Love, Advice, Wellness

6 tips to keeping long-distance friendships alive on a busy schedule

Long-distance friendships should not be emotionally-taxing or time consuming.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve relied on female friends in all aspects of my life. Research shows that female friendships release oxytocin and serotonin (the bonding hormone) in women. Before I moved away to college, I was terrified of losing contact with my friends. However, over three years later, I have managed to keep most of these friendships alive.

With work, studies, and other commitments, keeping connected with long-distance friends can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. There are simple ways of showing friends you care that don’t require too much time or emotional energy. It’s important to remember that, while friends, both close and long-distance, are incredibly important – caring for friendships shouldn’t mean compromising your own happiness or mental health.

If you, like me,  have a busy schedule and don’t live in the same place as many of your friends, here are six tips to help you maintain your friendships.

1. Tell them you’re busy

A woman is on the phone, her one hand is covering her forehead.
[Image description: a woman is on the phone with one hand covering her forehead]. Via Kevin Grieve on Unsplash.
They’re probably really busy too. Life is busy! Studying and working full-time can be exhausting and your friends should understand this. When I first started studying, I had ambitious plans to regularly Skype all of my high school friends. Of course, this didn’t work out because we were all way too busy. Just letting your friends know that you are busy and can’t talk regularly can go a long way in limiting the expectations on both ends and preserving your friendship.

2. Remember their birthdays

A birthday cake with candles that read "happy birthday".
[Image description: a birthday cake with “happy birthday” candles]. Via Annie Spratt on Unsplash.
Remembering this one special day a year is important. It only takes 10 minutes to send a message or make a phone call. If you miss their birthday, try to send belated wishes in the next day or two. Birthdays are an important reminder to your friends that you love them and are thinking of them.

3. Keep tabs on them on social media

A smartphone's screen showing an Instagram page.
[Image description: a smartphone’s screen showing an Instagram page]. Via Erik Lucatero on Unsplash.
Replying to your friend’s Instagram story about their day reminds them you’re still around and that you still care. The same goes for commenting on their Facebook update about a new job or responding to their Tweet about an event they’re hosting. Most of us spend a lot of our time on social media (three hours a day for me, according to my phone!) A simple comment or reply goes a long way.

4. Make plans when you’re in the same place

Two friends sitting at a table next to a window.
[Image description: two friends talking and eating ice-cream]. Via Jed Villejo on Unsplash.
Even if you’ve hardly been in contact, you’d be surprised by how well people respond to unexpected reunions. I’ve gone years without seeing or talking to some friends, but have reached out when we’re in the same place. When I am visiting family, I often reunite with my high school friends nearby.  I treasure our reunions over coffee or a meal. The thing about long-distance friendships is that both of you have probably grown and changed significantly over the years. The plus side of not seeing someone for years is there’s so much to catch up on!

5. Embrace change

Leaves of different colors strung up on thread.
[Image description: leaves of different colors on thread]. Via Chris Lawton on Unsplash.
If your friendship is important, embrace the ways your friend are growing and changing. Perhaps someone has become more extroverted or maybe they’ve become passionate about social justice when they never used to be. Change is inevitable. Expecting your friends to stay the same is unhealthy and unreasonable. While seeing growth and change in friends is wonderful, sometimes the change that occurs can cause a divide in friendships.  Often change can add something positive to your relationship but sometimes it can shift the dynamic negatively. Remember that it’s OK to decide whether or not your friendship is worth keeping.

6. Don’t stress it

A woman flipping her hair back in bed with lots of books flying around her.
[Image description: woman flipping her hair back in bed with books flying around her]. Via Lacie Slezak on Unsplash.
Inevitably, some friendships will end. Sometimes this can be from simply losing contact. Other factors can include personality changes or friendships being too high-maintenance. I had a high-maintenance friend in high school. Living apart and our diverging personalities strained our friendship until it came to an end. Our falling out meant I could focus my energy on things like my studies and other, healthier relationships. As cliché as it sounds, I honestly think that if friendships are meant to work out, they will.

I believe in finding ways to maintain friendships that don’t put too much emotional strain on yourself. Keeping these connections with your faraway friends can bring their worlds closer to you.