Community-Care During Social Distancing

Many of us are familiar with the idea of self-care- the idea of making sure we’re meeting our needs so we can continue to show up for our job, our families, and ourselves. During this unique time in history, as people are

facing higher levels of mental health struggles, financial insecurity, and collective trauma, we are being called to “self-care” more than ever. To unpack if self-care is what we need, we first need to understand what self-care is and how it differs from or relates to community care.

Self-care is the practice of ensuring our needs are met. It’s about nourishing our bodies, caring for our mental health, and building an overall sense of well-being for ourselves. Self-care was a radical concept by Black feminists in the 1980’s, but in the last few decades has been appropriated by predominately white women operating under late-stage capitalism, leading self-care to become a practice that replicates the same harmful and oppressive dynamics as the systems people are supposed to be taking care from.

Self-care is increasingly being criticized as a practice limited to the financially secure, privileged, and able-bodied members of society.

Current self-care practices centers on material pleasures and indulgence, rather than a holistic lifestyle in which people take a radical approach to prioritizing their well-being and that of their community. Today’s self-care is not a sustainable practice for healthy lives because it divorces us from our communities, and fails to understand all the economic, racialized, and political reasons it’s simply not obtainable to most people.

With all that in mind, the increasing dialogue of self-care indicates many people in our communities are feeling burned out, disenfranchised, and out right broken by the oppressive systems we are all operating in. Constant exposure to racism, state violence, ICE raids, police brutality, and a failing economy are taxing the most vulnerable members of our community. These issues are leading to increased housing insecurity, families being torn about, employment loss, and a deep sense of despair. In all this, people also have decreased contact with the community they would normally rely on, making it even harder than usual to engage in meaningful care practices.

The question, in this time of collective community trauma and physical distancing, is how can we pull together to continue providing care to all members of our community? How do we continue to place the collective good of our communities at the top of our priority list? How can we do this when our own resources have been reduced, and our own emotional and mental capacity to give is diminished? Below we have provided a short list of things we can do to continue practicing community care during this unique time in history.

Reduce contact as much as possible

Practicing social distancing is hard, it is necessary though to ensuring the most vulnerable members of our communities can stay safe and healthy. COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people with underlying health conditions, and the Black and Latinx community are being hit the hardest. This is the result of many complex factors, with systemic racism being the underlying cause of all these factors. Undocumented workers in particular are facing unique challenges as they face increased risk of being stopped by law enforcement while traveling to work, don’t have the same access to healthcare and stimulus packages, and fewer protections in the event they lose their job. Many undocumented immigrants work in frontline, essential roles, further increasing their risk of exposure.

Provide financial or material support where you can

If you are fortunate enough to not need your stimulus check, or find yourself with disposable income, there are many options for donating money to people in need. Communities have organized to increase financial support to immigrants that don’t have access to stimulus checks, low-income frontline workers, and families that have lost their income. Money can be donated through non-profit organizations, fundraisers, or directly to individuals or families in need. If you don’t have the means to donate money, you can organize fundraisers for community members in need, or arrange to donate other material items. Sewing masks, sharing vegetables grown in a home garden, delivering meals or canned goods to people in need are all examples of how community members can provide material supports without donating money.

QuaranTEAM safely

Shelter-in-place orders continue to be extended, leading people to establish new norms. This can be especially difficult for some populations of people, including those who live with depression or other mental health challenges, single parents, financially vulnerable, and people with chronic health conditions. QuaranTEAMing is one of these new norms- groups of people choosing to quarantine together as a way to provide financial, emotional, and social support during this time. For quaranTEAMing to be successful, there are a few guidelines people should agree to:

  • Ability to comply with shelter-in-place orders.

  • Honest communication about exposure to COVID-19.

  • Limit social contact to the people you have chosen to quarantine with.

  • Communicate needs and boundaries on an ongoing basis.

  • If children are in the home discuss the roles, responsibilities, and limits of non-parent adults in the home.

Deliver essential items

Providing support by delivering essential items, such as groceries, medications, and household items, can reduce overall social contact and reinforce physical distancing practices. This may be especially helpful for single parents or people with underlying health conditions who face unique challenges in attempting to obtain essential items. If you’re going out for supplies, check in with people to see if they need anything. It’s important to practice good hygiene by wearing a mask, wiping down all items you touch, and leaving items outside the person’s door to reduce contact.

Use technology to stay connected

Technology allows people to stay connected even when they can’t be physically together. Video calls, watch parties, and video games, all provide a variety of ways to connect with people and continue to build relationships. A simple “how are you today?” text lets people know we’re thinking about them. Creating opportunities to sustain relationships becomes even more possible with technology. Some ideas may include:

  • Virtual family reunion

  • Weekly video chat with a group of friends

  • Playing a video game together

  • Hosting a watch party

  • Binge the same show and text about it

This is challenging for all of us. We are creating new norms, facing new challenges, and living through a collective trauma. Continuing to build and sustain community connections will help ensure we have a strong informal network that will be needed to launch successful recovery initiatives.

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