How To De-stress The Distressed

Stress is something all is us deal with in our everyday lives, and although it is one of the least normal feelings, it is unfortunately widely regarded as normal. But once you realize it’s not normal or even healthy to stay like this, how do you change it? In other words, how do you de-stress the distressed?

To stop stressing or being tense is not something easy or quick to be done, but gradually with the following steps, it can be made possible.

1. Identify The Problem

Firstly what needs to be done is to find out what’s causing all of this mental strain. Look for the following signs:

  • A marked decline in their quality of work and/or class/etc participation
  • Excessive procrastination and extension requests
  • Frequent unexplained absences
  • Prolonged depression evidenced by sadness, apathy, weight loss/gain, sleeping difficulty
  • Talk of suicide directly or indirectly, e.g. “I won’t be around to see that anyway” , “It’s all too hard, I can’t go on”
  • Signs of nervousness, agitation or excessive worry
  • Statements indicating a sense of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Marked change in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Atypical behaviour: aggressive, bizarre or inappropriate
  • Overly dependent on academic or administrative staff
  • Impaired speech, disjointed thoughts and losing touch with reality
2. How To Help

Once you know the causes of stress, here’s what you can do to help. It should be kept in mind that not everyone is fit to help on matters like these that can be private, refer to an elder or a professional who knows what they’re doing, or if you’re close to the person and can approach the topic without trespassing.

  • Find a private and comfortable place to talk without interruptions, show interest by appropriate eye contact and a body posture that indicates your concern
  • Express your concern for them and the difficulties that they are experiencing
  • If the discussion is initiated by you, be as specific as possible about your concerns; state your observations and reasons, e.g. “You seem very unhappy, have there been some problems?”
  • Remain calm; a person who is upset will respond better if you maintain a relaxed and calm attitude, e.g. if they are crying, get them a tissue and wait until they are a bit calmer before asking questions
  • Listen actively to the concerns. Show interest by maintaining eye contact and give them the time to express themselves fully
  • Restate the main issues outlined, in order to check your understanding of the problem
  • Avoid criticism or appearing judgemental
  • Help them brainstorm some possible solutions to their dilemma, stress makes it difficult to think clearly and this process will help to clarify the issues
  • Make a referral to see a Student Counselor if counseling is required, contact a professional if medication is required or a medical condition is involved
3. When To Refer

If referral to a professional is required, know when to make the decision. Either when

  • You are worried about your own or the person’s safety
  • Their problems go beyond your own experience or understanding
  • You feel uncomfortable discussing a particular issue
  • Feeling out of your depth or level of comfort
  • Becoming overly involved in their problems, then feeling distressed, frustrated or angry as a result

Know where the boundaries lie and when to stop, respect the other person’s privacy and decisions to share or not.


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