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Finding a Path Through Tough Times

These are difficult times. Everywhere we turn it seems we face new issues and challenges that we have not seen or even imagined before. So much of what is before us can also feel beyond our control. Still, the factors that likely will determine whether we remain emotionally, psychologically, even maybe physically healthy are within our reach. How we choose to think about and respond to what we are facing will play a key role in determining whether we merely survive or find ourselves thriving despite what is happening in our world.

Our resilience, or ability to stay strong when times are tough, is not necessarily something bestowed on us at birth. It is true that some people naturally have a more optimistic outlook than others, but each of us can develop the habits and skills that make us more resilient. In fact, there are specific steps we can take and attitudes we can adopt to improve our resilience and carry us through these difficult times.

A great place to start is to renew, nurture, and expand our social connections. Offering and accepting support and encouragement, listening and sharing thoughts and experiences, and even sharing fears and uncertainty can help us to maintain hope and perspective as we navigate our way forward. Interestingly, providing support and assistance to others can be remarkably helpful to us.

We can also set and work toward realistic, short-term goals. Even small steps taken consistently can move us forward and provide a sense of direction and accomplishment. It may be that some larger, long-term goals are not attainable right now. We need to accept that change is natural and often inevitable. We can also accept that not everything is within our control and focus our attention on what we can control, or at least influence.

We can work to keep events in perspective. Blowing current events out of proportion and focusing on only the worst aspects of the situation saps energy and feeds panic. For example, when we think about the larger context and realize that the challenges before us will pass, we can minimize panic and stave off depression. Taking a long view can help us to sort what is most deserving of our attention and what likely will take care of itself without our worry and preoccupation.

Further, we can use times of challenge and stress to learn about ourselves and be aware of our growth. Often crises lead us to practice new behaviors, develop new skills, and adopt new habits. Yet, in the midst of the situation we can fail to recognize how we are changing and growing. Becoming aware of our progress and practicing self-discovering can be helpful ways to build confidence and strength as we continue to move forward. It can also become an ongoing source of strength when we face similar events and challenges in the future.

We also need to balance our focus as we make our way through the situation we face against efforts to take care of ourselves. While we might be tempted to invest all of our time and energy to find answers, discover solutions, and manage events, we also need to attend to our personal well-being. Relaxing, exercising, and engaging in enjoyable activities can help us to renew our energy, maintain our perspective, and protect a healthy life balance. Taking care of ourselves can renew our optimism and confidence and prepare us to do our best in the face of the challenge that demands our resilience.

What are you doing to find your path through the difficult times we face? How are you building your social support network, maintaining your perspective, and remaining aware of your progress and growth?

Thought for the Week

In leading, you learn tenfold by listening over talking.

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Share your story and the tips you have for getting through this challenging time. It can remind a fellow school leader of something they forgot or your example can make a difficult task much easier and allow them to get more done in less time. We may publish your comments.