Make Time, Don’t ‘Find’ Time, For Your Relationships

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service.

Do you wish you could make more time for family, friends, or new acquaintances?

After all, we all must invest quality time to make relationships work.

When we have to choose whether to spend time with people, do more work or take care of personal responsibilities, we can feel torn.

There doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything.

Time is a precious commodity. In fact, if you think about it, it’s the most irreplaceable asset we have. It doesn’t stretch or bend, and you can’t really save up time.

“I used to think engaging with people on Facebook seemed like a waste of time,” says a man we’ll call Aaron. “Now, I realize what a time saver social media is. You can keep up with many people all at once.”

Finding time for people we care about takes a little planning. We all have to think ahead about nurturing relationships.

These tips can help:

-Make use of small bits of time. For instance, connect with each of your kids for just five minutes when you first come home. Or leave your spouse a hastily-written love note.

-Don’t try to fix other adults’ problems. Instead, just be supportive and actively listen to their pain. Trying to solve other people’s problems will make you want to avoid them.

-Plan activities to enjoy with people. Have lunch once every six weeks with old high school pals or invite your neighbors over for a card game once a month. These types of social get-togethers do not magically happen. You have to be very proactive to keep them moving along.

“I tend to feel very stressed out when I don’t have informal contact with friends,” says a physician we’ll call Frank. “I have to act so formal and professional at work, it bugs me! Sometimes, I just want to goof off and act silly. I play poker with my old college pals twice a month, and this does the trick.”

Frank says he makes the time for his friends versus “finding” time. “I learned a long time ago that time is sacred,” Frank told us. “If you wait to have some extra time, you’re going to be waiting forever. It pays to block out time you need for your own emotional well-being, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for needing it.”

A life coach we’ll call Connie says we have to guard our conversations, too. “For example, it’s easy to meet a friend and start talking about how bad things are at home!” she says. “We all whine and carry on about our personal problems or work problems, if we can get a sympathetic ear. But, it’s better to meet with a therapist, church counselor, or business mentor to help us work through that stuff. Precious time with friends should be more lighthearted.”

Connie says she advises her clients to buy a good book on whatever is bothering them. “The book might be about marriage improvement or getting out of debt,” she explains. “But by researching what to do, we’re not unloading our worst stress on our friends and family.”

Connie sends a text almost every day to her three best friends. “Don’t let a lot of time pass before checking in with people you care about,” she emphasizes. “Frequency of contact is the difference between casual relationships and intimate relationships. Use those little spare seconds in the day to let people know they’re on your mind.”
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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