When life gets hectic, spending time with friends often falls to the bottom of my priority list. Not because I don’t love spending time with friends — I do — but when the kids get sick, work beckons, and the laundry piles up, something has to give.

That’s one of the great things about having friends. True friends understand that life gets busy, sometimes crazy busy, and that you’re still going to be friends even if they don’t hear from you for a few weeks or *ahem* a few months. They get it, because they have their own crazy lives to live.

But here’s what happens when it’s been too long: I find myself going through friend withdrawals. The symptoms include getting teary-eyed when life hands me more than I think I can handle, daydreaming about a beach vacation, and laughing out loud at funny friend memories or over-sharing friend stories. That’s when I know it’s time to pick up the phone. Or, better yet, go have lunch, or get a drink, or get on a plane to go see them.

When I found myself experiencing all of the above symptoms over the holidays, I vowed to spend more time with friends, especially those I hadn’t seen in a while. So when I stumbled upon a screamin’ sale on plane tickets, I couldn’t pass it up.

I might not have bought the ticket had it not been for a nudge from my boss and friend, Dana, who’s spent the last month or so encouraging her employees to make healthy choices. For me, spending time with friends keeps me sane, therefore mentally healthy.

Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Colorado to visit a girlfriend I’ve only seen a handful of times since moving from Nebraska to Oregon 14 years ago. Despite being more than 1,200 miles apart, we’ve remained close. We talk on the phone about once a month, and take turns visiting each other whenever one of us has a baby — there are five kiddos between us — which means a trip every few years. Her most recent bundle of joy arrived four months ago, so a trip was in order.

I made her promise not to make grand plans. I just wanted to “hang out,” so that’s what we did. There were even a few let’s-just-stay-in-our-pajamas-and-eat-cookies days. Seriously, what could be more therapeutic than that? Although, we did manage to squeeze in some shopping and pedicures (because that’s what you do when you can’t leave the new baby at home with the hubs for more than a couple hours).

But by far my favorite moment was just sitting on the couch with my friend and her husband, laughing and laughing as we watched the 40th Anniversary of SNL. It’s the simple things.

While I was there, I also managed to reconnect with a couple other friends I hadn’t seen in a while. One was a long-lost friend from high school who’d found me on Facebook a few months back. We met at a neighborhood park to catch up, and as we talked — about our kids, our parents, where we lived, our work — the years that separated us seemed to fold together like an accordion.

Friendships and trips like these are priceless.

So, here’s my advice to you: Make time for friends. You will be happier and healthier because if it. That stack of work on your desk and the laundry piling up at home? They’ll be there when you get back.