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Five Strategies to Building Emotional Resilience

In last week’s blog post, I discussed emotional resilience as our ability to bounce back and adapt to life’s stressors. In this post, I will explore five research-based strategies that can help to develop and improve emotional resilience.

Be an Optimist

This does not mean the “rose colored glasses,” but a realistic optimist. Someone who looks at any negative experiences around them and sees what is relevant to the problems they are facing. The realistic optimist disengages from the problems outside of their control and turns attention to problems they believe they can address. Acknowledge the problem, but then see what, if anything, about the problem directly impacts you and that you can work on. Be realistic about the world, and confident in your abilities that you can make positive changes to problems within your control.

Find a sense of purpose and meaning in your life:

Resilient people have a mission and purpose in life that gives meaning to the things that they do. When tough times roll in, they feel a greater purpose is behind them, propelling them forward. That purpose can be that “I go to work to provide for my family” or “my role is to care for my loved one.”

We can also start to develop our purpose in a small way. Over the next week, identify your focus. Take the time to acknowledge how you want to spend your time and energy. It could be as simple as “I’m going to call my friend because he’s been feeling down” or “I’m going to donate to a charity I believe in.”

When we have a purpose it nourishes us.

Face your fears:

When we avoid something we are afraid of, the fear inside us grows. When you face your fears, the intensity of the fear lessens. We cannot just talk ourselves out of the fear, but we have to address the fear one step at a time.

As an example, if we have a fear of speaking in public it can be helpful to begin addressing this fear by starting a conversation with a neighbor, then working up to giving a toast at a dinner party, each time taking a bigger step towards your goal. During this ‘exposure therapy’ we start to change the negative associations we have to situations or objects, being able to believe “that wasn’t so bad. I can do that.”

Be adaptable and flexible:

Resilience is figuring out a new way to behave when your old ways of behaving are not working or are not accessible any more. We have the power within us to make new choices, to try new ways of reacting. Resilient people use a number of ways to deal with stressful situations. They are not stuck on using one way of coping. Instead they shift from one coping strategy to another as needed. Imagine having a variety of tools in your toolbox to fix a problem.

Practice spirituality:

In general, we might say that spirituality includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, involving a search for meaning in life or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness. Some people experience their spiritual life through a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue affiliation. Organized religion can provide structure, community, and meaning or identity. However, there are many ways that we can practice spirituality. Maybe through prayer or personal conversations with a higher power. Nature or art also provide for an expression of our spirituality.

Next week, I will share five more research-based strategies that you can use to help develop and improve your emotional resilience. However, for those times when you may need some additional assistance in dealing with life’s challenges, JFCS is here for you. Call 609-987-8100 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists.

This is the second of three blogs covering Emotional Resilience. See the next entry here. You can also view Teri’s webinar on this topic by clicking here.

Teri Cheresnick, LCSW, LCADC

August 21 is Senior Citizen’s Day! Celebrating Seniors

August 21 is Senior Citizen’s Day, recognized across the country as a day to celebrate our seniors. JFCS celebrates and supports older adults here in our Mercer community all year round – the retirees who serve as dedicated volunteers, the Holocaust Survivors who are staying connected through technology, the older adults who join in our weekly group to help each other through this difficult time, the seniors across the community who are aging independently in their homes.

In honor of Senior Citizen’s Day, we are sharing resources, information and groups tailored for our senior community.

Connecting with your elderly loved ones…

Looking for Senior Resources?

Support for Seniors

  • Join our weekly Social Support Group, designed for older adults to connect during a time of social distancing and isolation. Register to join weekly.
  • For Jewish seniors, the upcoming holidays may be a lonely time, and we’re offering special programs to address some of the emotional challenges you may face during this time.
  • Are you a Caregiver? If you are caring for a spouse with chronic illness, join our upcoming Caregiver Support Group beginning Sept 15. Click to learn more & register.

