• Recently, I read an article about Friendship Stress Busters.  Considering that the theme of Friendship is one of our first virtues, we need to be mindful of what friendship means to us. Friends are in our lives for many reasons.  We laugh and cry with them. For example, if you land a great job, friends are among the first people you want to tell. Also, when you need to blow off steam, friends are the first ones to pat you on the back, validate your concerns, and agree that they might help you to manage your problems better.   But like any relationship, friendship can be stressful for any number of reasons.


    Here are some ideas for keeping your good friends close and your best friends closer.

    Considering that our Character Education virtue of Friendship begins in the month of October, we should focus on the following suggestions as 10 friendship stress busters:


    1. Celebrate your friends. The best part of having good friends is having more people to share your life with -- your joy, your sadness, your hopes, and your disappointments. But we often forget to take the time to celebrate our relationships the same way we celebrate wedding anniversaries or birthdays. So stop, grab a bottle of champagne or a bottle of sparkling water, if you prefer, drop in a fancy raspberry, and celebrate each other.


    2. Be a good friend. Sometimes the most stressful part of friendships is realizing you haven’t been a good one. You’ve been distracted by work, your children or spouse, new boyfriend, your family, and you simply haven’t made time. Don’t let it go any longer -- pick up the phone and call. Write an e-mail. Do something to show her you’re thinking of that person. Are you sure that you’re right and not in the wrong just a tiny bit?


    3. Accept your friends for who they are and for what they can give to you. The fact is, some friends will take your calls night and day. Others can go weeks without hearing from you and still love you just as much. The biggest favor you can do for yourself and your friends is to be realistic about what you can expect from them, and know that they still love you no matter what.


    4. Make new friends. Studies have shown that social support can reduce feelings of anxiety and loneliness, and even lower your blood pressure. So build your support network. Bring a work friend to your gym or to a book club. Bring your book club to your yoga class. Think about inviting them all to your next backyard barbecue. The more friends you have, the better.


    5. Hash it out. You know your friend is miffed at you, although frankly you’re not sure why. Instead of retreating into a stony silence, or an e-mail blackout, extend an olive branch. Life is too short for grudges. Besides, a minor rift could become the Grand Canyon if left long enough. Try to win over on the grudge match, or just give it up altogether.


    6. Be honest. If you truly think your friend is making the biggest mistake in his/her life, you need to ‘fess’ up. It may risk your friendship, but you have to tell. How honest are you?


    7. Second the emotion. Your friend may want to vent and rage, but doesn’t necessarily need to hear “I would have done it this way... ” or… “Shouldn’t you have tried it another way first?”  Your friend doesn’t need you to solve the problem. Sometimes a simple, “That sounds terrible, tell me more... ” is probably all your friend needs to hear. You must always try to comfort your friends.


    8. Really be there. When times are tough, make sure you’re there by being tuned in to them.  While you can ask your friend if you can help out, you can also just step up to the plate. Drop off a meal, run an errand, do a load of laundry, show up with box of Kleenex and a movie -- whatever you think will ease the pain. Your presence is the best medicine. Learn more about the healing power of friendship.


    9. Know when to break up. Some friends just aren’t good for us. They’re high maintenance, too critical, too laid back.... If your list of complaints about your friend is endless, maybe it’s time to give this friendship a break so you can start investing your time elsewhere. Not sure?  Is the person a “toxic” friend?  If so, work on surrounding yourself with positive people.


    10. Schedule a trip to the spa. Okay, neither one of you may have enough money to fly off to one of those pricey spas, but try an at-home version. Schedule a facial and manicure, massage, or blowout shopping trip. Remember why you like each other as you gab over a cup of low fat, sugar-free cappuccino.