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With all the added stress of COVID-19, it’s important to check-in on the mental health of those we care about.

Social isolation, new daily routines, and ongoing worries about COVID-19 are adding a new set of stressors to everyone’s lives. For men who don’t often talk about their stress or emotions, these additional stressors can easily become overwhelming – this is where friends and family members can step in to make a big difference.

Here are some tips to help you support a guy you care about.

1. Know the signs of stress

The first step is recognizing the key signs of stress that indicate a guy could use support. The more of these you notice, the more likely your reaching out could be a huge help.

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being angry or irritable
  • Not leaving his place to get physical activity or fresh air
  • Seeming worn down or burnt out
  • Becoming more anxious or nervous, than usual, when seeing news about COVID-19
  • Talking about being afraid or stressed because of COVID-19

2. Start the conversation

COVID-19 is affecting everyone, and it’s important your friend knows that he is not alone in feeling stressed. Here are some examples of ways to open up the conversation.

  • This COVID thing has been really stressing me, how are you holding up?
  • How’s the transition to working from home been?
  • Have you lost hours or work because of COVID?
  • Are you feeling isolated living on your own?
  • How are things going with those you’re living with?
  • How have you been sleeping with all this going on?
  • I’ve noticed you seem a bit more tired and drained that usual, what’s up?

3. Let him know you’re there for him

If the guy pushes back and doesn’t want to start the conversation, or quickly changes the subject, that is okay – he may not be ready to talk. You can reinforce that you’re there for him by saying something like:

  • OK, I just want to let you know that I’m here for you if you want somebody to chat with.
  • I’m only ever a message, or phone, or video call away if you want to talk or get something off your chest.
  • This stuff is really tough, if you want to talk, let me know.

This way your friend will at least know that you are a person he can talk to when he’s ready – and simply knowing this can help ease the weight off a guy’s shoulders.

4. Let him know about our site and other resources

Our Stress Management page has a lot of solid practical tips and advice that can help him to work on his stress. Show him our site directly or send him a link through a message or email.

We’ve also been adding new content to help guys deal with the stress of COVID-19. Check out our COVID-19 Hub for our new articles and other resources. 

Another useful resource is this free online course put together by a Professor of Psychology at The University of Toronto: Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19.

5. Encourage him to seek professional support

If the guy you know is struggling and his stress is affecting his daily life, it’s time for him to reach out for professional support. Meeting (virtually) with a doctor or talking to a therapist are both great options.

Try saying something like:

  • I hate to see you stressed like this. You know there is no shame in seeing a doctor. Stress and anxiety are real issues and maybe they can help you get a game plan in place.
  • Have you ever thought about talking to a professional about this? Reaching out and talking to a therapist could be a big help – you can go into more detail with them and they can help give you some strategies to reduce your stress. There are lots of online options available these days.

6. Plan or schedule regular follow-ups to see how he’s doing

During these times, with everyone trying to stay indoors as much as possible, it’s easy for people to withdraw further from society and isolate themselves. In order to help your friend combat this, it’s important to follow up and check in on his health.

This can mean sending a message once a day or every other to ask what he’s been up to, or scheduling weekly or bi-weekly video calls. Even though it’s not the same as seeing someone in person, when possible video calls are a great way to see and hear each other, and feel better connected.

7. Remind him this will end

All the uncertainty about potential treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 adds another layer of stress to this situation. Because timelines for these are more measured in months and not days, maintaining the restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can seem daunting.

Remind your friend that even though things are tough now – take each day, each hour, each moment at a time and this will eventually pass.

We will return to work, we will be able to stop physical distancing, we will be able to hug our friends and family again.

Written by the HeadsUpGuys Team - Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Reviewed and approved by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk - Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia.
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