By Licensed Professional Counselor Carol Campbell
Over the last year or so, the poem “Strong Water” by Barbara Buckman Strasko, the first poet laureate of Lancaster County, has frequently been brought to my mind.
The river has crested and fallen over my hill again.
This morning as debris floats by,
I try to admire the strength of water more than fear it.
I try to imagine the stars’ light traveling here again,
to a time when I no longer have questions
about where I have fallen into the current
and where I have stayed on shore.
Our Current of Uncertainty
Our resiliency as a global collective has been put to test from the year 2020 until today. Many of us, at times, have felt like we’ve fallen into a current of uncertainty and been temporarily swept away.
And although the past year and the present state of challenges have affected all of us in different ways, it is likely that some have found it more difficult to stay strong, afloat or on the shore.
Additionally, some people have or are presently experiencing one or more of these symptoms in response to the changes, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2020:
“Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic mental health problems, worsening of physical health problems and increased use of tobacco or other substances.”
This increase in worries and the need for mental health services has been referred to as a “silent epidemic within the pandemic,” by the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
Standing Firm Amid Uncertainty
So how does one remain or become strong and steadfast? How do you keep your feet firmly planted on the shore amid so much uncertainty when you may be feeling weakened or have difficulty maintaining daily routines and responsibilities?
This question may be answered in part by looking within resiliency models to what are called protective factors.
Protective factors are defined as characteristics at the individual, family, or community level that are associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes.
Self-regulation, relational and problem-solving skills and involvement in positive activities can fit within that definition, and they may help to strengthen and increase resiliency or steadfastness.
Where Interconnectedness Comes In
Taking it one step further, the publication, “Creating a Healthier Life, A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness” from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, defines wellness as a circle, or the interconnectedness of several factors that help to promote overall well-being.
In this publication, the interconnectedness of these factors is highlighted as most important in identifying areas that require strengthening in order to maintain balance and steadfastness, and increase our ability to understand the force of the adversity we may be facing, rather than fear it.
Specifically, these eight areas of wellness have been defined as emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational and social.
Most of us have experienced an imbalance as a result of one factor’s lessening or weakening by strong water in our lives, and thus affecting the strength of another factor because they are interconnected.
For example, if you’ve been laid off from work, you may experience financial problems. If you’re having relationship problems, you’ll likely experience emotional discomfort. Or if you haven’t been able to attend your place of worship, you may feel less connected to your spiritual self and others within your community.
When feeling unbalanced, you may have to reach beyond what feels easy and comfortable to remain strong and steadfast. And often, you benefit from taking steps to refresh or strengthen their protective factors.
Resources to Help
If you’re struggling to stay grounded at this point in the pandemic, you’re not alone. One helpful resource I’d recommend is this free guide, which can be helpful for coping with stress, as well as providing basic tips for healthy living.
The guide also offers insights into recognizing when one is feeling imbalanced, which is most important to recognize so you can utilize and strengthen your protective factors by, for example, reaching out to a friend or family member, making an appointment with a therapist to talk about what is going on, or focusing on cultivating healthier habits.
One thing is certain: Remaining hopeful that the star’s light will return and taking time to regularly reflect on your own strength and steadfastness — and those moments when you have felt unsteady — may continue to lessen your fear of the uncertain times and build resiliency and self-confidence in your ability to stay steadfast and strong.
And if you ever need help to move forward, that’s what we’re here for.