How to Help Your Friend Who’s Seriously Stressed

Try as we might to surround ourselves with positive people, manage our workloads, and take time for self-care, Columbia stress culture gets to all of us at some point during our college careers. While it’s just as important to care for yourself, what should you do when it’s your friend that needs help? Keep reading for some ideas on how to help a BFF in need of R&R. . .

Pay attention

The first step is obvious but often overlooked: pay attention to how your friends are doing. Stress culture means that joking about the crushing weight of your workload/deep-seated fear of inadequacy/wanting to die is a celebrated cultural practice, but that doesn’t mean something deeper isn’t going on. Pay close attention to your friends’ comments—if they seem especially negative or stressed out, it’s time to offer help!

Avoid negative language

The vernacular of stress culture—”midterm,” “bell curve,” “Butler stacks,” “death wish”—doesn’t just make it hard to tell when your friends are struggling. Negativity in the way we speak, even when meant as a joke, can actually act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If all you and your friends talk about is how stressed you are, you can actually increase your stress instead of blowing off steam! So if you know your friend is stressed out, ban negative words from your conversations. Positively reframing the situation does more good than you think.

Surprise them with a treat

While food technically can’t solve every problem, it never hurts to get a surprise snack from a concerned friend. Anything from herbal tea to Insomnia cookies should help your friend take a moment to appreciate your gift and get out of a bad mood. It just has to be warm (and preferably sweet).

Suggest a fun night in. . .

Have a self-care sleepover, complete with movies, snacks, and absolutely no school work. Not even that discussion post. Seriously.

. . .Or day out

Both of you may be incredibly busy, but taking some time to go to a yoga class (like Yoga to the People on 104th street—it’s free!), walk in the park, or try a new coffee shop is worth the break. Take some time to get your friend out of the Columbia bubble and around some people who won’t be complaining about their LitHum reading. See how many fashionable dogs you can spot.

Listen—when they need it

It’s incredibly important that when your friend does need to vent about their stress, you’re ready and waiting to listen to what they’re saying. A little sympathy can go a long way—but be careful that you’re not prying unnecessarily into their personal life. If they feel like talking, they’ll talk. Just be ready when they are—with snacks!

If it’s serious, get help

There’s a big difference between a friend who’s going through a stressful time and a friend who needs help. If you’re truly concerned for someone’s well-being or personal safety, reach out—to other friends, an advisor, Columbia Psychological Services. Helping a friend isn’t your responsibility alone. It’s just as important to take care of yourself as it is a friend in need, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Period.

When you think about it, we’re all just penguins huddling against the chill of New York winters and Columbia stress culture—we only make it if we stick together. So take some time out of your own busy schedule and check on your penguin pals! Spring is on the way.