Looking after yourself

Why community matters now more than ever

Coming together during tough times is in our DNA. Here’s how helping others can help you keep smiling through the crisis.

It’s no secret that many of us are struggling more than usual at the moment. According to YouGov, 73% of people living in the UK are concerned about how the rising cost of living is affecting their household.

And it’s common for those growing money worries to have a knock-on effect on our mental and emotional wellbeing. In short: times are tough, and our moods are reflecting that.  So what can we do? One option is to come together and help each other out.

“During difficult times we tend to pull together as communities and seek support from each other”

Wendy Gregory, psychologist and writer

“Right now, many of us feel somewhat helpless: we can’t alter interest rates or the price of food, so we look to our friends and family to help and support us,” says psychologist and writer Wendy Gregory.

But it’s not just about looking out for others. As Wendy explains, lending a hand can be helpful to you, too.

“Helping those less fortunate than ourselves makes us feel better by reducing the time that we spend focusing inwards and dwelling on our own plight,” she says. “In addition, helping others gives us a feel-good factor that lifts our mood in general.”

This idea of putting the needs of society above your own isn’t exactly a new concept. The ‘blitz spirit’ refers to the resilience shown by the nation during the Second World War as we came together in a time of crisis. We were reminded of it during the pandemic and now it feels like something that could help us all cope through difficult times.

Tips for togetherness

Showing some community spirit during a time in which the cost of living is on the rise could be as simple as offering to cook extra so you can share a meal with a struggling neighbour. You could also give support by helping with childcare, taking over a household chore, signing up to be a mentor, or even simply calling your loved ones for a chat. 

You could also get involved with a group. Loneliness is on the rise and, according to a poll by Opinium for The Cares Family initiative, 62% of people are worried about the rising cost of living having a negative impact on their social lives. Joining a local group is a way to help the loss you might feel from cutting back on pub visits and meals out.

“Decades of research has shown that humans are social creatures – we can only really survive in groups”

Wendy Gregory, psychologist and writer

“Being part of a group with a common cause, such as a charity or faith group, or even just a neighbourhood WhatsApp group, helps us to feel important and that we belong and are valued. This too reaps huge benefits for our mental health, raising our self-esteem and confidence,” says Wendy.

Look out for group meetups in your area that you can join, such as pop-up food banks, community pubs – which are pubs owned and run by the local community – or neighbourhood ‘calling tree’ networks that reach out to older people who may feel more isolated. And if you can’t find a local group to join, why not consider starting your own on a site like meetup.com

Of course, it’s not always realistic to focus on helping others when you feel like you can’t get your own head above water. And that’s OK.

“If the thought of a long-term commitment seems like too much, just tell yourself that you only need to try it for a day or a week,” Wendy says. “You may find that meeting others who are going through similar experiences will actually make you feel less overwhelmed, not more.”

And for those days when it all feels a bit too much, Wendy has this gentle reminder: “This situation won’t last forever and by helping each other we’ll all make it easier to pull through.”

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Ali Gray

Ali is a content director and creative consultant who specialises in lifestyle.

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