By Nancy Osborn, Ph.D., Psychologist/Trainer
The pandemic has brought greater focus on the inequities that exist in our communities.
It appears that the inequities are only getting worse. Many have lost their jobs and are facing mounting bills and crucial concerns about housing, food, and basic necessities.
The more fortunate and privileged are now working from home but may still be stressed about maintaining their jobs and navigating a new structure and responsibilities in their home with remote learning.
With all these stressors, it is no wonder that news sources are reporting increasing mental health issues.
The good news is that we can all stay centered and calmer if we first recognize that we are profoundly impacted by these life changes and then regularly participate in activities to care for ourselves.
One of the recommendations is for people to focus on their own self-care to help ease the daily stressors almost all of us are experiencing. Another recommendation could be made that we need to also focus on community self-care.
Most of us have likely heard that “we are all in this together,” which is moving in the direction of community self-care, but it is important for all of us to think about how we might intentionally take care of our communities.
Many people may not quite understand why self-care is so important, especially because it may seem selfish. There also may be some misunderstanding of what is meant by self-care since some people think of self-care as small luxuries we “treat” ourselves to like a manicure/pedicure.
The true meaning of self-care
Someone said “true self-care is making a life that you don’t need to regulate or escape from.”
Self-care in this context includes remembering to eat as healthy as possible, getting enough sleep, getting moderate exercise, going to the doctor when necessary, and making time for some downtime if at all possible.
We also obviously need to make time for breathing and spiritual practices and time to connect with others safely. It is the same principle espoused by flight attendants who tell passengers that they need to first put the oxygen mask on themselves and then attend to others. We have to focus on ourselves first to be able to take care of our responsibilities.
Currently, and actually always, it is also important for us to think about community self-care. Let’s face it, we need each other.
Our lives are fuller because we have each other so it is important that we take care of each other. So what are some ways we can do this?
Right now one of the relatively small ways we can do this is to wear a mask, to keep physically distanced from others, wash our hands frequently, etc. as recommended by the CDC. This is a great example of individual and community self-care because it keeps us and others safe.
Another way community self-care can be practiced is to challenge the inequities that have and are occurring. The easiest place to start is to listen to personal stories and learn from them. We can do what we can to ensure people have fresh food, or donate money or goods to nonprofits and agencies that serve our communities. We can also take an active interest in the governance of our communities by reading relevant news articles, watching live streams of city council meetings and education board meetings, and contacting our representatives.
It is crucial for us to think of how we can assist others in this challenging time. It is truly good self-care for us as individuals as well as for our communities to think about what each of us can do to help others.
This post was originally published on Health Forward Foundation's blog as part of a series.