Healthy Mind

12 Ways To Practice Community Care Digitally—for Your Own Self Care and That of Others

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong

If you’ve spent the better part of the year quarantining in isolation, practicing self care by, say, using your rose-quartz facial roller after an aromatic bubble bath likely doesn’t pack the same restorative punch as it might have in the past. Especially now, without as strong of a sense of human connection present in our lives, the whole “self” part of the self-care concept needs reexamining through the lens of community care.

“Self care is good—we all want to indulge in self care and engage in self care and be mindful of ourselves. But we actually want community care,” Sarah Adler, PsyD, chief clinical director of therapy practice Octave, said at a pre-pandemic Well+Good TALKS panel focused on combatting burnout. “We actually want to be cultivating those connections with other people, surrounding ourselves with people who are as interested in us and helping us as we are in helping them.” And it’s absolutely possible to practice community care virtually, while socially distant.

And given that we’re gregarious, community-oriented creatures by nature, it makes perfect sense that practicing self-care with the betterment of others in mind—virtually or in-person—is exactly what we need. “Particularly in times of isolation, when too much alone time can simply be too much, connecting with others can feel enlivening and reassuring,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear.

Beyond the psychological benefits to glean from bonding with others, life coach Kimberly Lucht points out that practicing self care with friends rather than in isolation may increase the probability that you’ll follow through on doing whatever it is that makes you feel good. “The more you can bring a community element into the self-care rituals that keep you grounded and centered, the more benefits you’ll reap from doing them,” she says.

Essentially, you can’t spell wellness without “we,” so here are 12 virtual ways to practice community care—that is, self care with friends that benefit both parties—near and far.

12 community care ideas for practicing self care with friends

1. Host a cooking group

If you don’t have banana bread fatigue after this year, why not cook together? Enroll in an online cooking class where you can learn something new with your friends and cook nourishing food. Or, just create your own baking club. “Bake together virtually and share results—either by photo or sending a package of your baking treats to other members,” says Dr. Manly.

2. Set up a virtual crafting club

If you’re a little low on acrylics, any sort of art project will work. “From sharing ideas and styles to trading and sharing the finished products, simple craft activities are grounding and connective,” Dr. Manly says.

3. Make vision boards together online

“This is perfect to set up for 2021, which will hopefully be less of a whirlwind,” Lucht says. And if you’d rather not break out the glue and glitter, you can keep things really digital and create individual (or collaborative!) vision boards on Pinterest.

4. Do candlelit self-massage as a group on Zoom

“I recommend getting some massage balls for this and following some YouTube videos,” says Lucht (or, for pointers, consult our guide to a full-body solo massage here).

5. Create a monthly or bi-weekly self-care book club that’s all about connecting

The subject can be literally whatever makes you happy: romance novels, personal development, small-town women in midcentury America who get seduced by the bright lights of New York City (just me)? Just keep it light. “With no pressure to be academic, join with others who enjoy connecting about self care, mental health, and the joys of inner exploration,” Dr. Manly says.

6. Schedule a time for weekend brunches online

Avocado toast, a cup a tea, your main crew, what could be better? As a bonus, you’re less likely to pop onto Zoom with the hangovers that used to dominate your Sunday catchup sesh (…just me again?).

7. Throw a virtual dance party

And to be perfectly clear, no dedicated cause for celebration is required. Dance therapy is a legitimate way to lower depression, and, as Lucht puts it, early 2000s hip-hop playlists were basically made for this.

8. Create a self-care connection texting tree

This involves cultivating a group text where positivity flows free. “No matter how many members you have, be it two or 20, members can commit to sending each other several upbeat texts each week,” says Dr. Manly. “The sender and the receivers benefit from these well-intentioned, upbeat messages that can include favorite quotes, uplifting photos, or self-created messages.”

9. Create a safe space to talk about worry or grief

Keeping yourself mentally well empowers you to process authentic emotions—and you don’t have to do it alone. “Sometimes you just need to talk it out,” Lucht says.

10. Do a virtual self-expression night

“Think talent show, but with more of a soulful edge: sing, dance, read your slam poetry,” Lucht says. Perfect for those who love to perform, this online open mic night will get everyone off mute.

11. Enjoy a stress-relieving fitness or meditation class together

Choose your favorite mindfulness practice, and do it together. “Hire somebody to lead a yoga or breathwork workshop online for your group, and split the cost,” says Lucht.

12. Welcome the new and full moon with your coven online

For the astrologically inclined, new moon intention-setting parties and moon-water making gatherings can be fun ways to practice self care with friends. I used to hold these IRL with my friends, but even though they’ve since moved online, we still get witchy through Zoom. “There’s so many rituals to choose from, my favorite is intention and release work,” Lucht says.

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