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By: Rachel Ruff

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After many weeks have passed by in self-quarantine, I have found myself longing for more and more ways to feel connected with humans; a sense of belonging or inclusion. This has put me in a unique situation like no other. It is the first time where I have found myself to be somewhat stuck. That is when I knew I needed to think out of the box, go the extra mile, try something new, and simply try my best to make this new reality the best it can be. It is important to remember that the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of a global pandemic can bring new and uncomfortable emotions that can disrupt our everyday lives. We as a society are potentially left with limited ways to carry on as we always have and even make ends meet week-to-week. This can be disruptive and challenging for many individuals and families. I too, was left with all of these uncomfortable emotions and needed to turn to those around me for extra support. I personally have not seen anyone in my community/inner circle in almost two months. Once I recognized that my emotions were stemming from my isolation, I knew the only way I could make my situation better was to act on it. Although I had conflicting emotions inside and wanted to draw inward, I knew I would help myself and my friends by sending some kind words and asking how they were doing. I decided to reach out and text three of my friends. It can be hard to reach out first as this has been a personal challenge of mine for months, but you have to start somewhere. It may seem somewhat simple and insignificant to some, but we are living in unprecedented times, and connection is largely through electronics; a simple text means so much to me and you never know how much it could mean to someone else within your community. 

We are all different in many ways and can process emotions very differently. It is important to ground yourself somewhere. Looking inwards and reflecting on my own emotions motivated me to reach out to those around me, because I knew they were likely going through similar emotions. Having a sense of community can be a valuable aspect to this new way of life we are all trying to adjust to, we must understand and embrace that; we must create a new normal.

When we think about what means the most to us, many are probably thinking about loved ones, like close friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers. These people we surround ourselves with become one with our identity and can create a sense of connection and network. These circles of community look differently for everyone. Some may view their community much differently than others, but we all find community somehow within our day-to-day life. Humans thrive best when surrounded by inclusive and supportive people that build a positive foundation that interlaces amongst each other. It can be easy to fall into a certain routine or cycle of normalcy during times like these. You may feel depleted one day and find yourself with no energy for any form of interaction. Other days you may find yourself craving a day full of human interaction and a sense of belonging. It is important to remember that it will not be easy to meet these needs of the community every day, especially when you potentially may feel more distant and unconnected than usual, but there are also many things you can do to build your community around you, while simultaneously building up your best self. 

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Even though we as a society are undergoing unprecedented times of physical isolation, it does not mean we have to be completely isolated. The internet and online platforms can allow you to reach people across the world, which can allow for our communities to grow globally. Communities do not have to have geographical barriers, especially during times like these. Resources like the internet and social media can expand our opportunities and can create new ways of interaction and communication. 

How to jumpstart  building your community during unprecedented times

  1. Changing your perspective

It can be easy to fall into patterns of habit and even harder to jump out of your comfort zone. Many of us may view the world in a me vs. them mindset that can hinder confidence to lend a reaching hand to a friend or family member. Challenge yourself daily to focus on self-awareness and re-evaluate how you perceive others. Visualization can be a great tool to better understand yourself and allows for genuine time spent on reflection of your current situation and how you can make it better. Also, take some time to think of other’s perspectives and try to understand their circumstances. This may help you better collaborate with others within your community. It can be difficult at first to break old patterns of thinking, but try your best to make yourself accountable during these times, especially if you are wanting to build up those around you. By changing your perspective or altering the way you see others, you are opening opportunities to see others in new ways which may motivate you to make a new friend or reach out to someone you have not connected with in a while. They are only one message away, and I am sure this would only create more positivity in their life as well. 

2. Small Acts of Kindness

Our society is hurting in many ways and it is important to recognize that all of us are affected differently, in social, mental, and economic ways by COVID-19. No matter what others circumstances are, small acts of kindness or friendly gestures can go a long way and may mean more to those in your community right now. Being mindful of others and going the extra mile can truly impact someone else more than you may know and often those gestures motivate others to spread kindness as well. Simply reaching out to someone you care about can only enhance the strength of being connected in your community or help build a new one. Small acts of kindness can look like a quick phone call to a friend, or donating to your co-worker’s charity, or spending extra time helping your friend on a project they are passionate about. A simple “Hello, how are you?” is a meaningful act that shows you are present and that you care. General practices of gratitude, compassion, and empathy are great ways to create positive and healthy habits in your life that will not only build you up, but will build those within your community as well. 

3. Make the effort

It can be troubling or stressful to some who may struggle to find new ways to connect with others in your community. There are always new opportunities to build community or start a conversation, even though reaching out first to a friend or family member can be hard sometimes. Jack Ricchiuto believes that “Community is about the degree of connection not the scope of consumption. It happens when people move from self-interest to mutual-interest.” It is important to stay consistent with making an effort once you have reached out or made that initiative to connect with someone in your life. At the end of the day, you never truly know what someone else is going through. You also must realize that the fear of rejection can not control your success in strengthening your community or building new relationships in your life. Fear of rejection can be a challenge, especially for myself at times, but it is best to remember that this effort you make will reward you in the end and positively impact someone else in your circle, or even outside your circle. If you never take a chance, you will never know what kind of fruitful and rewarding relationships may come from it. I invite you to make that effort no matter the amount of fear of rejection you may hold inside you.

4. Jump out of your comfort zone

While many of us may have more time on our hands, it could be valuable to you and your community to use this extra time by trying something new. This can grow your inner circle and also introduces you to new people that are also trying new things. Jumping out of your comfort zone can allow you to share your new experiences or hobbies with those in your community and can motivate them to get out of their comfort zone too. Take this time and reflect on yourself. Look inwards and dive deep into a past dream or goal of yours and make it a reality. This can be small like making new cleanings habits in your home, practicing a new language, or making a new recipe. When you try something new, it allows you to create new goals for yourself. You can share these new goals with others and potentially motivate them to hold you accountable as well. New ambitions or endeavors also expand your pool of connection and open doors to new people and new ideas, even if it is all through the internet or your cell phone! 

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Don’t forget that we are all in this together and small steps to building up those around you will only add more value and positivity to this new life we are co-creating. 

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