How to help a stressed partner

How To Be Comforting When Your Partner Is Stressed

Some want their partners to roll up their sleeves and dive right into problem-solving mode when they're stressed, while others want their partners to be quiet and listen. No matter what your partner's preferred method of comfort is, there are lots of techniques you can try to help your partner when they're feeling overwhelmed. I asked seven relationships experts how to be comforting when your partner is stressed, and though their advice varied in technique, they were all similar in tenor: Be kind. Stay calm. Do not allow yourself to become dragged into the drama.

My favorite tip is simple: Don't assume anything. "I honestly think that each couple should have a talk before things have ever come to this point," psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. That way, in moments of extreme stress, you "know how to best help," says Martinez, because you've already asked, and you "know what works" for your partner.

If you haven't had this conversation, don't worry. It's not too late to ask in the moment. "It is still OK to ask them what they need from you right now, and what would help them the most in this moment" of deep stress, Martinez says.

Being comforting doesn't come easy for everyone, and there is the chance that you say the wrong thing. So, if you need some tips, here are six other things to do when your partner is overly stressed.

  1. Consider Your Partner's Personality

Comforting your partner when they're stressed isn't as easy as telling them to just meditate or take a nice long bath. You know your partner best, so consider their personality traits before jumping in to help. Always keep in mind that you and your partner are not the same people. How you like being comforted during stressful times might not be the same as your partner.

As Christine Scott-Hudson, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, introverted partners may need time alone to process their feelings and might prefer to think or journal before discussing their problems with you. An extroverted partner may prefer to talk out their worries and feelings right away and might need a more dynamic conversation about their concerns to comfort. Ambiverts may default to either introversion or extroversion, depending on the situation. "Ask them what would be most helpful for them," Scott-Hudson says.

  1. Validate Their Concerns

Regardless of where your partner falls on the introversion-extroversion scale, one of the best ways to support them is to validate their concerns. According to Scott-Hudson, validation sounds like, “I understand. That sounds scary," or “It must be really hard. How can I best support you with this?”

Invalidation, on the other hand, sounds like, "Well, on the bright side, you never had it as bad as me," or "Don't be so worried, it's not that bad." You may be trying to help, but bringing up your own experiences or trying to play down their concerns can make them feel worse. You want to make sure your partner feels seen and heard. So listen deeply, allow them to vent, and validate their concerns. If they ask for your opinion, then it's OK to offer up words of advice.

  1. Practice Active Listening

When you're listening to your partner's worries, some of it may not sound rational to you. As Scott-Hudson says, "Anxiety is not always rational. In fact, it mostly isn't." Try to be understanding and validating their experience even if you don't fully understand why they're feeling a certain way. Your partner will feel your impatience and judgment whether you say it out loud or not. So don't try to analyze their situation in the moment.

Instead, be there for them by listening to what they have to say. "When actively listening, you are asking clarification questions where needed, repeating your understanding of what your partner is saying and acknowledging with direct eye contact and verbal cues," psychotherapist Alicia Henry, LCSW, tells Bustle. Sometimes a person just needs to feel like they're being heard. Active listening will help you do that for your partner.

  1. Be Present

The best thing you can do when your partner is crawling the wall is to just be calm with them, psychotherapist Rachel Astarte tells Bustle. "Hold space," says Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York. "When our partners are sad or upset, it's a common desire to alleviate that suffering." It's natural to want to find a solution to their problem as soon as possible, but that could sometimes do more harm than good.

Instead of trying to change the way they feel, just be there with them. "Especially in the initial stages of freak out mode — usually when your partner is expressing how he or she feels — just listen," she says. "Create a safe place for your beloved to vent. Chances are it's temporary, and sometimes just by virtue of being heard, your partner will feel better."

  1. Love Them

It may sound simple, but those three little words can go a long way. "My husband has a wonderful way of comforting me when I start losing it," relationship coach Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships, tells Bustle. "He looks at me, smiles, and says, 'I love you,' and then asks, 'What can I do to help you?'"

