Why It’s Time To Turn Self Care Into Community Care for Deeper Healing

Photo: Getty Images / Pekic
Thanks to the self-care movement, we’ve learned how critical it is for us to take care of ourselves and our well-being. Self care is pivotal for managing our social, emotional, and psychological well-being. Yes, it can manifest as going on vacation, booking a spa package, or getting our hair and nails done if that's your thing, but it also can also take the form of erecting boundaries, being accountable, and learning how to respond to our emotions.

However, there is often a huge component to self care that is rarely spoken about: community care. By erasing this very important component from the wellness movement, we are inadvertently doing a disservice to ourselves when it comes to having our needs met.

The idea of community care, essentially, is to use our power, privilege, and resources to better the people who are both in and out of our scope of reach. That can be a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, or a member of an organization that you frequent. It can also look like activism, practicing anti-racism, calling out injustices, donating to organizations, or simply asking someone, “What do you need and how can I help you?” In turn, you also receive help from that very community you're apart of. Community care is the foundation of togetherness; by cultivating it, we are better able to support our well-being and that of our loved ones.

Community care has been around for a very long time but was never really “mainstream.” I believe it has to do with this innate conditioning that many Americans uphold, which is independence over interdependence. (Just think of the old, very American saying of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Community care is the foundation of togetherness; by cultivating it, we are better able to support our well-being and that of our loved ones.

But there’s nothing wrong with relying on other people. After all, humans are deeply social by nature; we crave connection with others. As a therapist, I recognize that clients have a lot of needs that need to be met and they cannot do it all on their own, or just from engaging in therapy alone. People need self care, but they also need community care. That’s why I (and many other social workers like myself) operate both in clinical settings (therapy) and on a macro level to build communities and connect people to resources that are available and accessible to them.

Now, you don’t need to be a social worker to practice community care. This is not just an organizational practice, it is an individual practice that can be cultivated in our own circles. One of the biggest forms of self care (which is sadly often disregarded) is asking for help, and the help we seek most likely always comes from members within our community. So when it comes to shifting your efforts from self care to community care, understand that these are not two separate silos—they are interconnected.

Some micro-level examples of community care can look like:

  • Offering to babysit for a friend
  • Asking someone what kind of support they need during a difficult time
  • Cooking a meal for someone you know, just because
  • Creating a self-care kit for a friend, neighbor, or family member
  • Remembering the name of the person who served you or swiped your groceries

Community care on a macro level can look like:

  • Voting
  • Speaking up against injustices
  • Donating to organizations in need
  • Volunteering
  • Addressing conflict when it arises in the workplace and other social settings
  • Creating or joining a support group

There are many ways that we can care for ourselves, the same way there are many ways we can learn to care for others. Remember that self care is the bridge to community care, and community care is the bridge to community healing. As we work to heal each other, we can better heal ourselves.

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