10 Ideas for Creating Community While Sheltering in Place

As businesses close and sheltering in place becomes the norm, many people are feeling stressed, anxious, scared and even powerless.  The impact of coronavirus and social distancing has hit us quickly. And without being able to get together with others, this experience can feel incredibly isolating. In times like these, we need connection, support and community.  We need to feel like we’re not alone. But with businesses and public spaces closed, how do we create a much-needed sense of community?

Here’s a list of some of the activities people are doing to create community as we get through this pandemic together—with special attention to those activities that can help you use the strengths of your personality type to overcome challenges during this time. Be sure to add your own activities and ideas in the comments below!

1. Follow local guidelines; support responders and efforts

To some personality types, this first one may seem obvious. To other, more freethinking folks, it may not be. Under normal circumstances, it’s healthy for some to disagree and even challenge rules. This is how we evaluate “how” and “why” we do things, and strive to continuously improve, innovate and excel. 

However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important for us to be deliberate and constructive with what we’re doing in order to support the community.  Even if you feel safe due to your location, age or health status, others do not. Social distancing and sheltering in place helps you and your community by minimizing the spread of the virus. By following the rules, you’re helping keep your fellow community members safe, which will keep resources running, local responders and emergency services available, and will drastically speed up your community’s recovery. Play your part. 

2. Check in with loved ones

For Feeler personality types, we’re most aware of how people are being impacted by the pandemic.  We can sense their worry, anxiety and powerlessness. If we don’t take care of ourselves, this can be overwhelming – especially if you’re the type of person who takes on others’ worries as if they were your own.

Constructively, reach out to others – whether by phone, video, email or social media. All of us, but especially Feelers, can foster connection and can alleviate the feeling of powerlessness by listening to and sharing with others; spreading messages of opportunity, encouragement, optimism, and even inspiration.  We can all use that right now.

3.  Write letters, send care packages

Sensors want practical efforts to cope with a crisis. They want to be able to do something – ideas and sentiments may not be enough. Social distancing may limit options, but it’s an opportunity to go back to old-school solutions like writing emails or letters and sending care packages that will help and encourage others.

For some, receiving something that they can re-read or enjoy time and time again (like letters, drawings, flowers, baked goods) outlasts a momentary conversation. This is also a great opportunity to express appreciation for individuals and organizations who are keeping our communities afloat at this time.

4.  Support local businesses

Want to help those closest to you – and right in your neighborhood? If you can, support local businesses, especially small ones like restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores and bookstores that are more likely to take a sudden hit to their bottom line. 

Many businesses are offering “no contact” pick-up, take-out or delivery so you can support them while honoring the sheltering rules. Or, see if businesses offer gift certificates. While you may not take advantage of their services now, you can help support them and benefit from their services later. For Sensors, this is a tangible option to help others.  And for Perceivers, this is a constructive way to meet your needs for variety and spontaneity while helping others at the same time.

5.  Make donations to organizations and services providing relief

Take inventory of what you have and what you can spare.  Do you have resources such as masks, gloves and medical equipment that others can use?  There are areas in dire need of supplies and support. This never occurred to me before, but even medical equipment used for television and movie sets are being donated for hospital use.  Do you have anything you can contribute – even financial donations to help others? Or, if the need arises, would you be willing to volunteer?

6.  Create, subscribe to, and support local community lists and groups

With the help of technology and social media, many communities have created online groups and digital lists where members can ask for help or offer assistance in the form of equipment, resources, support and services. Introverts seem to be leading the charge in finding and subscribing to these groups. But whatever your type, you can take it a step further and help get the word out. People need to know about these tools so they can actively engage with them.

7.  Host virtual get-togethers, meetings and events

With social distancing keeping us apart, people are hanging out together virtually. I’ve seen coffee dates, online dinners, and even dances being hosted live online. For Extraverts and Perceivers in particular, it’s a fun and safe way to stay active and connected. 

I’ve seen schools and organizations (such as Toastmasters and Venture Café) host interactive events online – where participants are actively engaging.  They’re still learning, networking and practicing their skills. Why not use these same tools to meet you, your family or your community’s needs? Just as astronauts host Story Time from Space, reading children’s books from the International Space Station, I can easily imagine someone hosting a live story time for local children. You can create your own events to help keep connections and programs going while sheltering in place.

8.  Check in with your colleagues and customers

Concern for others doesn’t stop at home or within your personal relationships.  Focusing on community is a mindset that can be applied in all aspects of your life.  Right now, many of your colleagues and customers are feeling worried and anxious. Even if your work is being impacted, you can still check in with colleagues and customers on a personal level. 

If you’re feeling in a healthy space, reach out to them.  Offer them support, even if that only means listening to their concerns.  Strengthening those connections will help you both now, and is an investment towards strengthening those relationships in the long run.

9.  Offer complimentary (or discounted) services

Building on the previous idea, if you can, offer your services to those who can really use them right now.  In times like these, fear may make us shut down and try to hold on to what we have. But in the spirit of community, how can you open up and offer support and connection to others?  

I’ve seen local restaurants offering food to people in need.  I’ve seen online entrepreneurs offer free series and discounted courses. If you have the time to spare, can you make yourself available to support others?  And whereas this suggestion is about genuinely contributing and helping others, this act can in turn help you in the long run. You never know how your actions and good deeds may be repaid in the future.

10. Innovate and prepare for the future

Community isn’t just about what can be done for others. We need to be thinking about how this current crisis has impacted us, and what can be done to avoid it, protect against it, or at least minimize its impact on us in the future. Let’s use this time to innovate, plan and implement changes to our current ways of doing things. As I started out in this post, though things are challenging now, they’re also full of opportunity. Use this time proactively and constructively.

Summary

This coronavirus pandemic has certainly impacted us.  For many, our normal day-to-day life has come to a halt – threatening our health, our jobs, our livelihoods and our sense of safety.  At the same time, it’s offering us an opportunity to change, evolve, innovate and connect. Intentionally adopting a mindset towards creating and contributing to community benefits all of us. 

There’s no one right way to build community. We need a variety of ideas, actions and contributions to get through this together.  If you’re in a healthy place and are able, explore these 10 ideas and ask yourself what you can do to constructively help and contribute to your community.  You’re not only helping others, you’re helping yourself in the process.  

Elvira Marie Chang

Elvira is a trainer and coach who leads live workshops, creates online courses, and coaches individuals. She helps people connect with who they are, leverage their innate talents, and value their unique perspectives in order to transform their own lives from a clear and confident position. Originally from Miami, Elvira now lives in Boston, MA. Visit her at elviramariechang.com.

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