By: Leandra Beabout
Typically, solo travel is the perfect invitation to reflect and practice new rituals. But midway into my summer trip in Bulgaria, the sheen of adventure started to wear thin. I felt weary. Uninspired. Retracing the same sidewalk downtown each day, requesting a table for one, then wandering back for another evening alone filled my stomach with dread.
I realized I was lonely — something a weekend of bubble baths, face masks and reflective journaling can’t fix. All the self-care in the world won’t compensate for connection with others.
So, I joined a co-working space, a place where I write each day and enter a built-in community of travelers open to dinner plans and weekend hiking treks. Not so magically, my lethargy and dark mood lifted.
If you find yourself feeling lonely, you’re not alone. In May, Forbes published a research-heavy article on Millennials and loneliness. It turns out that the generation of #selfcare, side hustles and social media craves more face-to-face connection. The truth is, sometimes we need to look outside of ourselves for support. Like intuitive self-care, integration into a community should be a choice for positive mental health too.
Formal community-care has been used for years in the medical, social work and nonprofit sectors. But personal “community-care” can be simple. It starts with acknowledging that we can’t meet all our needs in isolation, then looking outside ourselves for ways to give and receive care from others.
Here are five tips for implementing community-care into your life, starting today.
Have you ever felt like you’re missing connection to something bigger than yourself? Volunteering might not be your first thought when you feel depleted. But volunteering provides a sense of purpose and built-in community of like-minded people. Pouring your energy into helping others also rewards your own heart and mind in a way that self-care simply can’t.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s easy to stay in bed, scroll through Instagram, and beat yourself up for not having the energy to #selfcare like the pros. Gently remind yourself that seeking support complements, rather than negates, self-care. This could mean making an appointment with a therapist. It could also mean texting a friend or family member to let them know you need company or a conversation. It might feel unnatural at first, but it’s always okay to ask for help.
Social media has saved long-distance friendships and allowed new ones to blossom over common interests. But there’s no substitute for a face-to-face conversation with someone who cares about you. Scheduling regular coffee dates or outings with friends will keep you feeling connected in deeper and more lasting ways than a like, share, or retweet.
Do you need a workout buddy? A friend who loves going wine tasting as much as you do? It’s never too late to make new connections! From the Nextdoor neighborhood friendship app to BumbleBFF, there is no shortage of ways to expand your connections. Local Facebook groups are a great way to meet people with similar interests too!
Exercise can be a form of self-care and community-care! We already know that fitness is good for our physical and mental health. Why not integrate it into your social and emotional health too? While there’s nothing wrong with heading to the gym solo or taking a run to clear your head, getting your sweat on with a group of new friends is a great way to stay motivated, accountable and integrated into a group.