Stress & Anxiety: Understanding Your Reaction to and Recovery from Stressors

Are you an Oak or a Willow?
We think of the oak tree as a symbol of strength and resilience, the tall and mighty oak! But consider what happens to many an oak tree when fierce storms come through. They topple, their branches get broken, they get uprooted.

But what about the willow tree? Their branches will never easily break no matter how strong the winds are; this tree is a survivor. Adaptable. Flexible.

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” ― Robert Jordan

When stressors, the ‘storms’ of life, come blowing in, how do you react? Which ‘tree’ are you? And more importantly, how can we develop more of the willow’s ‘flexibility’? Stress is defined as the body’s reaction – and that can be physical, mental, or emotional reaction – to any change that requires an adjustment or response. So something happens in our environment which causes us to react., for example, we lose our job, we feel uncomfortable wearing a mask to go out, we’re dealing with a financial problem. Sometimes it is easy to ‘roll with the punches’ and deal with the stressors; and, then other times, not so much.

Our ability to adapt to, respond to, and recover from stressful events in our life is our emotional resilience. The word resilience comes from the Latin word for ‘resilio’ which means ‘to bounce back or rebound’. We are being emotionally resilient when we exhibit traits like resourcefulness, flexibility, or perseverance. We have little control over many of the unexpected life events that come our way, a sudden illness, death of a loved one, a car accident, a business failure; however we can develop skills, the emotional resilience, to weather the storms.

Ways to Build Emotional Resilience:
1. Be an optimist
2. Find a sense of purpose and meaning in your life
3. Face your fears
4. Be adaptable and flexible
5. Practice spirituality
6. Have social support
7. Be a lifelong learner
8. Change the narrative
9. Focus on self-care
10.Control your destiny

Over two additional blog postings, I will further discuss these ten research-based strategies that can help us to develop and improve our emotional resilience. For those times when you may need some additional assistance in dealing with life’s challenges, JFCS is here for you. Call 609-987-8100 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists.

This is the first of three blogs covering Emotional Resilience. You can also view Teri’s webinar on this topic by clicking here.

Teri Cheresnick, LCSW, LCADC

Preparing for the Jewish Holidays during COVID-19

August 28, 2020

The Jewish High Holidays begin in one month. The celebrations of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, mark an important time for the Jewish community. Families and friends gather for large meals to celebrate together, synagogues welcome in hundreds from the community to observe. However, like so many significant events, COVID-19 has disrupted plans for the High Holidays.

With the prospect of Zoom gatherings and streamed services, it can be difficult to manage our emotions and feel prepared to mark these days of celebration and reflection to the fullest.

On Thursday, August 27, Andrea Gaynor, LCSW and Beverly Rubman, Chaplain, will co-host “Holiness at Home: Observing the High Holidays Outside of the Synagogue.” The webinar will examine the many ways in which Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, presents opportunities to prepare both spiritually and psychologically. Also, they will discuss how to make High Holiday virtual services more personally meaningful and relevant.

View the Recording of the Webinar Here!

Worried about aging in your own home?

Featured in Town Topics July 29, 2020 Edition – Senior Living Section

The majority of older adults prefer to “age in place” in the homes and communities they have lived in for most of their adult lives. But how do you know if remaining in your home continues to be a safe place?  What if family and friends are no longer nearby? In particular, the pandemic has brought more scrutiny to these concerns about staying safe in your home, when home is the safest place for seniors.

This is where the JFCS Geriatric Care Management team can step in to help. Our caring team of professionals can offer guidance, solutions, advocacy and a full spectrum of support for older adults. 

Begin with a comprehensive care consultation that assesses everything from home safety to reviewing which legal, medical and financial documents should be readily accessible.

Following your assessment, we can provide long-term assistance through Secure@Home, an aging-in-place, membership program. This non-sectarian program offers seniors the resources to remain independent, comfortable and safe in their homes for as long as they wish. Membership benefits include care management, 24/7 emergency phone availability, information & referral, transportation options, monthly hellos and more.

Want to learn more? Call 609-987-8100 or visit www.jfcsonline.org/senior-services

From Generation to Generation, Internship Experiences to Take With You

It was 20 years ago last fall when I first step foot into JFCS as a Senior Service intern. 

