Summary

  • You can’t fix another’s stress.
  • Everyone reacts to stress differently.
  • Helping a loved one can be difficult.
  • Stay positive.

Managing personal stress is hard enough. Trying to manage the stress of a loved one is nearly impossible. If a loved one is under extreme stress, it’s only normal to try and lighten their load. But remember that you can’t fix another’s stress because stress is a reaction to an event—not the event itself. If you see it as your job to manage someone else's stress and relieve his symptoms, you can easily set yourself up for failure—causing more stress for everyone involved.

Here are 10 things to remember when you are worried about a loved one who is stressed:

  • Understand that everyone handles stress differently. Their tolerance for stress and coping style will be different from yours. Notice their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
  • Stay in the present. Ask, “What can I do right now to help?” Insist on specifics, even if it is just something like picking up the kids or running an errand.
  • Remember that fear is the most common underlying emotion associated with stress. Fearing the loss of a relationship or job, or just getting old, can feel overwhelming. Talk about the fear.
  • Stay positive. Express your concern, love, and willingness to help. Avoid ruminating about the negative.
  • Stay in the solution. Explore the long-term and short-term solutions to your loved one’s stress. Determine the first step. If there are no easy answers, ask what could be done to improve the situation by 10, 20, or 30 percent.
  • Refuse to feel guilty if you're not stressed, too. It's perfectly OK to have fun, participate in activities you enjoy, and socialize with friends even if your loved one isn't able to do those things right now due to stress. You certainly won't be able to provide emotional support if you don't stay happy and healthy yourself.
  • Suggest a getaway, even if only for an hour or 2. If possible, arrange an overnight or weekend away. Offer to help clear the schedule and make the arrangements.
  • Remember that timing is everything. Initiating a discussion of your loved one’s stress level the night before her big deadline or while the kids are screaming might not be well-received. Choose a quiet and uninterrupted time to talk things over. If necessary, ask for an "appointment" just to talk.
  • Also remember that little things mean a lot. Find small ways to brighten your loved one's day. Send an unexpected card, a plant, or flowers, or surprise him with a book or small gift.
  • Realize that helping a loved one can be difficult. Accepting help is often more difficult. If you meet resistance, back off for a while and wait for a better time. Don't take it personally if your loved one is not receptive. Remember—she’s stressed!

If things get worse

Symptoms of stress, tension, and anxiety are sometimes symptoms of an undiagnosed illness or condition such as depression or even endocrine problems such as thyroid disease. Your employee assistance professional (EAP) can help you sort things out and map out a plan of action. If your loved one is not improving or is experiencing severe physical or emotional symptoms, get her to a doctor as soon as possible.

By Drew Edwards, MS

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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