Everyone experiences stress sometimes.

Stress can be big and obvious, or it can be little things that add up.

Sometimes, a little stress can be helpful. For example, I know I’m much better at focusing on the homework due next week than the project due next month, because the stress of the deadline keeps me going.

However, too much stress — or feeling stressed for a long time — can be a problem.

It’s hard to rest and relax when you’re feeling stressed. When I’m stressed, I feel like I don’t have time to even try.

Though it may seem like a waste of time, taking a break and spending time with friends can help you work smarter, rather than harder.

Here’s what’s worked for me to recharge and stay connected, even when I’m really stressed:

  • Multitasking. Even when you have a deadline, you still need to eat and get active to feel your best. You can get even more out of that time by scheduling it with a friend. Grab a bite to eat or “have lunch together” on a video call. Invite a friend to go on a walk with you or follow along with a yoga video together.
  • Working together. If you really don’t have time for a break, try working with someone else. You can take quick breaks to chat or ask them for help when you get stuck. It also makes it really easy to hang out after you’re both done working. I work a lot better when I’m with my friends, because I have people to hold me accountable when I get distracted.
  • Looking forward to it. When I have a lot of work to do, I like to make plans with my friends for after it’s done. It motivates me to finish what I’m working on, rather than dread the deadline. Plus, it’s a great way to shake off stress after working hard.

What about when you feel like you don’t have friends to help you manage stress? 

I’ve absolutely felt alone trying to handle stress before. Sometimes my friends seemed too busy, and at other times I felt like I had no one there for me at all.

I was never as alone as I felt, though. There were always people willing to support me. I’ve been surprised by who has been there for me.

People I didn’t know very well, like classmates and people I was in clubs with, have always been way more willing to help than I expected.

My parents have been helpful, too. Talking through things with them always makes me slow down and consider things differently. Even other adults, like my teachers and mentors, have supported me through stress. I just had to reach out for some help.

No matter who you go to for support, it’s not irresponsible or selfish to make sure you have time to take care of yourself, spend time with people you care about and rest.

It’s hard to do your best work or be the best friend you can be when you’re not feeling your best.