Even if your partner doesn't have an answer, they will feel comforted by your love — and your willingness to help. "Whether he can do anything to help the situation or not, his loving, supportive, kind response just makes me feel a hell of a lot better," Sansone-Braff says. It can be super comforting to know that you have someone on your side who's going to be there for you no matter what. So if you're stuck on what to say or do, just tell your partner, "I love you." That should help brighten their mood.

  1. Do Something Thoughtful For Them

If your partner is feeling stressed, get them a card, gift, flowers, or anything that puts a smile on their face. "Smiling has been shown to regulate intense negative emotions instantaneously," Elisabeth Goldberg, licensed couples and family therapist, tells Bustle. "People really feel happy when they know that others are taking their feelings seriously."

You can also ask them if there's anything specific they need to be done like their share of the household chores. It's your opportunity to lighten their load a bit, so they're not so overwhelmed.

"It’s simple but powerful, but almost every one of our clients speaks to wanting more support," Shasta Townsend, relationship expert, and author, tells Bustle. "If you take the lead and just help your partner with things like doing the dishes, making dinner, vacuuming, or even bringing them a coffee, it demonstrates your willingness and support, and many people crave that now more than ever."

It all comes down to asking your partner what they need. If all they need is space to themselves, then don't be pushy and give it to them. As long as you acknowledge your partner's feelings and make them aware that you have their back, they will turn to you when they need to.


Dr. Nikki Martinez, PsyD., psychologist

Rachel Astarte, psychotherapist

Christine Scott-Hudson, licensed marriage and family therapist

Elisabeth Goldberg, licensed couples and family therapist

Alicia Henry, LCSW, psychotherapist


Shasta Townsend, relationship expert and author

Cindi Sansone-Braff, relationship coach

This article was originally published on

What to Do When You're Both Stressed

“Every relationship is going to have arguments. And at worst, arguments can result in hurt feelings, loss of respect for the other person, or loss of a close relationship,” says Debbie Opoku, a licensed psychotherapist specializing in couples and marriage counseling in Barrie, Canada.

“If we speak and react in the heat of the moment, our words will come out as accusations — or worse as a personal attack against your partner,” Opoku says.

Words carry a lot of weight in an argument, and saying something in anger (even if it feels justified at the time) can still have lasting effects long after the argument has concluded — and these impacts can contribute to even more stress down the road.

And at-home stress doesn’t only involve your partner.

Other ways stress affects your home

You may not always notice all the ways stress can affect your body or home life. But if stress persists, it can ripple out and impact your:

  • pets
  • baby in utero
  • children
  • sleep
  • sex life and intimacy
  • bowel movements
  • blood pressure

It’s easy to let financial stress broil, parenting pressures mount, or fall into old argument patterns — especially if the two of you are locked together in close quarters.

Making time to go outside your house will help break you out of patterns and allow both of you to feel like you’ve escaped the usual.

Change the scenery and take a break

“I would recommend couples walk around outside and discuss their issues,” says Nicholas Hardy, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist out of Houston, Texas. “In addition to being outside and enjoying the weather (if it is nice), you are not forced to look directly at each other.”

“It takes the pressure off of the conversation, which sometimes allows people to be more open,” Hardy adds.

Staying in one place during an argument can make you feel like you aren’t moving toward an endpoint. Try to put the heat of the argument on pause, take a break, and revisit things after you’ve cleared your head.

When “you” causes trouble, try to use “I” instead

It may seem like a simple word choice, but using “you” and superlative statements too often in an argument can lead to longer fights and more stress for your partner if you aren’t careful.

“Using ‘I’ language is often better received than ‘you’ language, which comes off as accusatory and can lead to defensiveness,” explains Jennifer Henry, licensed professional counselor and director of the Counseling Center at Maryville University in Missouri.

“For example ‘I feel really disappointed and unimportant when I’m planning on a date night and you end up canceling it’ taps into the way the situation makes you feel versus ‘Every time we make plans for a date you end up bailing at the last minute,'” Henry says.

Ask for help or ask how you can help

One of the hardest things to do when you’re stressed out is to ask for help.

Sometimes you may feel too overwhelmed to ask for help, or be in such a high-stress situation that you don’t even know what kind of help you need. If you’ve ever felt this way, your partner has definitely felt it, too.

