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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to keep your social life alive when you’re super busy

Socializing can be as important as studying

When you’re busy juggling work, school and raising a family, having a vibrant social life is probably the last thing on your mind. But socializing and maintaining friendships is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Here, five expert tips on how to stay plugged into the social scene despite competing demands:

One

Put social events on your calendar.

“Make a point to fit social activities into your schedule each week like [you do] any other task or appointment,” says Leslie Baker, a licensed marriage and family therapist and area chair in the master’s in counseling program at the University of Phoenix Bay Area Campus.

“It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, either — even a 15-minute coffee break with a friend can be fun and rejuvenating.” She also suggests taking advantage of email, social media and phone calls to stay connected with friends when you’re too busy to meet in person.

Two

Explain your needs, and be flexible.

A busy life requires more flexibility when it comes to socializing. “Share your situation and advocate for your own needs when communicating with friends,” Baker says. She suggests finding ways to meet that fit in with your existing life demands, like short social visits at home scheduled between study sessions, or, if you have kids, carpooling and scheduling playdates with other working parents.

“Going out to parties or to the movies isn’t always going to be feasible, so make sure your friends understand that,” she advises.

Three

Take time for yourself.

It’s hard to be a social butterfly when you’re burned out. “If you want to connect with people socially, you first have to be connected to yourself,” Baker explains. She recommends taking some personal time each week to help recharge your batteries and relieve stress. “Take a hot bath, read a book for pleasure, take a walk or catch a nap.”

Four

Seek out others with similar lifestyles.

You’re more likely to find people who understand your busy lifestyle when they juggle many of the same demands you do. “I have seen many strong, lasting friendships develop among my classes’ learning teams at University of Phoenix, simply because my students are all dealing with similar issues,” Baker says. Her students have organized everything from in-class potlucks to study groups to social outings.

Five

Know when to walk away.

Not all friendships are created equal. “Friendships do ebb and flow depending on our lives’ demands,” Baker says. “If you feel that maintaining a certain friendship has become too stressful, one-sided or emotionally draining, it’s a good sign to let that friendship fade.” Baker suggests focusing instead on building relationships with people who understand your life at this moment and want to be a part of it.

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