When I get stressed-out, I tend to get kind of snippy. Normally this isn’t that much of a problem, because if I feel stressed and irritable, I just try to stay away from my friends until it has been dealt with. The thing is, right now, I am jam-packed with work and will continue to be jam-packed with work until finals are over. I don’t want to become a hermit for the next three and a half weeks, so I can’t just avoid my friends while I’m freaking out. However, I’m really worried that I’m going to be accidentally awful to my friends and permanently alienate them just because I am stressed out. How can I make sure that doesn’t happen?
– Frustrated Friend
Dear Frustrated Friend,
I feel like learning how to not alienate your friends when you’re stressed out is a serious and necessary life skill. I mean, this is the kind of thing that is going to come up over and over in your life. When you’re stressed out, the tiniest things can piss you off, and it’s really easy to get mean fast. However, like almost everything to do with personal advice, there’s no cut and dry answer because people are different.
On top of that, we’re dealing with human relationships, and different people relate to their friends differently. What works for some friendships might not work for others. You might even notice this between your own friends: one tactic works really well with one friend and crashes and burns with another.
The best thing you can do is be honest. That works for pretty much everybody. Tell them basically what you just told me: that you’re super stressed out and you don’t want to hurt their feelings by accident. Warn them that you might get snippy, but you don’t mean it, and they should tell you if they feel hurt.
However, this doesn’t give you a free pass to be a jerk; you should still try not to be snarky with your friends. This kind of honesty helps you just in case you end up being accidentally awful to one of your friends.
Another thing you can do is schedule in time to spend with your friends, where you all just set your work aside and hang out for a while. This can be really great if you can pull it off, because one of the things you have to remember is that your friends are stressed out too. They need downtime just as much as you do. If you can coordinate it well, then you can spend your downtime together, which can be a big stress relief.
Pick a night to be movie night, or take two hours every week to play a video game together. Really just choose something you can do together without the stress of schoolwork interfering. This can really help keep you from being irritable around your friends when you’re stressed.
Not alienating your friends when you’re under pressure really just comes down to being honest and communicating with them about what’s going on with you. They will most likely understand what you’re going through and try to support you as best as they can. Try to be as aware of yourself as you can. Pay attention to how you’re feeling in a given moment, and if you need to leave the room because you’re going to snap at someone, just do it.