When you’re down

And troubled

And you need a helping hand

And nothing, no nothing is going right

…You just call out my name

And you know, wherever I am

I’ll come running

You’ve Got a Friend, James Taylor 

There is nothing in this life – and I mean nothing – more important than friendship. And friendship takes many forms.

There is the friendship of those closest to us – our parents, our spouse, our children, our siblings and our extended family. No matter what happens or where we go, this friendship will be with us forever and we will be the richer for it.

There are our friends who we can call on – to talk to, to go out with for dinner or a quick cuppa, for a shoulder to cry on or just for the pleasure of warm company.

Of course, there are acquaintances we enjoy spending time with but who aren’t necessarily people we want to be too close to or in whom we can confide our deepest darkest thoughts to.  Never confuse acquaintances with friends. A good test is – if you’re not comfortable seeing someone first thing in the morning with your worst case of bed-head and before you’ve brushed your teeth, they probably aren’t friends.

Without friends, our lives would be very empty and sad.

Many of us have let busy-ness interfere with our friend time. Heck, we’ve barely got enough time to do things for ourselves, how can we maintain or nurture friendships too?

But nurture it we must.

Just as we need to make time to spend with our children and our family, we also need to make time to spend with our closest friends. And if that means writing it down in your diary and clearing the decks to make sure it happens, then that’s what needs to be done. Spontaneity is fine for those who aren’t busy 24/7 – but for the rest of us, a bit of planning is in order.

Here are a few ideas of how to make sure you get that essential friend time even when you feel like you’re so stressed and too busy to breathe.

1-    Girls (or boys) night out. Get together with two or more of your close friends for a movie and coffee afterwards. For under $25, you can have a great time, a really good catch-up and what a wonderful way to de-stress that can be too! Dr Wynn orders you to see a comedy and to laugh outrageously and loudly at least 3 times during the show or afterwards. Unless people turn around and look at you curiously, you’re not doing it right.

2-    Pot-luck – This is an American tradition – especially in rural areas but even in New York where I’m from. Pot-luck is a wonderful way to do something you have to do every night anyway (eat dinner) combined with good conversation, perhaps a glass or two of wine, and some special friend time. Usually held once a month – each family or individual makes a dish (and you decide in advance which one you will be that month – main course, side dish, salad or dessert – and that ‘job’ rotates so nobody has to do too much) and meets at one person’s house for a pot-luck dinner. Usually, the person who makes the main course is the person whose house is the meeting place that month. Combine pot-luck with a games night (cards, Pictionary, Balderdash – even Monopoly) and you have a recipe for relaxation and fun.

3-    Group walk (or swim, or run). My best friends and I always go to the gym together. There are so many nights when I just don’t have the energy to get moving. But they do so they will get me out of the house for a workout. And when they are feeling too tired to move, I get them off the couch and into their runners before you can say Jack Robinson. I wish I had friends nearby to walk with but every once in a while, we’ll get together for an early morning beach walk or a toe dip in the ocean (I’m allergic to cold water so it has to be super-warm for me to do more than that). It’s amazing the great conversations you can have when you’re walking – provided you’re not too out of breath – and just having that company makes what many consider to be a chore a real pleasure.

The time spent with those we love and care about – those who love and care for us – is never wasted and is as vital to our health, happiness and stress reduction as food, water and air to breathe.

by Wynn Grossman
for the Stress to Strength team

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