Building CommUNITY During Social Distancing and Self-Quarantine
You Are Not Alone
During a time of uncertainty and fear, it can be easy to feel isolated and alone (especially, when current CDC recommendations call for a degree of social isolation). You may even feel a sense of disconnection…there’s a lot going on and a lot to process!
Although, it may feel like a “silly” time to find the silverlining (and, certainly, I do not want to diminish the hardship many of our community members are currently experiencing or will likely experience over the coming weeks). I do find sometimes, crisis situations lend themselves to fostering a sense of community and belonging if we are able to look hard enough.
Think of an incredibly challenging event you have faced (and it might even be right now!). What did you crave most? I wonder if it might have been a sense of support or connectedness? A feeling that tells us, we are not alone.
First, it can be helpful to draw on what we as humans are programmed to do…which is to connect! We have a biological predisposition to seek connection, closeness, and attachment with others.
At the core, we are social creatures. How we go about having our needs for connectedness met can vary, but I think most of us can relate to the desire to feel like a part of something larger than ourselves (i.e. finding our community: whether this means your social network, a bowling league, athletic team, a religious group, etc).
I wanted to share ideas that may help you to foster a sense of belonging and connectedness, during a trying time, that can easily lend itself to feeling quite the opposite (disconnected and isolated). Below are a few tips to help you cultivate unity during a time of polarization.
You’re Not Alone
Everyone is experiencing the consequences of Covid-19. Although the consequences we each experience may vary in their specifics, we are all experiencing them. Unfortunately, no one has the opportunity to “opt-out.” This may in some ways feel disheartening, but perhaps we can view this as a more global opportunity to foster connectedness through shared experiences.
We can seek cohesion, in knowing, across the world others are faced with the same hard questions, the same uncertainties, and are continuing to foster resilience. There is power in normalizing and sharing the burden of hardships. [For more on adapting to change, check out this article, Resilience: How to Adapt to Change.]
Reflect On What You Can Control And How This Can Help Your Community (And Yourself)
There is no beating around the bush, there’s A LOT of uncertainty about what the future might look like. However, there are things each of us has the power to impact. We are all able to contribute to the safety of ourselves and our community members. Find your agency in a situation where you may feel disempowered!
Example: we all have the power to control our hygiene (like washing our hands and avoiding touching our faces) and to truly take part in social distancing efforts. Your individual efforts do have a community impact.
Happiness research shows we feel better by doing good things for others. How can you contribute to the wellbeing of your community? Is this by donating to your local food bank (if able)? Or, this could simply mean doing your part to abide by health and safety recommendations.
Conversely, perhaps you might find it beneficial to access community support and resources. Healthy communities can cultivate positive relationships, involving reciprocal give and take. If each person assumes responsibility for their part, we can inadvertently overcome obstacles as a community.
We Are All Connected
If the spread of this virus has demonstrated one thing, it is that we are connected worldwide through many different channels. This means, from a systemic perspective, when one person changes their actions, this can create a ripple effect. This then has the power to ultimately change the entire system. How cool is that?!
What this boils down to is recognizing we are part of a larger functioning system, and we each have power and agency to impact positive change. Your role in the system matters and is inherently intertwined with others.
Access Your Network (and, no, I’m not just talking about your wifi)
Identify your social support system and lean on them, as they will likely need to lean on you during this time. Specific activities that foster a sense of unity can have a profound impact on our individual sense of wellbeing. [Read: Coronavirus Life: Practical Advice to Help You Cope for more ways you can focus on your individual sense of wellbeing while being there for your community.]
Identify how you can feel close while practicing physical distance. Example: meeting with friends via FaceTime and participating in “virtual” activities.
I know this doesn’t take away the pain, fear, and loss you may be experiencing. Instead, my hope is to shed a small light on ways we could find unity within our communities. In turn, perhaps this may help to counterbalance some of the emotional burden.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on how we, as a collective society, will look back on this experience. What might we say about it? Perhaps we will be able to say, we stood by one another and worked to protect not only our own individual interests, but that of our loved ones and community members.
Maybe we will be able to share that we looked at the worldwide consequences and thought about ways we each could individually impact positive change (because, believe it or not, we do have some agency). Not that we didn’t think about ourselves (because this is important too), but that we considered our own well-being in the context of others. We are stronger together.
In a time where you may feel alone, I’d like to wish you not only health but also unity and connectedness.
Rachel Harder, MA, LPC, MFTC
Rachel Harder, MA, LPC, MFTC helps you find passion and joy in yourself and your relationships. She supports you in creating meaning and happiness, and not only facing your challenges — but triumphantly overcoming them.
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