We usually think of self-care as something each person is responsible to do independently and which primarily affects the individual. But as an interconnected network of individuals, a community is also made stronger through cared-for and rested people. Not only that, but the community is also essential to making individual self-care possible.
Self-care empowers you to give back to your community. Self-care is often necessary before expending energy caring for others. The first two steps in ABP’s Pause Path are Relax. and Refresh. for a reason. If we don’t take time to set aside stress and embrace peace and joy, eventually we will have little left of our exhausted selves to give. Honoring our own need for rest allows us to take the last step in the Pause Path and Renew. our community with energy and empathy.
Not only does self-care give us the energy to give back to the community, but the community can also help make sure individuals have the resources to engage in self-care. After we Relax. Refresh. Renew., we can help make sure others have the same opportunity. There may be many others in our local communities who are in need of care, especially those that are weary or often caring for others throughout the day. However, not everyone has the same access to the time, money, and space needed for self-care. That is where the community can help make rest possible for more individuals. Take care of yourself so that you can give of your best self, then look for ways to help others do the same.
Look for others that might need support.
Ask acquaintances, genuinely, how they’re doing. Check in with people you know might be having a hard time. It probably won’t be hard to find someone who is tired, sad, or frustrated and could use the support of someone in their community.
Offer specific ways you can help.
Try to anticipate needs and offer to meet them. For example, not everyone can take time off work or has the resources to hire childcare or other services that provide downtime to do something restorative for themselves. If you are able, you could offer to provide that space for them: “Can I have your kids over to my house this Friday afternoon?” or “I know you have a hectic schedule this week, can I do your grocery shopping/mow your lawn/cook dinner?” Give the gift of self-care to someone without the access, money, or time for it otherwise.
Even if you can’t help, having someone listen with empathy can be a great comfort. Let people rant to you about what they’re feeling, and show that you understand or can relate to what they’re going through. Just the gift of your time and attention can let someone know they’re not alone.
In a society that values work, busyness, and efficiency, let’s make sure people in our community don’t feel guilty for taking care of themselves. Let them know that they don’t have to fill their extra time with productivity and busyness. It’s okay—in fact a good thing—to pause when you need rest.
A community is made up of interdependent individuals—people who can help each other by listening and meeting the needs of others when we encourage and prioritize rest. A community is made stronger by individuals who take the time to care for themselves. And in turn, that strong community can make it possible for other members to have access to rest and care too.
Hannah Rau is a Michigan-based writer and writing tutor. Her favorite self-care activities include reading classic literature, burning lovely-smelling candles, creating watercolor paintings with instant coffee, and taking rambling strolls outdoors.