NASW-Illinois Chapter President Grisel Rodríguez-Morales, MSW, LCSW
It has been one year since I wrote the first “From the Pen…” article, days after we entered the lockdown in our state, and I started to fully understand the concept of social distancing. We swiftly figured out ways to continue serving individuals and communities, many that continue to be shaken by immeasurable inequalities. Even though we’ve endured great losses, this last year has also offered opportunities to learn from the situation and for growth. Some of those lessons have been quite painful though.
The nation and the world took notice of the perpetual racial injustices, with calls to end racism being stronger than ever. I’m glad that issue has taken such importance. It has been very difficult to understand how a “nation of immigrants” continues to witness the most hideous attacks against individuals who are our neighbors and have made great contributions to this nation. We have learned that we can no longer allow bias and discriminatory practices that maintain inequality.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about resilience. It’s quite amazing that at times, people and communities come out of adversity untouched or with greater empowerment, using the lessons learned through crisis to correct problems. In my February 2020 “From the Pen…” article, I was marveling at the resiliency that my fellow Puerto Ricans had been demonstrating since not only Hurricane Maria, but also the string of earthquakes in the island that put people at risk of not only stress but even losing their lives. Environmental disasters and a global pandemic have also made us take a look at organizational resiliency or the resiliency of essential professionals who care for others. I’m sure you count yourself amongst the latter group.
Resiliency has been defined as the process of adapting well in the face of trauma, adversity, or significant sources of stress. It’s the ability to bounce back quickly from stressful situations. In order to move forward during challenging times as a team, organization, or as a workforce, we must commit to taking consistent steps that foster resiliency. To continue ensuring the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and organizations, there’s no other option than to survive unpredictable times. This past year, I’ve learned more about how crucial it is to mobilize resources that lessen the impact of unprecedented times. This means that at times, we’ll have to concentrate on our most valuable resource – human resources.
It’s common for social workers to encourage clients to attend to their needs first as they try to attend to the needs of others. It’s important to engage in self-care as we continue to deal with challenging times, especially unfamiliar situations for which we don’t have a playbook. We can foster resilience of our staff or colleagues by making time for conversations with those who might be struggling. Try to also see if they can still identify with a purpose. Having purpose and support makes it easier to bounce back. It could be what that colleague needs to keep moving forward. For our social service organizations to be resilient, we need resilient individuals.
Grisel Rodríguez-Morales, MSW, LCSW, is Manager of Health Promotion Programs at Rush University Medical Center. She currently serves as president on the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors and is former Chicago District Chair.