31 Thoughtful Ways to Help a Stressed-Out Friend

Jillian Knox Finley
PHOTO:

Mikael Jansson for Vogue

Deadlines, finances, relationships, physical health… There exists no shortage of stressors in the day-to-day grind, and it can be tough to watch friends struggle through difficult times. In the event your BFF is in the thick of it, we’ve come up with a host of ways to spend your next bonding session. Keep scrolling for our favorite anxiety-free-zone hacks.

  1. Learn to meditate. A meditation practice offers plenty of benefits, from increased productivity to anxiety relief. Sign up for a group meditation class or retreat, or simply download a meditation app like Headspace and spend some quality time in the equanimity of noble silence. A slew of different techniques and practices are available.
  2. Take a restorative yoga class. Restorative yoga classes often feature the healing power of Tibetan bowls, which vibrate upon different chakra points. Grab your mat and spend some quality time in Savasana.
  3. Make a vision board. Creative visualization can be a powerful tool for organizing thoughts and planning the future. Head to your local bookstore for a magazine binge, and spend the day manifesting positive vibes via a craft project.
  4. Listen up. There’s arguably no better soundboard than the person who knows you best. Extroverted thinkers may need to talk a problem out aloud to effectively find solutions. The simple act of lending an ear can be the best and most effective medicine.
  5. Energy-proof the space. We asked reiki master, Jenni Finley, for her thoughts on the importance of décor in one’s personal space. She offered up easy, practical additions to any bedroom, including everything from sage to spirit-animal totems. Bring over some good vibrations the next time you pay a visit.
  6. Schedule some teatime. Rife with potent herbal compounds, astoundingly, chamomile tea binds to the same brain receptors as drugs such as Valium. Chamomile supplements have been shown to reduce anxiety and decrease stress, due to the active ingredient apigenin.
  7. Bring in a professional. Sometimes you need to call in the big guns. Depending on the root of the stress, look up professionals in your area who offer group classes or private one-on-one coaching. Life coach Ryan Weiss spilled his favorite travel must-haves, like essential oils and inspired reads.
  8. Research herbology. Health-food stores offer a plethora of natural de-stressors. All-natural valerian root is said to reduce anxiety and act as a sleeping aid. It’s available at Whole Foods as a tincture or capsule supplement. Hops in the form of a tincture have a similar benefit. Sadly, sharing a beer doesn’t have the same potency, but then again, it has its own rewards.
  9. Try a new workout. Stress can literally make you sick. A regular exercise routine is a pillar of any healthy lifestyle. Enroll in a new class together. Take up boxing. If you are feeling experimental, grab a Class Pass trail and work your way through a few stress-relieving options for a few weeks.
  10. Take 20. Raising your heart rate for 20 minutes is enough to effectively lower anxiety and stress. Go for a brisk walk or hit a quick gym session together on your lunch break. Three 20-minute interval workouts a week is the sweet spot.
  11. Lavish them in lavender. Fragrant lavender oil is proven to reduce anxiety. Pick up some essential oils, bath salts, or aromatherapy masks. Next movie night, you have a signature scent.
  12. Breathe right. Bestselling author Andrew Weil, MD, introduced a classic yoga breathing technique in his book Spontaneous Happiness, called the 4-7-8 breath. To practice the 4-7-8 technique, completely exhale through your mouth, and then inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. According to Weil, two-a-days of this technique is a hidden health secret.
  13. Have a breakfast meet-up. When rushed or anxious, the morning breakfast ritual sometimes goes out the window. Start the day off on a sunny note with a breakfast date. Get plenty of omega-3’s good fats to boost your brainpower, and reach for everything from eggs to cold-water fish.
  14. Take something off her plate. There’s one question: What can I do now? We know you’re coming to the table with a distinctive and unique skillset. If you’re a master at organization, why not tackle a bit of spring cleaning? Ask to see a task list, and hit it with your best shot.
