The other night I hosted a book swap and summer gathering for the women in my neighborhood. Most of these women I had never met before but it felt important to me to cultivate these relationships as I know what a huge impact making time for friends–both new and old–can have on our quality of life. Why? Because friendships aren’t just nice to have, they’re critical to our well-being.
A well-known UCLA study on female friendships found that these key relationships not only help reduce stress, but they also extend our lifespans and reduce the likelihood of physical problems upon aging. The study discovered that women have a natural reaction to seek out their friends in times of stress (they called this “tend and befriend”), which helps them physically and emotionally return to home base. But friendships need cultivating, tending to. And what happens when we get busy and overscheduled? We cancel lunches, walks and tea dates—when these meetings are exactly what we need to help us navigate life transitions and tough times.
As a life balance teacher/speaker, I coach women/men on the four areas of self –care (physical/emotional/mental and spiritual)—one of the best ways to enhance our equilibrium—and I’m always surprised by how often people neglect and overlook emotional self-care: the care and feeding of our hearts.
Emotional self-care is as important as eating nourishing foods and daily movement. Critical to this is seeking out and taking time to connect with friends who nourish us, and using discernment: knowing when its time to let friendships go and when it’s time to reach out and cultivate new or existing ones. This takes courage. It requires us to stretch. It’s part of our growth and evolution as spiritual beings. I can’t tell you how many heads nod when I bring up this theme at workshops/retreats; so many of us are still in old stagnant relationships that are draining us, rather than fueling us.
We need—and deserve—friends that let us show up “warts and all.” We need friends who encourage us to shine and are not threatened by our success (read more about sisterhood) and we need confidants who provide a soft place to fall, a space for us to rest without having to prove, do or be anything to anyone. Consider the following questions as you reflect on this theme:
- Which of my friendships truly nourish me, who would I like to spend more time with?
- What relationships am I ready to let got of (or put on the back burner to simmer)?
- What do I most need from my confidants/close friends right now? Am I willing to share this with them?
- Am I ready to stop holding it all together, let go, be vulnerable and allow my friendships to evolve into deeper levels of intimacy?
For the month of August, I challenge you to focus on cultivating one to two new or existing friendships. Make this a priority for 30 days and let me know how you feel at the end of the month. I’d love to hear your ideas on steps you’re taking to move “friend time” to the top of your list.
TAKE ACTION: Are you 40+ and craving high-level mentoring/support and authentic connection with a circle of like-minded women? Join me Sept. 10-Oct. from 12-1 p.m. CST and enjoy resources/inspiration/new tools for becoming your own best friend as you journey into the second half of life. Learn/more register for Embracing the Wild Unknown: Nurturing Yourself in Mid-Life & Beyond–a live telecourse (that means via phone; all classes are recorded). Early bird rate of $99 ends Aug. 15-reserve your spot today! Participate live or you can download the recorded classes/mp3s at your convenience.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance speaker/coach and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Offering custom self-renewal workshops/retreats, training, books/telecourses and individual career coaching her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 13 year-old son. More on her background here.