I did not know what to expect or what impact this experience would have on me.  Reflecting back, I can honestly say this intern experience changed my life. One of my favorite aspects of being Coordinator of Teen Programs is working with interns.

I cannot thank enough what Wendy Cacacie did for me 2 decades ago. She has taught me unforgettable social work lessons that I still use to this day. My goal is to instill a meaningful experience to my interns as Wendy has done for me.

I have worked with close to 50 student interns throughout the years and continue to be amazed by their creativity and outside the box thinking with special projects.

This summer, Dana, one of my interns served on a College Perspectives Panel and talked about her college and gap year experiences. Rachel, another student, assisted in creating content and resources for the Summer Teen Programming Series. Her fresh perspectives and ideas enhanced these leadership seminars. Grace, my third intern, also created content for this summer’s programming series. She will also be helping with the Challah Bake through Challah for Hunger, a student run organization at the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University.

These programs would not have been successful without the help and participation of these students. Working remotely has eliminated so many barriers of distance and transportation to connect with teens from all over the county. Working with Teen Programs is definitely a great filter to finding future interns.  Even though most of the students I work with have other interests, the skills learned during the internship are hard to be duplicated in other places. At JFCS, we teach our interns the ins and outs of our jobs, how to succeed in a non-profit environment, and how what we do fits into the overall agency and community as a whole. Interns walk away with an experience that they can discuss in any interview setting and transferrable work skills to include on their resume.

Celeste Albert, LCSW, Coordinator of Teen Programs

Meet Rachel!

The 2020 pandemic has had broad economic impact, so when approaching summer opportunities I knew it would be a challenge not only finding internships but also finding businesses with the bandwidth to take on interns in uncertain times. Internship opportunities for college students are very diverse, so gaining research and communication skills can be found in a range of work.

COVID-19 has shed new light on how people can transform their skills and knowledge into jobs or volunteer work that is not necessarily aligned with their career goals. In working with a nonprofit, I am gaining important skills that I will use for future intern opportunities and recognizing the benefit of being open to new experiences.

Zoom has become a common platform for communication, so even though we coult not talk or work on projects in person, weekly meetings were still comforting and informative. My weekly meetings kept me engaged in the work because it was a nice break to talk about the research instead of typing it all down in a shared document. Presenting your research to someone allows you to bounce their ideas off of yours and appreciate their satisfaction with the project that you share.

My research included mental health, educational inequalities and other politically and socially topical issues which kept me engaged in the work. I felt it was important to discuss these real world topic amongst peers to gain students’ perspectives.

In college, I study law, public policy and sociology, which all have similar themes and lessons taught within each department. As a research intern for JFCS, my projects varied, but one assignment that I found applicable to my course work focused on how students can be leaders in their communities. From organizing fundraisers, helping at a food pantry, or collecting backpacks for a school supply drive, we wanted to emphasize that students can easily be leaders and mentors in their community by inspiring others to complete acts of kindness. In my college studies, we often analyze lawyers, policymakers, local businesses, and other decision makers and how their collective acts of leadership and of kindness are inspiring others to change and do good in the world.

I am on a pre-law track in college, since I’ve always been intrigued by law school and the legal profession. Law school teaches students how to think, advocate, and analyze, and these skills can be applied to working at a law firm, a university, a hospital, or many other businesses. My internship work includes conducting research and planning lessons for the Zoom program participants. This work helped hone my research and presentation skills, skills I feel can always be practiced and improved, and skills that are critical to pursuing a legal profession.

Through my work with JFCS, I have gained awareness of the importance and impact of nonprofits in communities, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. This has inspired me to explore and reach out to other organizations to understand their mission and how people can support their work.

