Academia requires a lot of your time and attention. Between teaching classes, service requirements, and the endless pressure to spend every spare moment writing and publishing, there is little time left for self-care. There is even less time left to devote to friendships, new or old. Building and maintaining friendships is key to feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally whole and well but can be tremendously challenging while juggling the demands of academic life. You may feel too tired or too broke to want to go out or too overwhelmed to move away from your desk. But making time for friendships can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. Here’s how to make sure the people who matter to you don’t fall off your radar.
Schedule friend dates
If you live near your friends, set a date and time to meet—then put it on your calendar and make it official. If your friends are scattered near and far, schedule Skype or phone dates just as you would an in-person hang out.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to chat at a time that’s convenient for all of you, and treat it with the same level of commitment you would a physical meet-up. Be focused and attentive to make the most of the time you do have. Especially with those friends who are far away, consider blocking out a regular time for a virtual chat.
Having a regular time dedicated to a friend on your calendar can do wonders for your self-care, supporting you through some lonely and tough times
Reflect on your relationships
Your friends are all unique, and you have unique relationships with each of them. So what works for one relationship may not work for another.
With each friendship, reflect on how you best connect. From there, think about how to make the most of limited time you have to get together, in person or otherwise. A particular friendship might thrive on long heart-to-heart talks, another on a shared activity you both love. When time is limited, value how you connect as much as how often.
Mine free or low-cost activities in your area
Museums, long walks in a public park, shows or events at your school, film screenings, and even Netflix are all great ways to spend some time with friends.
Academia (especially adjuncting and making it through graduate school) can really tax your financial situation, so brainstorm fun things to do that don’t always revolve around going out for an expensive meal or drinks.
What matters is that you are taking the time to stay close.
Ask for what you need
It can be hard for those who aren’t academics to relate to the particular personal, professional, physical, emotional, psychological, and financial stresses of academia.
Let your friends in on what’s going on with you, and give them a chance to better understand what you need in the form of support.
You don’t always have to talk about it, but be clear and honest with your friends—and yourself—about whether you’re looking for a space to vent or a light-hearted night off from work thoughts.
Do what you can
Use free tools like Whatsapp to chat with friends overseas. Start a group chat or thread for an easy way to stay in the loop with several friends at once.
Rely on your social media networks for birthday reminders and slice-of-life updates. Yes, nothing beats a long chat or an unforgettable night out, but sometimes those are few and far between.
Focus on staying engaged and connected to those you love, even in simple, small ways. It all counts.
Be kind to yourself
Staying in touch, even with people you love, can be hard sometimes.
Always tell your friends how much they mean to you, but if you lose touch with someone you care about for a little while, don’t wrack yourself with guilt.
Friendships are a blessing and something to be nurtured, not another responsibility to check off your list. With limited time and mental and financial resources, be intentional about what you want, and gentle with yourself if you fall short of your (or sometimes others’) expectations.
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