By Courtney Clark
Do you find it harder to maintain relationships when you can’t see friends face-to-face very often?
Many people do, and the lack of in-person connections has made the past years of the COVID-19 pandemic difficult. Fewer parties and gatherings, quarantines and lockdowns, wondering who shares your same safety levels… it’s enough to make even the strongest friendships start to feel like they’re more of a “chore” than a gift.
But that’s a real problem.
Having people you can lean on has been scientifically linked to higher happiness levels and a lower risk of illness. So whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, whether you have 100 friends or just 2 BFFs, whether you prefer to talk to friend’s every day or only sporadically, friendships are important.
If you’ve been prioritizing health over friendships these past couple of years, that’s totally okay.
But these 6 behaviors are important signs you need to spend a little more time with friends (even if it’s over Zoom!).
1. You Feel Burned Out
Burnout is a commonly misunderstood feeling. We often think of burnout as an extreme form of feeling busy, but burnout is in fact more closely related to a feeling of melancholy. Burnout comes from a lack of meaning and enthusiasm, not too much stress. Spending time with friends, doing something outside your regular work routine and home routine, can help reignite some missing excitement in your life.
2. Your Partner Repeats Six Little Words
If your partner says “you already told me about that” more than three times in a week, that’s a sign you’re missing another outlet. Most of us need more than one close confidante to bounce our thoughts and feelings off of, because different people provide different kinds of support and feedback. If you’ve been repeating stories to your partner (I’m so guilty of this!), you’re looking for a style of support you haven’t gotten. Time to phone a friend!
3. You’re Bingeing Netflix
Streaming service is a handy companion, but not as good as a real friend. Especially in a pandemic, and extra-especially in the winter when it’s cold, it’s easy to fall into a routine of hunkering down instead of reaching out to someone. But reruns aren’t old friends, even when they seem comforting. Instead of watching a fun show solo, can you recruit a friend to watch, too, and chat about it afterward?
4. You Feel Tired Thinking About Hanging Out
If thinking about being around your friends makes you feel excited but EXHAUSTED, that’s a sign you need more friend time. You’re out of practice of being social, so it feels overwhelming. But that’s not an excuse to avoid it (like exercise!) It just means you need to start slowly and build up your tolerance for human interaction.
5. You Start Friend Time With *This* Phrase…
The phrase “oh my gosh, what’s going on with you?!?!” sounds like a normal way to kick off conversation with a friend, right? Wrong. If you don’t even know enough to ask specific questions like “What’s going on with your new job?” or “How is little Olivia dealing with that difficult teacher?”, you’re too out of touch. This was my warning sign midway through last year, when it became obvious I hadn’t been doing a good enough job knowing even the basics of what my friends were struggling with or celebrating. We deserve to be able to lean on one another, but we can’t if we don’t know “what’s going on.”
6. You Don’t Miss Your Friends
If you’ve gone so long without seeing your friends that you don’t even feel sad about it, that’s the biggest warning sign of all. It’s a little bit like being hungry: early hunger is a gnawing pain in your stomach. But if you wait long enough without eating, the discomfort disappears. It’s like you aren’t even hungry anymore!
But your body is still in need of food, you just ignored the pain so long that the warning sign went away. If you’ve stopped missing your friends (assuming the relationships are healthy and reciprocal!), you’ve gone way too long without support. Try sending a short text to a long-time friend, one of those who won’t bombard you with questions but will always be there to pick up where you left off.
Friendships serve a purpose in our lives, providing us with morale support, sounding boards, and even making us physically healthier. If you’ve been neglecting friendships, maybe it’s time to make them a little bit more of a priority. Not just for your sake, but because your friends need you, too.
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