I have loved working with Celeste; her passion for each of the projects and assignments we’ve discussed makes her such a good leader and the students look up to her. I’ve lived in West Windsor for a long time, and have known of JFCS all my life, but contributing and volunteering with the JFCS team has been extremely rewarding. JFCS has accomplished so much with their food pantry, teen services, and counseling center, and I have been deeply impacted by this internship. I’ll always be thankful for this opportunity and the skills and connections I have found. I hope to remain involved with projects and volunteering in the future as part of JFCS.

Rachel Judson, Intern

Meet Grace!

I was originally supposed to go to Vienna for a summer class, but once that got cancelled, I was fortunate to have Princeton Hillel, Center for Jewish Life as a resource. The staff at CJL was able to connect me with JFCS for an internship opening.

This internship has exposed me to new websites and platforms and working with the unfamiliar technologies has been incredibly engaging. The work differs greatly from my studies, most often in literature and language, and allows me to explore new opportunities. Researching new topics has been exciting week after week.

I am not sure where my future plans will take me as I consider graduate work or moving into education. In any path I pursue, the experience with curriculum development, presentation, and connection with others will be valuable.

I had no idea the scope of social services in this community prior to this internship, and I am incredibly thankful to have learned more about the work done in Mercer County.

Grace Rosenberg, Intern

Meet Dana!

As a rising sophomore, yes I was extremely concerned about having limited opportunities due to the virus. All of my original plans for the summer consisted of physical work, so it was difficult for me to imagine the translation into a remote environment. Additionally, the ongoing challenges of the virus amde it difficult to imagine that summer interns would be a priority.

I have found that there are primarily two elements that have made the internship engaging: communication and meaningful work. Meeting with Celeste every week to plan and discuss ideas has been instrumental in helping me set goals and decide what work must be done. Week after week, the meaningful work that keeps me engaged.

From panel discussions to fundraising, all of the work that JFCS does is important, both for the development of the individual and the larger community. Recalling this as I work remotely motivates me, and contributes to my devotion to the projects. As a STEM major, my internship experience may not relate directly to my course work, but it does resonate with the values that are stressed by the community. Mentoring, volunteering, and service are the cornerstone of Princeton, and are taught in every discipline. My internship this summer plays on this message of service to the community.

After graduation, I intend to enter the medical or healthcare field. I am extremely thankful, as I know that everything that I have learned this summer will be applicable. Fundraising for causes, working with teenagers, or even simply planning events are all skills I have developed this summer and will continue to develop after I graduate and enter the professional sphere.  To date, the most impactful experience I have had through this position was preparing to speak to high school juniors and seniors on a panel. I remember how challenging the college process was for myself, and I can only imagine how much more stressful it must be now. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak with younger students and try to advise them the best way that I can. 

Dana Waitman, Intern

Internships: Adapting Opportunities For a Pandemic

JFCS has always prided itself on providing a variety of internship experiences to high school, college and graduate school students. The ability to offer educational opportunities is an important part of our mission. We were particularly committed to continuing this practice during COVID-19. Through a combination of creativity and flexibility, students are participating, on a modified basis, in the agency’s existing programs and services. As a result, they have gained an additional perspective on how agencies must adapt their programs and respond to client needs during this pandemic. We are so appreciative to have such motivated and dedicated students interning at JFCS this summer.  

Beverly Mishkin, LCSW, Director of Case Management & Senior Services

Meet Samantha!

My name is Samantha Goldfarb, and I am serving as an intern at JFCS this summer as a part of The College of New Jersey’s Summer Community Leaders program.

The summer is only halfway through and I have already recognized personal growth achieved through my new experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has limited my scope of work, specifically face-to-face interactions with clients; yet, I have still been able to catch glimpses of the great community JFCS serves, from the friendliness of the Kosher Café attendees to the kind and good humored JFCS staff. Moments that have had the greatest impact include the look on our clients’ faces when they receive a bag of food and the excitement of community partners with whom we work to expand our outreach. If our community is this lively and connected now, I can only imagine how wonderful it is without social and spatial restrictions!

Where the altered programming has changed what I originally expected from an internship experience, I have also found it has afforded me unique opportunities I would not have had in a traditional internship placement. For example, I now have the opportunity to provide hands-on service work during a crisis while observing how a model organization can address the growing needs of its clients amid challenge and disorder.

