Over the past few months, there has been an ongoing discussion about the importance of self-care in tumultuous times. In the midst of uncertainty, we’ve encouraged each other to meditate, to practice yoga, to spend more time reading and less time scrolling on our phones.
But while self-care is important, it isn’t enough to make it through times like these. Self-care is an individualized answer to a collective problem, and when things are going downhill, we need to give support to our own communities—and be open to receiving that support when we’re in need.
Human beings are tribal creatures. We need each other to survive. That’s why we need to look beyond self-care and start thinking about community care, especially in times like these. Community care means serving those around you with the skills and resources you have, and knowing that the same people will have your back when you need help. Here are a few ways to prioritize community care in your area.
1. Connect With a Volunteer Network
The easiest way to begin practicing community care is by connecting with a local volunteer network. Chances are, other people in your area are concerned about the same ongoing issues that you want to remedy. Look for groups that emphasize the importance of mutual aid projects. Charity is generally a top-down effort, carried out by a specific hierarchy. But mutual aid involves members of a particular community organizing together to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. It’s a grassroots, bottom-up approach built on developing trust.
But if you can’t find a local group centered around mutual aid, and you don’t feel like you’re personally experienced enough to start one, simply try to get in touch with some like-minded people who care about the same causes that you and go from there. Once you’re working with them side-by-side, you’ll have a better understanding of which needs are not being met in your community, and you can begin coming up with ways to address these problems.
2. Nature and Community Care
You can also practice community care by getting involved with a community garden or regular clean-up effort. Of course, if you’ll be working alongside other people, you’ll want to bring a mask, just to be on the safe side!
There may be a plot of land in your town where people can pay for a personal garden plot and work alongside others while gardening, or there might be one large plot where people garden together and then decide what to do with the harvest. Or maybe you and your friends could start a group garden in someone’s yard and split up your harvest! Community gardens serve many purposes. For example, you’ll undoubtedly learn valuable skills through gardening, which can help you feed yourself and your household on a reduced budget. And with a community garden, you can also distribute fresh produce to people in your community who need it. Perhaps this means connecting with local organizers involved with churches, homeless shelters, or soup kitchens.
Additionally, getting a group together who can clean up your neighborhood is relatively simple. Call up a few of your friends, pick a time when you’re usually free on the weekends, and head out with gloves and a few bags to fill up with trash. Beautifying your neighborhood can definitely help bring people together!
3. Join a “Support” Group
Do you ever feel like you wish you had someone to vent to about the issues that frustrate you the most—but you don’t have anyone in your life who understands? Trying looking for a group of likeminded people on Meet Up. You might find a book club, a spiritual group, or a group centered around another activity you enjoy. I’ve personally found this to be very rewarding.
Joining a virtual group focused on a particular issue can be an imperfect solution. I’ll be the first to admit that online interactions don’t necessarily replace offline friendships, and spending too much time chatting online can draw you away from what’s going on around you. But knowing that you have a space where you can vent or offer advice when appropriate is helpful. I’m in a group chat specifically focused on local political issues, to which a friend I know through volunteering added me. While I don’t know everyone in this virtual group, I’ve already learned a lot from chatting with them about community issues.
We definitely don’t need to ditch self-care. But we do need to keep in mind that we can only solve these larger problems by coming together. Directing your efforts towards community care is very fulfilling, and in the end, everyone benefits.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!