Friends are part of our lives from the earliest days. From learning to ride bikes to being in one another's weddings, our memories are filled with friendship stories. But being an adult can be busy and, instead of meeting for drinks and laughing the nights away, spending time with others can be challenging. Juggling careers, family responsibilities and personal aspirations is no joke!
But your friends are no joke either. They bring joy and laughter to our lives, providing a solid support system when things get tough. Like a garden, though, they must be tended to grow. To help you do so, here are seven ideas on how to nurture friendships, even when life feels chaotic.
1. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. In hectic seasons, focus on the quality of your friendships rather than the quantity. Invest in a few close friendships that truly matter to you, those built on trust, respect and shared values.
"Deeper bonded relationships create a sense of stability and safety," explained Breanne Roberts, LMSW, a Behavioral Health Therapist with Captive Beliefs Counseling Services. "When we have people who 'get us,' we're more likely to seek support during difficult times. This can reduce fear, loneliness, anxiety, sadness and more."
2. BE UPFRONT. When you're feeling overwhelmed and a friend makes a request, be honest. "It's important to honor your feelings," said Roberts, "and nurture relationships with transparency and honesty." She suggests a three-step process for cultivating healthy relationships:
1. Validate your friend/say something nice. ("I love spending time with you.")
2. State your problem or need. ("I'm really drained tonight.")
3. Ask. ("Could we walk tomorrow morning instead?")
"By following this process, you're being respectful of your friendship while also honoring how you're feeling," explained Roberts.
3. EMBRACE COMMUNICATION. Effective communication lies at the heart of any successful relationship. During busy seasons, being intentional about communication is essential and technology makes that easier than ever.
When face-to-face interaction is limited, bridge the distance by scheduling regular phone calls, Zoom chats or Facetimes, or go old-school and send a heartfelt card via snail mail. Sharing updates, expressing gratitude and checking in on your friends' well-being can help maintain connections—even when your schedule is demanding.
4. TACKLE TASKS TOGETHER. Grab a friend and turn mundane tasks into shared activities. Roberts suggested "incorporating social opportunities in natural ways, like grocery shopping, cooking, hitting the gym, taking walks and inviting one another to kids' extracurricular events." It's an easy way to chat, laugh and catch up while checking items off your to-do list.
5. LEVERAGE GROUP GATHERINGS. Dinner parties, game nights or the occasional weekend retreat, can be key when individual time is scarce. These events allow you to connect with multiple friends and be efficient with your time, while fostering a sense of community and creating shared memories.
6. BE FLEXIBLE AND UNDERSTANDING. Life is unpredictable and even the best-laid plans can go awry. Show up with grace and empathy if friends need to reschedule. They're navigating their own challenges and will appreciate your understanding, as much as you'd appreciate theirs.
7. PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE. The foundation of any healthy relationship is self-care. You'll be better equipped to maintain and nurture friendships when you care for your own physical and emotional needs. One way to do this, said Roberts, is by identifying your "happiness triggers," which are exactly what they sound like: things that trigger your happiness, and scheduling time for them.
"It might be crafting, hiking, reading or cooking," Roberts explained. "It's a list of things that make you happy when you think about doing them. Prioritizing your needs isn't selfish. It's a great model for helping other women honor their feelings."
When you're navigating a particularly busy season of life, the way you invest in your friendships may look different. When my children were young, D&W provided one-hour childcare as a shopper perk. I treasure the memories of a close friend and I grabbing groceries and then chatting together over Diet Pepsis for the remainder of the one-hour allotment. We no longer drink Diet Pepsi, and our children are grown, but because we were both willing to hold space, and do what we could, when we could, our friendship continues to thrive.
5 Local Friend-scursions
- Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
- Grand Rapids Art Museum
- Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (bike or walk)
- Millennium Park
- Downtown Market
Kirsetin Morello is a Michigan-based author, speaker, writer, travel-lover, wife and grateful mom of three boys. Read more about her at www.KirsetinMorello.com.
This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sep '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.