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  • Writer's pictureJessica McQuistin

Self-Care & Community Care: What's the Connection?

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

When choosing categories for this blog, I went back and forth between wellness and self-care. Self-care just sounds so...self-centered. And limiting. What about belonging and connection? Self-care alone can't give you that. And what about the sense of fulfillment that comes from helping others? Acts of kindness are known to lift moods, even helping people cope with depression.

Enter community care.

For the purpose of this post, I'm going to define community care as "organizing, leading, or participating in wellness activities in a group (outside of your immediate family) or contributing to a community initiative or project". I'm choosing to exclude direct family members because as a mom, caring for them is just part of my job, whereas extending that care into the broader community feels like more of a choice. I could write a whole other post on family wellness (and I just might)!

I also want to recognize that other definitions of community care focus more on anti-oppression work, which is incredibly important, but beyond the scope of this post, and deserving of more in-depth exploration than I can squeeze into here.

Here are some community care examples from my own life:

1. Mom & Baby Potluck Lunches

When I was a brand new mom on maternity leave, another mom who'd just had her third child invited me to weekly potluck lunches that she hosted at her house. Everyone brought something to share and there was no pressure to bring anything fancy - cut-up fruit or vegetables, or a storebought dip were perfectly acceptable. Together we ate, chatted, and continued doing all the other things that you do with new babies (feeding them, changing them, tummy time, etc.), only we weren't doing it alone, and that made an enormous difference.

2. Queen Street Yoga

Community is a cornerstone of Queen Street Yoga, where I am fortunate to be a member. The sense of belonging that they have created is outstanding and inclusive, shattering stereotypical ideas about who yoga is meant for. The sense of community can be felt in any of their group classes, live or virtual, and their free community care events are really something special. These soirees typically include a yoga class, some beautiful poetry, and conversation circles that allow participants to connect and self-reflect in a supportive space.

3. From Behind the Mask Community Quilt

Several months ago, the kids and I participated in the From Behind the Mask project. Volunteers assembled packages of fabric rectangles (blank quilt squares), and sewing materials, and mailed them to participants in Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. Participants were prompted to create an artistic representation of how their lives have changed throughout the pandemic. The quilt squares were then mailed in and assembled by volunteers into a gigantic quilt tied together with strings, each quilt square resembling a mask, a symbol of how we are keeping each other safe during the pandemic. Quilt squares can be viewed online, and the completed quilt will be on display at the Homer Watson House and Gallery in Kitchener.

This creative outlet couldn't have come at a better time! It gave the kids and I a tactile and skill-building activity into which we could channel our emotions and reflect on our experiences of the pandemic. It also made us feel like we were connected to the greater community, even while we were isolated in our home. I can't wait to see the finished product in person! I imagine it will be a cathartic experience, standing in front of a large visual representation of what our community has gone through, separately yet together.

4. Community Fridge KW

A few months ago, a Community Fridge was installed in downtown Kitchener, where businesses and community members can donate food items for anyone to access 24/7, no questions asked. I started making small donations whenever I was in the area and eventually joined their Facebook Group of volunteers who inspect and clean the fridge, keeping it safe for everyone. Contributing fresh food or completing a check-in always gives me a boost, as these are small positive actions within my control (during a time when so much is out of my control). I'm also happy to be contributing (in a small way) to reducing food insecurity and food waste in the region.

If you've read this far, you may be thinking: Jessica, all the examples of community care you just shared are also self-care! I wholeheartedly agree. I don't think it's possible to engage with a community without benefiting personally. When we connect, support, and uplift one another, everyone wins.

And yet...I have chosen Self-Care as one of my main blog topics.

Personally, allowing myself the time and space to go deeply inward feels essential for my wellbeing. This is probably due to my introspective, introverted, intuitive, and intrinsically motivated nature - something I am still learning to embrace. Through solo self-care, I can access a well of strength, resilience, peace, and joy that once opened, I naturally want to radiate outward and share with the whole world.

Mental health counsellors, life coaches, family members, and friends have often told me that self-awareness is one of my unique strengths. (I'm not missing the irony here, that others have had to point out my self-awareness for me to recognize it!) So, as much as I value community care, I also prioritize self-care. That way, I can operate and take care of myself and others from a place of strength and resilience.

Here are some of my go-to self-care methods:

- getting a good night's sleep

- spending time in solitude

- indulging in a solo hobby, such as baking, sewing, or playing piano

- having unplanned time to do whatever I want

- practicing mindfulness and meditation

- preparing delicious, healthy (and occasionally splurge-worthy) food

- reading and listening to podcasts

- moving my body in any way that feels good (walking, jogging, yoga, intuitive movement)

- painting my toenails

- journalling

This quote sums up my feelings about self-care:

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
-Eleanor Brown

How about you? Are you more self-care-oriented or community-focused? What lifts you up and fuels your spirit? What forms of wellness feel most accessible and desirable to you? There is no wrong answer. Wellness is both an individual and a communal phenomenon.

Here's my parting wish for you today:

May you be well.

May you belong.

May you be true to yourself.

May you honour your needs.

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