A Tool for Building Resilience for Difficult Times
Wendy Neyhard, MS, Wellness Screen Learning and Development Specialist, a program of Samaritan Counseling Center
Sources of Strength is an evidenced-based wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention and also impacts issues of substance abuse and violence. Sources of Strength is most often implemented as a school-based program in middle school, high school, or college. However, it is also used in community, faith-based, and cultural settings to promote connectivity and help-seeking behaviors.
Schools right here in northeast Wisconsin have embraced the program because it truly helps young people assess and develop strengths in their own lives, a skill that can transform a person’s life journey. Over time, one’s outlook on life—or the culture of an entire school or family—shifts its perspective to what strengths one has versus what one does not have. Young people in the program lead the development of strengths-based messaging campaigns. This helps make it approachable and accessible, no matter one’s interests or life experiences. The students and adult advisors guide young people to consider the mental, spiritual, and emotional resources they can access when times get tough. For example, a person might turn to medical care, family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, and/or spirituality. These concepts are explored through discussion, practice, and activities as part of the campaigns.
As we make plans, it is important to check in with ourselves and see how we are feeling. Many traditions will not be the same this year. It is normal and okay to feel upset, sad, fearful, disappointed, and even frustrated that the pandemic continues to impact our everyday lives and holiday traditions. It is not a sign of weakness have these feelings. Your mind is processing the uncertainty and difficult decisions you face in the coming months. Acknowledge these feelings and understand that they are valid. Process them openly with friends and family to help accept the reality of this season and this time in history.
It is easy to get caught up in the things we can’t do this year. Help change your mindset by focusing on what is still possible. Many traditions can continue regardless of our circumstances. Sending holiday cards, decorating, shopping, baking, and going to light shows are still possible. However, you will need to shift large gatherings to smaller ones, or connect with one another virtually. Take time to try new ideas. Who knows? A virtual family meal, online ugly sweater contest, ornament swap in the mail, or name-that-holiday-tune may just stick and become part of your family lore for the long haul.
Your calendar may also be more open this year. Take time to slow down. Challenge yourself to be comfortable with an unstructured schedule. Focus on how you have the opportunity to feel more present and peaceful. One lesson we’ve learned in this pandemic is to seek joy in unexpected or overlooked places.
In the beforetimes, Sources programming took place in-person and on-site at schools and other gathering places. Since then, COVID-19 has motivated the qualified staff at Sources of Strength to create tools to bring Sources into homes so that young people and their families can practice these lessons in resilience on a daily basis. Please click on the link to use the At-Home Checklist to start a daily Sources practice. Here are my tips for making the most of this powerful opportunity:
- When a machine is paused, it stops. When each of us pauses, we begin. Isn’t that amazing? Take time each day to pause and reflect on what you have in your life that can help pull you through difficult days. You will cultivate an attitude of hope, help, and strength.
- Invest in building your protective factors, AKA Sources of Strength. If you don’t have positive friends, set a goal to make some. If your biological family isn’t as supportive as you wish, then look to positive, caring mentors for support, too. These investments will positively impact your life well into the future because you will learn to trust yourself and your ability to overcome.
- Some people are surprised when life knocks them down. It’s hard to feel vulnerable in the big wide world. Know that every person is going to experience difficulties over the course of their lives. You, too, can cultivate resilience. Be intentional. Lean on your strengths. ■