Editors' Picks, Community, Love, Wellness, Social Justice

How community care makes self-care a social justice act

Self-care is an individual venture that can isolate people when they need help the most.

The language of self-care usually involves methods that can be monetarily expensive, and costly in use of time. A look at Instagram shows bath bombs, essential oils, and days spent away from work, walking in the park without responsibility. These methods often exclude the socioeconomically vulnerable. For people with children who require round the clock care or jobs that are demanding of time and energy, self-care culture seems inaccessible.

This is because self-care is often very individualized. It focuses on preserving the self, rather than extending out to challenge the parts of society that makes self-care culture necessary. The idea of a mental health day, says that a person takes a day off from work when they can no longer handle the stress of day-to-day activities. It does not, however, help to make the workday less stressful.

The language of self-care must change to include those who need it most.

One of the best ways to make self-care more accessible to the people around you is to help build and support community care initiatives. Community care does not always mean large-scale projects, like supporting food banks or marching for a higher minimum wage. Although it can include these things, there needs to be an initiative towards building networks of people who can help when community members need it. It’s about making self-care possible for those who cannot achieve it on their own.

A common image of community care is the old custom of cooking food for a family that suffers a loss of a family member; understanding full well that the grieving process might make it hard for those people to care for themselves.

Community care brings the concept of self-care outside of its individual barriers and shows that by reaching out, we can heal what’s inside. It allows community members to lean on each other when they are not OK and opens up a dialogue that enables helping one another.

Another integral part of community care is that because it extends outside of individual efforts, members can benefit from the expertise of multiple people. A network of people can include grief counselors, chefs, babysitters and accountants, all who can help at a moment’s notice and react to a wide variety of problems. In the example above, if someone loses a family member, a friend who is an accountant can help file end-of-life taxes, while a chef can make sure that the family is fed.

Everyone pitches in to make sure that the community can continue.

Our world can be isolating, and the concept of self-care is no exception. When making self-care accessible to low-income people, we might suggest a free meditation app or going for walks with your children to get exercise. However, these solutions still keep a person who’s suffering away from critical resources that can help them recover- and asking for help can be a terrifying thing. However, community care is a radical solution that empowers us to reach outside our boundaries to get the help we need.