How to Create Truly Supportive Friendships for Stress Relief

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Research shows that healthy and supportive relationships can reduce stress and improve your overall health and sense of well-being.1 Building a network of supportive friends, or even just one supportive relationship, can be vital to your mental health.

Here are some key skills that can help you to build relationships with people that are truly supportive and sustaining.
Meet New People

It takes some work, but cultivating a circle of truly supportive friendships can make a huge difference in how you handle stress and life. The more people you have in your life, the more likely you are to have truly supportive relationships with at least one of them. It’s beneficial to be able to regularly add new people to your circle.
Make the Time

Carving out the time to maintain—and expand—your social circle can be difficult. But even if your schedule is already filled to the brim with other responsibilities, you can always find moments to socialize. The key is learning how to organize and manage your time.

Effective time management techniques can also help you remember to check in regularly with your friends, something that will help strengthen your bond with them.
Be Assertive

People often think of assertiveness as “standing up for yourself” and “not letting people push you around”—basically the alternative to passivity. While this is mostly true, assertiveness is also the alternative to aggressiveness. The difference is that with assertiveness, you don’t have to get your needs met at the expense of others’ needs.

Developing the skill of assertiveness can really help you strengthen your relationships, making them mutually supportive, lasting, and opening the lines of communication.

When you’ve had a hard day, sometimes being able to vent to a trusted friend is all it takes to turn things around. Feeling heard and truly understood can have profound effects on us.

Don’t forget that your friends need that same support. Here are some things to remember when friends are talking about things that stress or upset them:

Ask them about their feelings, and listen.
Reflect back what you hear, so they know you really understand.
Instead of always trying to tie the conversation back to your experiences, focus questions on them and their feelings.
Pay attention without thinking about what you’re going to say next.

Trust Your Intuition

When you’re around certain people, pay attention to how you feel. If you feel warm or at ease with the person, your intuition is probably giving you the green light that this person is okay.

However, if you leave your encounter with someone feeling anxious, drained, or like something is wrong but you can’t explain what, your intuition may be telling you that person is a no-go for you.

If you pay attention to and act on the signals that your intuition sends you, you’ll have a healthier social circle and stronger relationships. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Does the conversation flow easily, or is it forced?
Do you feel they truly understand, accept, and support you?
Do you feel you truly understand, accept, and support them?
Do you feel better or worse about yourself when you’re with them?
Do you leave them feeling energized or down?
Do you include them in your life for positive qualities they have, or just to have more people in your life?

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