This past year, we have been faced with many difficulties. Currently, the stress of classes, going back home, the pandemic, and the election has been weighing heavily on many students. A way to alleviate this stress has often been to spend quality time with friends— activities like having dinner or watching a movie together are often seen as ways to maintain mental health together and forget about any worries. Although creating time with friends is beneficial, conversations during these hangouts can be surface-level, and ignorance of stressors can lead to feeling even more overwhelmed. How can you combat this? Practice open communication.
A great way to establish a habit of open communication with your friends can be to simply check in with them. While you are hanging out together, ask people how they are feeling, and ask if there is anything that you can do to help or support them. You can also do this over methods of communication like texting or FaceTime, as spending time with friends has been limited due to the pandemic. If they say that they are doing fine and they appear to be fine, don’t try and press. However, if your friend is in need of support or wants to talk about something on their mind, allow them to. It can be so valuable for both of you to discuss any stressors or concerns, as it will build your bond and demonstrate your trust in each other.
Sometimes creating an allowance for open communication in friendships can seem difficult, and it appears easier to forget about addressing any worries. This hesitation about openly communicating can arise when a disagreement or conflict occurs in a friendship. Remember, though, that conflicts are natural and can only be resolved once they are addressed. Why not address them in a healthy way? It is important to be honest with your friends and check in on your friendship. You can tell your friends if something they have done is bothering you, and in turn, you should be open to taking that criticism from them. Having open communication about tensions in your friendships will make them healthier because avoiding something that bothers you will only intensify that tension when you are together. The last thing that anyone wants right now is elevated stress.
If a friend appears like they are emotionally struggling, you should reach out to them. Often, it can be comforting for someone to know that a friend has realized that they seem unwell and wants to make sure they are okay. This can also be beneficial for friends who are shy or unsure about how to approach having a difficult conversation. You can begin by telling a friend that you noticed that they seem upset or overwhelmed. Then, ask them if they want to talk about anything. Assure them that you are just making sure that they are doing well and are there to lend support.
In a time where quality in-person time with friends has been limited, so have in-depth, quality conversations. It is so important to maintain those in-depth conversations right now, as facing emotional struggles has been more common for many students. Reaching out to your friends is necessary not only for avoiding conflict but for regular emotional support. If you maintain a habit of checking in with friends, then not only will you find yourselves feeling happier, but also more healthy.