Wellness

Why Community Is Essential To Your Mental Health

by Julia Gibson

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Wellness

Why Community Is Essential To Your Mental Health

Now more than ever.

There’s no denying that the current state of the world is overwhelming (understatement of the year). For most, our day-to-day lives have drastically shifted. One huge change? That we’re all keeping our distance from one another. Without seeing our people regularly, a lot of us are feeling that something big is missing. Turns out, community is pretty important to well-being. “Having a sense of community is crucial for mental health,” says Amy Fraser, Founder of OKREAL, a community-building mentorship resource for women. If anyone knows about finding community, it’s her.

What is it about a sense of community that is so essential to feeling good? “Problems become smaller when you have others to broaden your perspective and share the burden,” says Fraser. “The mental relief of this is huge: knowing that you are not alone, and knowing that you are seen and understood.” Not only is there the emotional benefit of community, there’s also benefits when it comes to personal development and goal-setting (and achieving!) that comes with being a part of a community. “Community connects you to something bigger than yourself, which is important for any kind of development,” says Fraser. “The right community will help get you where you want to be faster—providing opportunity and course-correction along the way. It’s impossible to reach our full potential when we’re siloed—we need others!”

It’s impossible to reach our full potential when we’re siloed—we need others!

Ok, we know how important it is to have a strong sense of community. But we’ve all experienced some form of blockage to connection, whether that’s fretting about fitting in, being afraid to reach out, or worrying about being liked. Why is it so tough to feel connected sometimes? It comes down to our own emotional experiences. “Trust is at the core of connection, and we’ve all experienced trust being broken,” says Fraser. “Whether that manifests in fear of being rejected when we’re vulnerable, or feeling shame around our weaknesses—when we’re afraid of opening up, it makes it hard to connect.” While that might take a bit to unpack fully (thanks therapy), there are some actionable steps you can take to ease some of that fear. Fraser has four top tips to overcoming those anxieties and fears that prevent us from connecting with people: “Focus on listening. Be curious. Don’t make it about you. Make it about them.” 

Even though we’re all separated for the time being, there are still ways to stay connected (well, as much as possible). Call your friends and family and ask how they’re doing. Send some emails to keep your professional development on track. Watch a Virtual Social Hour (or two). And remember, one day we’ll be able to connect in person again. “I connect best with people in more intimate settings, but I am a raging extrovert and love big crowds of people,” says Fraser. “After this lockdown ends, you’ll find me at a party every night of the week.” We’ll see you there.

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