You Are Not Alone
After reflecting on the aftermath of a global pandemic and seeing the effects of social distancing and isolation, I’ve seen many clients struggle with a lasting sense of loneliness or alienation. As a therapist and life coach, I want to assure you that it’s completely natural to feel a continued sense of disconnection…there was a lot going on and a lot to process! During any time of uncertainty and fear, it can be easy to feel isolated and alone. Whether you were adhering to the CDC recommendations for social isolation, trying to respect the wellbeing and boundaries of others, or just feeling isolated in the polarizing climate of the times, this has been a difficult season where genuine joy and connection seem hard to find.
Although it may feel like a premature time to look for the silver lining, I do sometimes find that crisis situations lend themselves to fostering a sense of community and belonging if we are able to look hard enough. (Certainly, I do not want to diminish the hardship many of our community members are currently experiencing or will likely continue to experience from the difficulty of COVID-related changes). However, I know this desire to connect, belong and find a supportive community is a beautiful sign of healthy personal growth. Think of an incredibly challenging event you have faced. (In fact, you might even be experiencing it right now!) What did you crave most? I wonder if it might have been a sense of support or connectedness? This feeling tells us we are not alone.
Building Community During Isolating Times
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. For example, think of all the multiple ways we attempt at finding our community. Whether this means reaching out to your social network, joining a bowling league, being a part of an athletic team, or being a committed member of a religious group, we all just want to connect and belong.
I wanted to share ideas that may help you to foster a sense of belonging and connectedness. During this trying time, you don’t want to feel disconnected or isolated. Below are a few tips to help you cultivate unity during a time of polarization.
5 Ways to Cultivate Unity and Community
#1 Know That You’re Not Alone
Everyone is experiencing the continual consequences of Covid-19. Although the repercussions of 2020 may vary in their specifics, we are all still feeling the disequilibrium. 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 others are faced with the same hard questions, the same uncertainties, and are continuing to foster resilience all across the world. There is power in normalizing and sharing the burden of hardships, and through increased empathy, we have more opportunities for true connection.
[For more on adapting to change, check out this article, Resilience: How to Adapt to Change]
#2 Reflect On What You Can Control
There is no beating around the bush, there’s A LOT of uncertainty about what the future might look like. This can leave us feeling quite powerless. 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!
For example, we all have the power to control our hygiene and attend to self-care. This simple act of caring for ourselves is not only great for our own mental health, it empowers us to demonstrate our own value and worth. Remember, you can craft a life that best reflects your values through intentional living. If you need coaching in feeling more empowered, we are here to help you!
#3 Community Contributions: Do Things For Others
Happiness research shows we feel better by doing good things for others. How can you contribute to the wellbeing of your community? For some, this may mean that you can donate to your local food bank. Or, this could simply mean being a good listener to a friend.
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.
#4 Understand How You’re Connected To Others
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.
#5 Access Your Network
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. Despite the fact that you may not always see to eye to eye with everyone, there are ways to find common ground.
Identify how you can feel close if you are required to practice physical distance. For example, many clients have shared how connected they feel even meeting with friends via FaceTime or 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.
Meet Rachel: a marriage and family therapist, individual therapist, premarital counselor, and life coach who helps clients find passion and joy in themselves and their relationships. She can support you in creating meaning and happiness, and not only facing your challenges — but triumphantly overcoming them.