When Melissa came to see me, she felt her life was fast unraveling -- trouble with insomnia, plagued with a recurrent weight problem, and stressed to the point that she had even considered taking her own life.

Melissa, a critical care nurse, had been on call twenty-four hours a day for several days. For months, her life had not been her own.

She had given everything for her career, and now it was taking its toll.

As we talked, I realized Melissa really had no friends. She had acquaintances, colleagues, and people with whom she'd have coffee at the hospital -- but she had no soul mates. I suggested to Melissa that a spirited, renewed vitality could come about by nurturing three kinds of friendships:

1) A relationship with someone older and wiser, who'd lived long enough to understand the value of trusting, intimate friendships. This would be someone Melissa could just enjoy, listen to, and learn from without needing to make a major contribution.

2) Seek to build a friendship with someone her own age -- a person she could easily relate to because of shared interests and values, a true peer. Immediately Melissa thought of a woman at her church she would like to get to know better but with whom she had hardly ever spoken.

3) Find some time each month to be a mentor to a person younger than she. Melissa said that because she is bilingual, she might like to help a foreign-born child in the inner city with his or her English.

At first I was afraid Melissa was almost too eager to establish these relationships. But the more we talked about developing friendships that were important and meaningful to her, the more relaxed she became about reaching out and extending herself to others.

Rather than these relationships becoming a drain on her already overscheduled life, she began to look for holes in her schedule so she could get off her treadmill of frustration and fatigue and start touching the lives of others.

Melissa started seeing these three potential relationships as an exquisite mixed bouquet, each flower making its unique contribution to the beauty and fragrance of the whole.

She made the commitment to go beyond herself and to learn again how to be a friend.

Do you have too few friendships in your life? Or too few friendships that are mutually beneficial? Take a cue from Melissa. Consider establishing at least three new relationships of significance. You may set about seeking out specific types of friendships, as Melissa did, or you may simply find ways of opening your life up to people in general and letting new relationships naturally unfold.

"Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them." ~Francesco Guicciardini

2008 Gregory L. Jantz, How To De-Stress Your Life, Revell.

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