When I get overwhelmed trying to find a good work-life balance, friendships are often one of the first things to fall by the wayside. Friendships require energy and planning and time – all of which are hard to come by, especially when I have a big deadline looming and I’m stressed about work. Getting ready to go out when all I really want to do is go home and veg feels like a big ask. Remembering to make plans in advance when life feels chaotic seems all but impossible.
I tend to look to things like creating good morning and evening routines, working out, and meal planning as the answers to finding balance. That’s what we’re taught to do, right? Yet, all too often my friendships fall on the back burner, and in some cases, they wither due to my neglect. Time spent with friends, while nice, is difficult to habitualize in the same way a daily routine is.
However, keeping strong social bonds is something I shouldn’t ignore, even when I feel stretched thin. I know that my friendships are what will help me get to the other side of feeling overwhelmed and overworked, and ultimately set me on the path to success. Friendships aren’t just nice to have when convenient. They’re absolutely essential in order to feel that elusive sense of balance in life. I’ve tried it both ways, and trust me, I know.
Plus, work is quite seriously the last excuse I should use for blowing off friends. Because in reality, friendships haven’t just helped me through my career, they’ve helped me build my career. There are a number of ways friendships help in the workplace, far beyond the stress relief of grabbing a drink after work. (Though that’s definitely an important part of it!) Here are a few ways you can reframe friend time as a boon to your work life:
Opening collaboration opportunities
When you’re feeling stuck at work or perhaps even wanting to switch jobs or careers, it helps to have a network of friends who are able to guide you in new directions. Most new career opportunities come from connections built within strong friendships.
As someone who freelances often, I know how important it is to have friends who would feel good recommending you to others. None of my jobs have fallen into my lap from the sky. My biggest breaks almost always come from tapping into my amazing network of friends.
If you’re feeling unhappy, stressed, or overwhelmed at work, vent it out to your friends. Not only will it feel good to let loose, but chances are they’ll be able to give you a valuable perspective shift to help you move forward. Because your friends aren’t tied to the same narratives you’re telling yourself, they can get you to see things in a new light.
My friends have often reminded me of the things I love about my job when I feel like I am totally failing. They help me reframe the difficult times as a runway for the next big way my career can take flight.
When it comes to your work life, often you are too close to a problem to see it clearly. Leaning on friends when you find yourself feeling stuck or stressed can lead to innovative problem-solving. Best of all, these are your people, they know how you tick and their solutions will be better suited to your personality than ones coming from within your workplace.
I am someone who definitely gets tunnel vision when working on a problem, and my friends can help me zoom out and see things that are just outside my periphery. They also know when a problem is unsolvable or just plain hard, and having someone to commiserate with helps a whole lot too.
Let’s face it, no one can hype you up quite like your friends. When you want to ask for a promotion but don’t feel 100% ready, or when you have a big presentation coming up and you need a confidence boost, you absolutely need your friends there to get you pumped. Friendships help give you the motivation and confidence you need to keep pushing your career forward.
When I was getting ready for a big job switch, I don’t think I would have made the leap without the support of my friends telling me I would do amazing and be so much happier. Their belief in me helped me overcome my fear, and you know what? They were right.
So if you’re feeling the urge to cancel plans with friends or put them off until you feel more settled at work, don’t! Your friendships are an investment worth making, and they’ll help you stay balanced in all areas of your life. When you feel too busy is probably when you need to make time for your friends the most.
If the current way you’re maintaining your friendships feels difficult, don’t be afraid to switch it up! Maybe instead of going out you hang at home in pajamas and watch a favorite show while talking it out. Use those well-intentioned workout goals to go on a hike with your bestie. Because your life is always going to be better with friends.