For those caught in a storm of stress, finding a way out can seem impossible. With so much on their plates, people who are overwhelmed may not even think to ask their loved ones for help, and if they do, they could be too scared to talk about their stress. For this reason, identifying signs of stress in others can be a relief. Statistics Canada pointed out that in 2014, 23 percent of Canadian adults reported that they were "quite a bit" to "extremely stressed." But how do you know a friend or family member is in need of help and what do you do to support him or her? Here are some common signs of stress:

Physical ailments

Some stress is a normal part of life. School, work and home all come with their fair share of obstacles. However, high levels of stress and anxiety can negatively affect the body. If you notice loved ones experiencing more physical ailments that normal, it could be caused by stress. This is because hormones produced during stress suppress immune system functions. Here are common aches and pains associated with stress:

  • Digestive issues like stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea. 
  • Headaches, especially tension headaches.
  • Tight jaw from clenching teeth.
  • Frequent colds.
  • Dramatic changes in appetite or weight. 
  • Chest pains.
Woman wrapped in blanket looking out the window.More frequent illness can be a sign of stress.

Changes in behavior

In addition to showing physical signs of stress, those under duress may act differently than they normally do. You might notice such signs in your loved ones before anything else because you know them so well. Look for these changes in friends and family of all ages:

  • Abandoning activities they used to love.
  • Performing poorly in school or at work.
  • Experiencing mood swings and irritability.
  • Avoiding others.
  • Taking up negative habits such as smoking, drinking or using drugs.
  • Acting nervous by fidgeting. 

Additionally, children and teens often show other behavioral changes as the result of stress. Because they're young, kids don't always know how to tell you they're overwhelmed. Little ones might cry often, cling to you and express a desire to skip school. Teens might leave longtime friends and start hanging out with new groups. These are all signs of stress. However, note that teens naturally spend less time with parents and more time with peers - avoid confusing this part of growing up with stress-related changes.

Helping your loved ones

Especially with kids and teens, your loved ones may not always know how to ask for help. If you notice any of these or similar stress symptoms, reach out. Start with a simple conversation. Tell the person you've noticed certain changes in his or her behavior or health and you want to see how he or she is doing. If your friend or family member opens up, listen. If you speak, make sure it's only to guide him or her to a better understanding of the situation. For instance, you may ask "why do you think that?" or "what makes you feel that way?" You can also encourage your loved ones to take on fewer responsibilities or seek professional help.