Across our state, country, and world, many people are confronting challenges like they’ve never faced during COVID-19, including severe financial and emotional stressors. As our Chief Program Officer Emily LeBlanc has said numerous times: “We are in a time of collective trauma.” Many of us may be processing emotions and anxiety that we’ve never previously experienced.
What we all could use right now is resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from or adapt well to stress, adversity, failure, challenges, threats, trauma, or tragedy. Fortunately, resilience isn’t something we’re just born with, it is a skill we can develop. It’s a skill that many people in the child welfare system have developed very well, including the children we serve, the caseworkers and attorneys we work with, the volunteers we support, and our talented team of staff. Today we want to share some of the lessons our staff has learned with you, particularly our Trauma and Resilience Committee team members.
It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable
“I learned a lot about resiliency through Knowing Who You Are and Undoing Racism trainings, particularly surrounding the concepts of being comfortable with being uncomfortable and to expect non-closure.
"To participate in the world, particularly during a global pandemic, means you’re going to be uncomfortable more times than not. And, that’s okay."
I have found myself being frustrated lately with my ability to concentrate and focus, but, instead of beating up on myself I’ve tried to remind myself of those KWYA principles: that to participate in the world, particularly during a global pandemic, means you’re going to be uncomfortable more times than not. And, that’s okay. Because it means that I’m aware enough of my surroundings to realize what’s going on.” - Blair Adams, Volunteer Recruitment Specialist
Shine a Light on What You Need… Share with Others
“When I was actively working cases as a supervisor, if there was a point where things started to be overwhelming or I started to feel underwater, what helped me was being completely upfront and clear about it. I would talk to my manager and have a frank conversation about what was happening, being transparent about where I was at and what I was feeling. We would then brainstorm ways to manage those feelings together.
"Shining a light on when you do need help will prevent a whole lot of damage later.”
Many of us have a tendency to feel like we need to be completely on top of it, that we can’t ask for help when we need it. Doing that is phenomenally unhelpful! Instead, shining a light on when you do need help will prevent a whole lot of damage later.” - Ryan Broussard, Training Specialist
Be Flexible with Yourself, Check Your Energy Levels to Help Others
“Through my work at CASA, especially in the most chaotic times, I’ve learned the importance of flexibility with yourself and your schedule. You have to listen to yourself as far as when you are the most productive, or when you may be the most effective at doing your job. Right now this may not fall in a standard or expected time frame, that’s okay. Be kind and generous with yourself, and recognize that especially in times of high stress it’s okay for things to look a little different. This is especially true if you need to support others, whether it’s coworkers, family or friends. Having shifted into a management role at CASA, I recognize that I need to harness a different kind of energy to support my people. If I don’t have the energy, I’m not doing my job effectively. You need to find the right time and space where you can fully engage and have that energy to be able to support others.” - Jen Cosman, Advocacy Program Manager
Tough Feelings are Just Waves in a Larger Ocean
“David Kessler, a researcher on grief, talks about differentiating between the wave and the ocean. When we are feeling overwhelming feelings, especially grief, it can feel all-consuming and can feel like that feeling has become who we are.
"One of the best ways I’ve found to reconnect with my own resilience is to notice what I’m feeling, name it, and then remind myself that it is but a wave in the ocean of my emotion and experience."
One of the best ways I’ve found to reconnect with my own resilience is to notice what I’m feeling, name it, and then remind myself that it is but a wave in the ocean of my emotion and experience. I remind myself to be the ocean that has room for the wave and to let it grow as big as it needs to, knowing that the ocean has room for it.” - Emily LeBlanc, Chief Program Officer
Don’t Ignore Those Tough Feelings
“Resiliency means learning to listen to your body and to sit with and experience feelings of sadness, being overwhelmed, stress, or anxiety, instead of ignoring them! - Laura Honsig, Child Advocacy Specialist
“Pay attention to when you're feeling things. Check your own temperature. Am I having an emotional reaction to this? Is something still bothering me to the same degree it previously did? Am I still giving this my full attention or do I find myself drifting? In all those regards, it’s paying attention to our internal temperature or barometer. If you feel like you’re responding to something in a way you wouldn't have necessarily expected, sit for a moment with that feeling, and figure out why you’re feeling differently about it this time.” - Ryan Broussard, Training Specialist
Reframe Your Perspective
“Throughout my social work career I’ve always been asked, ‘How do you do that work… it must be so hard?’ One of the things that makes me resilient is I’ve always reframed the way I look at my work. I don’t look at trauma work as sad or awful. I look at it as an opportunity to use my skillset to move others who are hurting out of that negative experience. That to me is motivating and energizing, not sad and horrible.
"I’m constantly reframing my perspective around this crisis. I’m really trying daily to do some type of gratitude practice."
Now I’m constantly reframing my perspective around this crisis. I’m really trying daily to do some type of gratitude practice. I’m finding it helpful, especially when I’m stuck in a funk. Can I go to work? No… Are we all cooped up? Yes… But on the flip side, I am grateful to have a home that is safe, a job that I love, and more time to spend with my child.” - Catherine Jones, Senior Director of Community Engagement
Finally, Stay Socially Connected
“Connections really do matter. If you’re feeling stressed, finding out how are you connected to the people and things that you're interested in, in a way that’s healthy. Are we reaching out to friends, making calls, getting on FaceTime? Are we taking a walk outside if that’s refreshing? Are we finding ways to still get back to our center?”- Ryan Broussard, Training Specialist
In a time of required physical distance, social connections are more important than ever.
Whenever Chief Program Officer Emily LeBlanc talks about our time of collective trauma, she also talks about our need to use relationships and social connection to heal from that trauma. In a time of required physical distance, social connections are more important than ever.
Even More Ideas
We hope these lessons help you as you deal with your own personal experiences in our current collective crisis and trauma. If you need other ideas, our Trauma and Resilience Committee put together a list of activities that are helping them be resilient during these tough times:
Coloring books for adults
The joy and emotional support we can get from pets
Meditation, particularly the Loving-Kindness method (this type of meditation is focused on increasing compassion for others without the potentially draining or burnout-inducing effects of empathy)
Online yoga classes and other movement or fitness activities, particularly when you can share in the activity with a friend over video
Random acts of kindness (one of our team members baked cupcakes and left several on her friend’s porch recently)
May 2020 Advocacy