My educational background is on disability rights and advocacy whereas the internship focuses on food security, nevertheless, my goal is to run a non-profit like JFCS one day, and any organization will have to be prepared to withstand any and all disasters that come its way. In this respect this modified internship is teaching me a lot about professional adaptability and how to best address problems as they arise. No organization could have been fully prepared for the demands of the pandemic, but this internship has shown me how a combination of flexible practices and a commitment to problem-solving allows an agency to stay on its feet and keep serving effectively.

I have seen the importance of helping employees connect with one another even if they have to be physically separated. I have seen an agency maintain its scope of service and level of impact by adapting programs to work within new limitations and focusing on building connections with other agencies to pool community resources.

While I regret missing out on some aspects of traditional service, I am very grateful for JFCS for teaching and modeling good practices for my work for years to come – and for still finding ways to sneak in moments with the community that make service so rewarding in the first place.

Samantha Goldfarb, Intern

How will YOU serve your summer?

Now more than ever, there is a need for people to give back to others and community non-profits. It can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming to start. A lot of thoughts can go through your head. I am not familiar with local organizations in my community. Who do I help? How? Can my children and teens get involved? Here are some great tips to begin a meaningful summer of service.

Tip 1 Pick a cause, any cause…

There are many great ways to give back to your community.  It might be helpful to find out what causes speak to you and decide how you want to make a difference.  Here is a sample of causes to choose:

Older adults
Children/teens
Hunger
Education
Environment
Homelessness
Special needs
Advocacy
Veterans

Bullying
Animals
Domestic violence
Diversity
Poverty
Disabilities
Mental Health
Awareness

Tip 2 Decide which project you would like to conduct…

Are you interested in giving back virtually, collecting and donating items for others, hands-on community service or raising funds for non-profits?

Virtual Opportunities

With the advancement of technology, virtual community service experiences have gained popularity and you do not need to leave your house. 

Collections/Drives

Maybe you’ve been inspired to clean out unused items in your home.  Community organizations are collecting items for people in need.  Contact local social service agencies or visit their websites to see what items they are accepting.  You can also reach out to your network and let them know you are collecting items such as food, school supplies, paper products, feminine hygiene products or baby and children supplies.  An Amazon.com wish list is also another great and easy way to collect items in a contactless way.  Remember, before you collect, ask your selected agency about any specific needs or requirements for products they are currently accepting.

Hands-on Community Service Projects

 The best way to find out about these opportunities are to visit an agency’s website, contact the volunteer coordinator and follow non-profits on social media.  Due to COVID-19, these in-person opportunities can be limited, so check with the agency to see what opportunities are available.

Fundraisers
Fundraisers are another great way to support a non-profit organization while bringing awareness of the services they provide to your community. Here are some great fundraising ideas to include others in your mitzvah:

Bake sale
Bike ride
Book sale
Bowl-a-thon
Car wash
Dog walk
Dress down day at work
Garage sale
Golf tournament
Karaoke night
Lemonade Stand
Pancake breakfast
Zumbathon
Instead of hosting a party, ask for donations in honor of a milestone celebration – bar or bat mitzvah, birthday and/or anniversary

Tip 3 Seek resources to continue brainstorming ideas of fun and meaningful projects.

JFCS will be hosting two virtual service opportunities for teens in grades 6-12.

  • Sunday, July 26th, 1 PM – Come learn about school supply needs in our community and ways you can help others start the school year off right.
  • Sunday, August 9th, 1 PM – Create your own challah at home with Challah for Hunger at Princeton. Learn about food insecurity and the community organizations who are working to address it.

These programs are open to the community.  Registration is required, click to sign up now!

For more information, contact Celeste Albert at celestea@jfcsonline.org.

To learn more about other service project ideas, visit:

Good Deeds Day

Areyvut

Chai Mitzvah

Celeste Albert, LCSW (Teen Program Coordinator) & Dana Waitman (Intern)

Crafting a Calming Jar – For kids of all ages!

