Why You Should Never Tell a Distressed Person “Everything Will Be Okay”

By: Rawan Aboseif

With the new academic year starting, stress levels are already rising up. The new academic year not only causes stress of the work load or studies, but also causes stress between friends, families, and girlfriends and boyfriends. Suddenly, people become short tempered and crack under a very little amount of pressure. Let’s start by defining pressure and stress. According to the dictionary, stress is “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”, while pressure is defined as “oppression”.  You might think those are such big words to define stress and pressure, but people under them find these words very little compared to what they feel. They are in constant worry; they are intense. What they need most is simply comfort. They need to feel more at ease and comforted by you, as their friend or family or even acquaintance. What you need to know is that telling them “Everything will be okay” is on the far other side from comforting.

You must have some great communication skills with that person in order to have them as your friend. So, is telling them that things are going to be okay the best you’ve got? There are a ton of things you could say. A simple “What can I help you with?” or “What could make you feel better?” can be much much better than “Everything will be okay”. You want to know why? Simply because that distressed person already knows everything will be okay. They do know that their stress is a period that shall pass. However, they aren’t aware of the consequences they’ll have to go through or the decisions they’ll have to make in order to pass that period. They don’t know if stressing over their SAT exam that is in less than a week will lead them to focus better on studying and solve better in the test or will make them lose focus and incorrectly solve questions they know how to answer by heart. Others may be stressing over their five-year long relationship that is facing some serious crises. Their stress can only take them down the path with the impasse. They’ll need you to not just offer comfort, they’ll need you to be compassionate with them, to listen, to aid, to be there, to encourage them not to drown in their anxiety, but also tell them that their feelings are valid; that’s the real help you can give them.

Your response might have been a bit shallow or inconsiderable, but you can come back from it. You could ask them to immediately zone out of that deep hole. You could tell them to stop thinking and take them out for their favorite dinner, or dessert, or even a walk on the streets. Take them for a car ride and play their favorite music. Sing along while the wind is rushing form the windows of the car through their hair. Take them to watch a movie they’ve wanted to watch. Prep them a meal with your love and let them help you with the preparations. Dance it out. Dance until you are both out of breath. Dance until you can hear your heartbeat in your ears. Sit them down and massage their body until their tensed-up, sore muscles smoothen under your grip. Read them a book while scenting the room with scented sticks/candles. If you can’t do all that, ask them to talk about it as much as they can; hug them; make the feel like they have a home despite their overwhelming stress.

Another thing you could do is give them a confidence boost. Sometimes, a person’s stress lets them see themselves as incapable and underdeveloped. A student taking an exam can suddenly start feeling like they can never get the score they want. They feel like they aimed too high compared to their abilities and practices. Giving them confidence and talking to them about their previous, growing achievements can help. Even if the help you offer will have minimal effect with them, the next time they try to shit-talk themselves, they will remember your words, and that’s when confidence will be granted to them, even if minimal.

Furthermore, you will need to explain to them their real enemy. “Sometimes, your only barrier is your own brain”; this tends to be my favorite quote, or even a personal motto. Whenever I start feeling stressed or whenever I find myself talking myself down, I try to remember that it’s all in my head. I try to help myself remember my successes, and I often talk to my friend or mother if it keeps getting worse. Telling a distressed person that they are more than capable of doing anything as long as they break their own chains would be much more helpful than simply telling them things are going to be okay. Stress can stop you from taking a step that could’ve saved them from all the pain they are suffering. Stress is pain that chains you to your place and takes all your attention. A distressed person will try and remember that it might be their own way of thinking that they are incapable that is making them incapable. However, that is not always the case. Stress is not just something they make out of nowhere. Stress can be and get pretty serious.

In fact, their stress will keep growing and feeding off of them until it becomes anxiety or cause them depression. This will take them down a very dark loop. Anxiety cannot be cured by words. Anxiety cannot be cured by hugs or kisses or zoning out. Anxiety needs professional therapy. It is a long road that the patient will have to take. It will be an eternal war that they will have to fight. Not only will they have therapy to cope with; they might need to take medications to help them calm down and pin the anxiety to the ground. That’s when they will be cracking. The pressure might increase; the pain will be intolerable; their needs will be high, and their faith and persistence will be put to the test. In such cases, taking them to a professional is a must and is the best solution you can offer them.

One thing that you will definitely face while interacting with a distressed or anxious person is their breakdown. You will be faced with wrath. They could be mean. They could be rude, but I can assure you they do not mean it. All they want is to get the stress out of their system. Yes, they do take it out in the worst, most toxic way possible, but that’s not them; it’s their stress talking. As much as you can, take it in. Try to accept their anger as much as you can. Maybe it is a toxic, harmful way, but they are being relieved. However, when it starts getting unbearable for you, leave. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, your friend would still need your help, but you shouldn’t be handling toxicity all along. You shouldn’t be taking in toxicity or else you will start having issues as well. So, forgive until you can’t do it anymore.

When you friend gets out of the stress cycle they had themselves stuck inside, they will be very thankful for you. They’re only thankful because you pushed them, you helped them, you didn’t stop at “everything will be ok”, because “everything will be ok” makes them even more anxious, and they start to ask themselves all day, every day – when will everything be ok? Which only adds to their stress. Stress is plausible, anxiety is real. Telling someone “everything will be okay” does not help, nor is it a cure. Saying this might be like following the stereotypes of mental disorders. It will be like telling them it does not even exist or is easily controlled, but it’ not. Overcoming their stress will be of a huge deal and difficulty to them. Hence, your support and actions will be remembered. You are the one that should tell yourself that things will be okay. You should convince yourself that you will be able to help them, and that’s when things will be okay.

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