That’s why the best thing you can do is take a breath and ask them what kind of help they need. For example, a pile of dirty dishes may not normally be a big deal to your partner, but if they feel stretched to the limit already, that pile of dishes is going to look impossibly large.

“You can respond to your partner’s stress by simply ‘asking’ them about it and how you can support them. We are more likely to miss the mark when we assume,” Hardy says. “I would recommend taking something off their plate… When you give them less to worry about in other areas, you are supporting them inadvertently.”

Hear them out instead of planning your defense

An argument can sometimes feel like a competition where the goal is to score the most points over your opponent. While it may feel good to win the argument, it doesn’t do anything to de-stress your partner or the situation.

If they’re expressing their anxiety to you — even if it’s not in a calm or productive way — try to hear them out. Even if you don’t agree with them, stopping to take the time to actually hear what they’re saying will help validate their point of view.

You can learn how to be a more effective active listener here.

“Listen to each other,” says Opoku. “If we listen to the other person and give them an opportunity to explain their point of view, chances are they’ll be more open to hearing us out. When someone is making a statement that we disagree with, our common response is to start thinking of a rebuttal while the person is talking.”

Consider the root of their stress

If you’re in an argument with your partner, it would make sense to assume that the source of the problem was you (or something you did) that upset them. However, even if the argument is being had with you, it might not really be about you.

External factors in your partner’s life may be contributing to their increased stress.

Try to think about what may actually be causing the tension in your relationship and work to address the real reason they’re feeling stressed.

“When we are stressed about work, family, etcetera, we carry this into our relationships,” says Hardy. “Our patience is reduced, and we don’t always have the emotional capacity to handle issues appropriately. Therefore, I recommend that couples take time to rejuvenate, take care of themselves, and evaluate if they are taking other issues out on their [partner].”

If you can help your partner reduce the external stressors in their life, it might help diffuse similar arguments in the future and show your partner that you’re being supportive and sympathetic.

Couples counselors are always available to help

Even after you’ve committed significant effort to de-stress your relationship, it may still be too difficult to entirely handle it on your own.

Especially if there’s a deep hurt or there’s been prolonged periods of stress, you could consider couples counseling to help improve your relationship, communication, and manage stress in your lives.

“Having an objective party sit with you and help you talk through your challenges can be tremendously eye-opening and can lead to so much growth and healing,” says Henry.

“A counselor can give you and your partner new approaches for working through your concerns and can help you both to really express your feelings and feel heard,” Henry adds.

Need a place to start? You can check out our list of the best online relationship therapy services.

When you take steps toward improving your relationship and de-stressing, you’re proving to yourself and your partner that you believe there’s something special worth working at.

When you and your partner commit to supporting one another, you’ll be surprised by the progress the two of you can make.

“If both partners truly want to save their [relationship], have the humility to work on themselves, and have the commitment to work hard on growing their relationship, many [relationships] can be healed and recover from prolonged stress,” Henry says.

How to help a loved one survive stress?

How to help a loved one cope with stress?

Stress is a state of emotional and physical tension that occurs as a reaction to any event (positive or negative) that is difficult or impossible for a person to cope with. In the view of many, stress is an enemy that it is desirable to get rid of forever. It is wrong to consider stress only in a negative way, because short-term stressful situations help a person to activate his strength, strengthen his nervous system, and find new ways to solve difficulties. But it should be understood that in the presence of constant anxiety, the human body spends too many resources and is quickly depleted. Chronic and acute stressful situations negatively affect not only psychological mechanisms, but also the whole organism as a whole, leading to a number of problems.

The causes of stress are diverse and individual, because each person reacts to the same events in his own way. A stressful state can be caused by the loss of loved ones (death, divorce), job loss, catastrophe, sudden social, political or economic changes, serious illness, violence - any event for which a person was not ready and which undermines the foundations of his usual life.

