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Building our own resilience during tough times

All of us have had to make adjustments to our personal and work lives in the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t seem like the normal we knew is going to come back anytime soon. We have all experienced some form of ambiguous loss in the past months and this type of loss can have negative effects on people's mental and physical health.

There are actions we can take as youth workers that we can role model to the youth in our programs so that we all emerge stronger, more resilient and better able to face future challenges. The Center for Creative Leadership states three practices to strengthen resilience.

  • Personal energy management. Manage your own resistance. “Show up,” give your best, and relinquish attachment to the outcome. Stay in the present.
  • Shifting your lenses. Take charge of how you think about adversity. Understand your beliefs about the situation and choose your response. Exercise compassion for yourself and others.
  • Sense of purpose. Develop a “personal why” that gives your life meaning. This helps you better face setbacks and challenges. Look for ways that crisis and adversity connect to your larger life purpose.

I've started doing mindfulness exercises to manage my personal energy. Since I have been working from a home office, this has helped me be present in my work as well as be present for my family.

In thinking about how I have shifted my lens, early on during the “stay at home” order, I read an article that stated the actions to take to be resilient. I printed the graphic and have it hanging in my home office. I look at it regularly and helps me stay focused and positive. University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel recently sent a message to staff and students that sums up how my lens has shifted. “This fall will be different—but also new. It may not be what we hoped for, but it’s still an exciting time.” The world is changing and change can be exciting and stressful, but it opens up opportunities.

I believe my purpose hasn’t shifted. It is still positive youth development through developmental relationships and high-quality learning experiences. The shift is to do this through a different delivery method - virtually or with social distancing protocol in place.

What have you been doing to strengthen your resilience?
Karyn Santl, Extension educator

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  1. My wife and I purchased our first house just days before everything in the country seemed to shut down. With very little socializing to do, I instead focused on connecting to place by exploring the park across from my house. While the circumstances of COVID19 have kept me from getting to know my human neighbors as much as I would like, I have gotten to know the other living members of my community - the trees, flowers, ferns, birds, foxes, and deer - quite well. It has made all of the difference!

  2. Thank you for sharing! Nature is a great place to discover new things, meditate, exercise, etc. Being mindful of our surroundings can help us with our energy as well focus our purpose. I bet you are more resilient from your walks in the park and enjoying nature.


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