  15. Plan a Netflix binge. Reveling in the catharsis of make-believe is a time-honored pastime in the West. Maybe go in for a theme? Exotic travels? Sweeping romance? Girl power? Need to just watch buildings explode? Give your mind an escapism vacation via the boob tube. Bonus good news: Popcorn is a health-approved snack.
  16. Play personal chef. There’s nothing like a meal cooked with love. Master your bestie’s favorite comfort food or pick a locale that means something to her personally. Pick a memory that’s tied to delicious eats. Traveled together? Why not re-create the street tacos from that vacation you both dream of returning to?
  17. Explore the power of napping. As a culture, we’re not getting enough z’s on the daily. Remember kindergarten, when nap time was a group activity? There was something to it. It worked for Einstein. Next time you’re together, hit snooze for 20 minutes and then get on with your hang.
  18. Heat things up. There’s a reason Jacuzzis are so relaxing. Science says sensations of warmth can alter neural circuits that control mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Curl up in front of the fire, run a hot bath, or seek out a sauna together.
  19. Explore the great outdoors. If breath is the key to relaxation, why not take in the crisp, cool, clean air? Head out for a hike. Bask in the healing powers of Mother Nature.
  20. Give back. Sign up for a local charity. Giving your time enables a sense of contribution, purpose, and community. All those positive vibes will have a ripple effect!
  21. Curate a care package. If you’re not in the same city, put together a gift box of favorite essentials, from a thoughtful candle to cookbooks or a handwritten note. Box gifting services offer a wide array of customizable options. Right now, Gratitude Collaborative has a Valentine’s Day Bestie box for $100, with all proceeds going to feed children in the U.S.
  22. Start a gratitude journal together. Writing down what you’re grateful on a daily basis is a beautiful habit. According to transformational coach Christina Carlin, it is the key to finding happiness on even your worst day.
  23. Create a diversion. Sometimes you just need to take your mind off of something. We’re not sure of the exact science, but karaoke feels like a legitimate coping mechanism. Get spontaneous and goofy. Wine-fueled game nights are the order of the day.
  24. Get out of dodge. Travel is food for the soul. Have your best friend clear her calendar, and assure her you will handle all the details. Even if it’s just a quick road trip, getting away from it all is sure to clear some headspace and usher in a fresh perspective.
  25. Plan a staycation. Can’t get out of town? Check for a rate or package at a local hotel. You don’t necessarily need to traverse the globe to live like you’re on vacation. Sometimes a hotel robe and a poolside sunset are an oasis unto themselves.
  26. Make a killer playlist. Music is mood medicine. Whether it’s making a motivational Spotify playlist to charge up her morning run, or a soothing list of tracks to unwind with at the end of the day, the cathartic power of the mixtape is undeniable. Check out our Valentine’s Day mix for feeling the love.
  27. Offer some pro bono work. Time and money are key stress factors. How can you alleviate some pressure? Does your BFF have kids? Offer to babysit while she gets a mani-pedi. Gestures of generosity will surely inspire your BFF to keep her head up and pay it forward.
  28. Indulge in some retail therapy. Women’s brains in particular respond to shopping in a unique way. It’s science. Whether it’s hunting down new spring décor or a pair of shoes, spend an afternoon indulging your desires.
  29. Join a book club. There’s a world of knowledge out there. Dive into our recommended list of most effective anti-stress books to read now. We think scheduling a standing meet-up to share your insights sounds enlightening and powerful.
  30. Vow to eat clean. When you’re stressed out, eating right should be a top priority. According to CNN, the proper diet can stabilize blood sugar, relieve tension, and boost an emotional response. A joint resolution to eat clean sounds like perfect fodder for an afternoon of farmers market browsing.
  31. Do nothing. Block out a chunk of time and make zero plans. Think of it as a Seinfeld day. Your brain needs downtime. Studies suggest sometimes there is value in the void.

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Have a favorite de-stressing ritual? Tell us in the comments below.

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