Sometimes when we experience big emotions like worry, anger, frustration, overwhelm or sadness, we can get stuck in our thoughts and feelings. We may feel disconnected from our environment, from our bodies and from the present moment. When these big emotions seem to overwhelm us, we can help to ease them by coming back into our bodies and the moment by noticing sensations through sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

These magical glitter jars are the perfect sensory toy for children and grown ups alike. Designed to soothe and relax, the swirling patterns created by glitter, water and optional additions are ideal for calming down a stressed out child (or adult, for that matter) – leading to their alternative name, ‘calm down jars’.

Crafting a personal glitter jar is a fun project to engage in and the result is a tool that can be used again and again.

Ingredients for Calming or Sensory Jars

  • Plastic or glass bottle or jar
  • Warm water
  • Glitter

 Optional (use whatever you have around):

  • Glitter glue
  • Vegetable oil
  • Clear liquid soap
  • Baby oil
  • Sequins
  • Watercolor or food coloring

Directions:

The main ingredients that are needed are the glitter, warm water and a bottle or jar of some material. Plastic bottles may be better for younger kiddos. The optional ingredients change up the movement of the sensory experience. 

To begin, fill the jar halfway with warm water. The warm water makes the combining of the ingredients easier. Next, place several tablespoons of your chosen glitter into the jar or bottle. Using a funnel can help with getting the glitter into a smaller opening. Put on the lid and shake until blended. Don’t be worried if this takes several minutes and keep on vigorously shaking. Once blended, fill the jar with warm water until full. If you’d like, you can super glue the lid or cap shut.

Adding additional emulsifiers like oil, glue or soap, can slow the movement of the glitter or create a lava lamp effect. Adding sequins, small toys, seashells or food coloring can enhance the look of the calming jar.

When your jar is complete, just give them a good shake, then watch until the glitter settles in the bottom of the jar to refocus and refresh an overwhelmed mind.

Julie Bond, LAMFT

What is teletherapy?

Telehealth meets Mental Health during a Pandemic

While teletherapy is not new, recent policy changes due to COVID-19 have reduced previous barriers and promoted access to virtual services. Offering teletherapy is consistent with JFCS’ values of keeping everyone as safe as possible while this pandemic continues. Teletherapy gives you the option to communicate with a therapist on the telephone or video chat; you chose how your therapy works, the goal is to make it agreeable to your needs. When comparing virtual therapy with office visits, more than 63% of clients reported no difference in the overall quality of the service, according to a study published in January of 2019 in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Similar to traditional therapy, teletherapy with a counselor can support you with a range of issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, trauma or chronic stress. Zoom, Doxy and Facetime are examples of platforms being used by healthcare providers across the country.

As a result of teletherapy, therapists have been welcomed into the client’s home, introduced to family members and their beloved pets. Adult clients report virtual sessions provide them with flexibility, making it easier to maintain appointments while being in the comfort of their homes. Clients have said that it is easier for them to open up, be vulnerable and talk about difficult issues when in their personal, comfortable environments. Children today are comfortable with technology which makes teletherapy very natural for younger clients.

Interventions are creative with hands on activities and interactive games. According to a 2012 Marketing Chart survey, 42% of teens are more comfortable sharing information and are even more open online than in person. American Well (Amwell) reported in 2017, that experiencing therapy inside the comfort of the home setting normalizes mental health care, and is especially useful for the generations of people who are accustomed to interacting with others online.

Here are a few suggestions to prepare for a teletherapy (phone or video) session:

  •  Make sure you are in a private space with no distractions
  •  Jot down questions prior to the session
  •  Keep paper and a pen close by so you can take notes
  •  Make sure you have good cell and/or internet connections

Teletherapy, either by telephone or video chat, is providing a crucial lifeline during this pandemic and JFCS is here to support you. If you are feeling a sense of loss, stress, sadness, relationship or parenting issues, please call 609-987-8100 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC (Director of Clinical Services)