Sometimes a person himself does not understand what is happening to him, cannot adequately assess his condition. And then relatives should come to his aid. First of all, you should pay attention to any drastic changes in the behavior and emotional state of a person: depression, lethargy, fatigue, unwillingness to communicate and do the usual things, or vice versa, excessive aggressiveness, irritability and dissatisfaction with what is happening. Complaints of sleep and appetite disorders, headaches, tremors, excessive sweating, problems with memory and concentration, and decreased productivity can give out a stressful state. A person who has experienced a traumatic event may be haunted by recurring unwanted memories and dreams about it, the fear of a repetition of the situation. Signs of a stressful state can also be attacks of fear and panic, inability to relax or be distracted, constant tension, frequent desire to cry, distrust of oneself and others around.

Often help a person survive stress, even a non-professional. What can loved ones do? The first task is just to be there. No need to obsessively offer your help or advise to speak out. It is important to make it clear that a person is not alone, and next to him there will always be relatives, ready to listen and support. It is necessary to encourage the expression of feelings and emotions, avoid platitudes and show that any experiences and reactions of a person to stress are normal. In some cases, relatives can help reduce exposure to stress (for example, by limiting information about the traumatic event). If necessary, close people can temporarily remove part of the load from a person (for example, help with household chores) in order to free up time for relaxation, analysis of the situation and recovery. Sometimes it's helpful to share your own thoughts and feelings about what's going on, but don't pull the blanket over yourself, downplay the problem, or try to teach you how to behave. The main allies in helping are closeness, openness and support. And of course, do not forget that before helping others, it is important to assess your own condition, to make sure that there are enough resources and strength for this.

You need to understand that if a person after stress cannot cope with what is happening for a long time or is acutely worried about what happened, it is necessary to provide him with professional help. In no case should you force him, you need to openly talk about it and motivate him to contact a psychologist. Relatives themselves can also turn to a psychologist in order to assess the degree of danger of a stressful state, to choose the right behavior strategy.

"Shut up, sadness": how to help cope with stress

"Shut up, sadness": how to help cope with stress | Big Ideas Emotional intelligence
Article published in Harvard Business Review Russia
Holly Wicks

Recently I got a fair amount of stress and couldn't sleep. I had to tell a rather unpleasant colleague, besides a senior rank, what he did not want to hear from me at all, and I was always afraid of his loud and angry remarks. My friend listened to my complaints, nodded slightly and replied: “Well, yes, I am often yelled at for less.” His words and calm manner helped me change my point of view on the upcoming conversation, returned a sense of normality. This conversation no longer seemed like the end of the world to me (that's what it seems to be in a state of stress). I remembered that unpleasant things happen to all of us, and yes, they are unpleasant, but life does not end there.

I don't know a single person who would benefit from "don't worry" advice. It is much better to show the interlocutor that this difficult situation for him can be approached from a different point of view. Some types of help may be easier and more effective than others, so if you decide to support a person, first remember that you do not need to say .

Avoid cliches and platitudes. Cliches and platitudes do not inspire a stressed person, but exacerbate his condition, because they have no content. Stress is not the same as laziness or lack of motivation, so don't say, "When you're having a hard time, grit your teeth and work" or "Come on, do it!".

Do not pull the blanket over. If you have undertaken to help, try not to reduce the whole conversation to your loved one, do not turn the interlocutor and his problems into something insignificant. The story of how you failed at the conference will have to wait until another time. And never say: “Are you doing something bad? Here I am…”

Don't downplay the problem. We dismiss other people's problems because we feel uncomfortable. By this we do not help at all, and we ourselves look insignificant. “Don't worry”, “It's nothing”, “You're exaggerating”, “It doesn't matter - it will pass” - all these phrases do not need to be said.

Do not read morality. If you talk down, then again, you will not help in any way, moreover, you will only make the interlocutor even more irritable. Suppress the desire to be boring in the spirit of “But if you managed your time correctly…”

No need for lengthy condolences. Briefly expressing regret will help your colleague talk. But empathy alone doesn't help. If you sit down next to him and begin to mourn his ill-fated fate, things will never get off the ground.

Stress affects us mentally, physically, psychologically and emotionally. Dealing with all these levels of stress is difficult, don't take on too much. Choose what you can, help a colleague to the extent that you are ready to help. Remember that you are not obligated to completely relieve a person of stress, you are just trying to alleviate his condition at the moment. Try this.

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