The concept of self-care has radical roots, but its history is often lost in today’s messaging that equates consumerism to caring for yourself. What’s also missing from the mainstream conversation is how community care — not just self-care — is key to our collective wellbeing. In the insightful article “Community Care — Not Just Self-Care — Is Key to Our Collective Wellbeing,” Tiffany Curtis sheds light on this crucial aspect of our lives.
☼ Community Care goes beyond individual efforts
Community care goes beyond individual efforts and encompasses the collective actions we take to foster health and happiness. As Donna Oriowo, a therapist and licensed independent clinical social worker, explains, it involves both what we contribute to and receive from the community we have built around ourselves.
Practicing community care can take various forms, such as cleaning for a friend going through a tough time, supporting mutual aid efforts, or strengthening relationships with our neighbors. Unlike the individual-focused narrative of self-care, community care emphasizes the benefits that each person’s wellbeing brings to the entire community.
☼ Benefit for Marginalized Communities
Marginalized communities, in particular, greatly benefit from community care. Facing systemic barriers that threaten their wellness, these communities rely on collective support to navigate the challenges imposed by white supremacy and other oppressive systems. By pooling together assets, resources, and time, community care enables individuals to tap into healing, restorative care, and love from one another.
☼ True Self-Care
The history of self-care and community care are intertwined. True self-care cannot thrive in isolation; it requires a supportive community to lean on during challenging times. The roots of self-care can be traced back to care institutions in the 1950s, where it initially denoted actions that fostered autonomy for residents. Over time, the definition has evolved, encompassing activities and practices that promote mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Communities of color played a pivotal role in establishing the connection between self-care and overall wellness. The Black Panther Party, in the 1970s, emphasized the importance of prioritizing wellbeing to develop resilience in the face of oppressive systems. Activist Audre Lorde’s declaration that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” further expanded the definition of self-care.
☼ Community Care and it’s health benefits
Today, community care looks like creating spaces for connection and support, sharing resources, and establishing dependable relationships. It involves both micro-level acts of kindness within our immediate circles and macro-level efforts that benefit the wider community.
Engaging in community care yields numerous health benefits. It strengthens social connections, warding off loneliness and contributing to increased happiness and better overall health. Research has shown that social support and connectedness are linked to reduced depressive symptoms, improved body mass index, better blood sugar control, and mitigated post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
☼ Envision a new System
Moreover, community care invites us to envision new systems of being and challenges the notion that self-care alone can overcome societal inequities. Instead of placing the burden solely on marginalized individuals to self-care their way out of these inequities, community care empowers them to support one another and address gaps in care. By taking care of each other, we foster health and healing in vulnerable populations, even in the absence of comprehensive support from organizations or governments.
Let us shift our focus from self-care alone to embracing community care as a means to enhance our individual and collective wellbeing. Together, we can create a more interconnected and supportive world.
Thank you for reading!
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