My friendships mean the world to me. I’ve struggled a lot with my mental illness in recent years, and so I’ve narrowed down my friendship group to core people that love me unconditionally and understand what I’m going through.
I value friendships so much, and yet I’m also a big believer in boundaries and self-care. I don’t think it has to be a choice between those things, I think you can be your own caretaker and a really great friend. To achieve this, I’ve developed lazy habits that allow me to upkeep friendships easily. Small ways to ensure I am present in my friends’ lives without losing my own to it. Particularly when I’m in a heavy period of depression, these allow me not to completely disappear and then reappaear a few weeks later.
Here are my six lazy friend hacks to try for yourself.
Stop carrying so much in your brain. Your brain is overloaded, all the time, thanks to this fast-paced world we live in and the constant barrage of information. Don’t rely on your tired brain to remember everything, like birthdays, and when your friend leaves for a trip. Because then you’re constantly expelling energy towards it and you’ll likely forget it. Then you feel crappy when you didn’t wish them a happy birthday or you forgot the medical procedure they were having done today.
So write it down. Take that minimal effort of jotting it down in whatever day planner or calendar you use. It’s just a little note at the top, and then you won’t forget. You could even set it as a reminder on your phone, because why not?
Then you can always be that thoughtful friend that remembered. I don’t know about you, but I love the friend that always remembers to wish me a safe flight. Or asked how that important presentation I’ve been working towards went. It’s a tiny moment of their day in which they acknowledged what I have going on. A low-effort way to win brownie points.
One of my best friends can take several days to reply to messages. Initially, this frustrated me. I took it personally and allowed it to be a hit to my ego. But then I came to realise it wasn’t about me at all, she did this with everyone, and I had to confront myself and ask why I was insulted. I was allowing this to be a measure of our friendship.
With enough time, I came to understand that it didn’t matter if she took 3 days to reply to “OMG I JUST DROPPED MY COFFEE ALL OVER MYSELF IN FRONT OF THE CUTE BARISTA” or “Do you think I wear too much blush?”
Because I didn’t need an instant reply to those things. We live in an age where we expect replies immediately, when decades ago you’d wait a nice week minimum for your letter to be answered. Or at least wait until you’re both home to speak on the phone. When I need her, she will be there for me, I have no doubt. So until then, my silly little stream of consciousness can wait.
Something I’ve noticed she does is she replies to all messages at a set time. We’re in several group chats together, and when I get a reply to my personal messages to her, I’ll also see some coming in on those group chats.
I think this is a great low-effort way to handle messaging. If you want to stay off your phone, or you’re just not someone who can reply often, do it all in one batch. Bite the bullet in one go and answer everything, then put your phone away and go back to real-life. This can also help you to avoid social-depletion by giving you breaks between.
I wrote a whole article on apps that help long-distance friendships, but a lot of them apply to short-distance friendships as well.
In this age of technology, it’s always worth testing how these tools can benefit your friendships as well. For example, BeReal randomly chooses a moment in the day for everyone to post a photo of whatever they’re doing. It’s like Instagram without the bullshit. You get to see the most mundane moments, like making coffee or sitting at their desk. It makes you feel a little bit closer to your friends.
Additionally, TeleParty allows you to watch a show together. So even if you need an evening at home, you can watch your favourite show with your friend and discuss it as you go. This allows you to rest up at home but still share a moment with your bestie.
Boundaries don’t just benefit you, they benefit your friendships as well. Boundaries ensure that everyone is on the same page, feeling heard and getting what they need out of the friendship.
What kinds of boundaries am I talking about? For example, if you need some alone time this weekend, consider that a plan with yourself. Then the minute someone asks you to meet up for a coffee or a drink, you can firmly say that you’re not available. Because plans with yourself count as being unavailable. This small boundary will reduce the number of times you need to cancel or postpone plans, which makes you a more reliable friend.
Or if you struggle with declining plans, wait to commit. When someone invites you out, respond that you’ll let them know. This gives you time to figure out if this is something you want to do.
Your boundaries will make you a better friend, as they ensure that when you’re with your friends, you want to be there. My therapist once asked me how I would feel if my friends felt they couldn’t cancel plans with me and forced themselves to come when they didn’t want to be there. I responded that I’d feel terrible. Then she asked why I was choosing to put my friends in that position.
The true lazy friend hack is to tick two boxes at a time. This allows you to be a present friend while also getting things done. For example, if you need to run errands, see if a friend wants to join you. They might need to get a few things done as well so you can keep each other company.
If you want to walk or go jogging more often, see if your friend wants to join you and hold each other accountable. I have a friend I see about once every two months at most, and we always go for a long hike together when we meet up. This allows us to properly catch up while also spending time in nature and being active. I really prefer it to just grabbing a drink, as we both leave feeling so wholesome.
If you work remotely, meet up to do it together. It takes some self-discipline, but you can keep your catch-up chat to your breaks and get a lot done in the meantime.
This small lazy habit made me a far better friend, it really changed things for me. As I mentioned previously, I used to avoid cancelling on people and it would give me a lot of anxiety. I’d drag myself to a dinner date with a burning fever, or force a smile when my depression had a chokehold on me.
But since I started doing this, I find it easier to cancel. I also noticed how much I appreciate it when others do this.
If you need to cancel plans, simply suggest alternative dates immediately. This highlights that you do want to see them, and soon, but that it’s really just this timing. It highlights respect for their time and that you’re open to their schedule.
The same goes for if you want to change a plan. Don’t just say “I don’t want to go to that restaurant”, and instead suggest different ones immediately.
It’s a small habit, one that will take a minute at most, that makes such a difference in your friendship.
There you have it, six lazy friend hacks, none of which are rocket science, and yet it’s often the small changes that work the best for us. Microhabits like these can allow us to successfully integrate new behaviours into our daily life. And with friendships, it’s often the small things that count the most. It’s the friend who wishes you a safe flight or remembers your coffee order.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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