We are hearing a lot about how we should be making an effort to adjust to a “new normal” given the many major stressors we are all facing these days. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I know how to do that. I do know, however, that there are some coping mechanisms that have proven to be useful for both our clients and our staff.

When we face severe difficulties in our lives, our bodies can produce a rush of adrenaline to help us persevere. When we survive the situation and get through to the other side, we can look back and tell ourselves “that’s done” and go on with our lives.

However, we are currently confronted with a longer-term series of challenges given the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. There is no getting to the other side just yet as we experience wave upon wave of unpredictable obstacles that we must navigate and overcome.

As HOPE Center staff members deal with the types of magnified stressors in their lives that we are all currently confronting, they are also faced with client issues that are amplified and multiplied. The surge of incoming calls and the challenges of providing client services during a pandemic can reveal cracks in the system while generating intensified stress for individuals.

One example is the increased need for safe, secure housing. Many of these calls are outside the scope of our normal work as they are not related to individuals fleeing domestic violence (for which we have processes and systems in place) but are related to increased unemployment and the termination of eviction protections.

So many of these additional calls require more support than we can offer. However, it’s not in our DNA to turn away those in need. Our staff attempts to identify support mechanisms and sources of assistance — in addition to the work they are already undertaking for our core clientele.

As the pandemic began to unfold, we at HOPE Center braced ourselves to make it through a short-term crisis. However, when it became clear that the situation would be both extreme and ongoing, we have had to figure out how to maintain our level of service and our resilience while performing in constant crisis mode.

We recognize that the pandemic is causing each of us to experience ongoing trauma that is testing our ability to push through adversity. We have redoubled our efforts to be here for each other. We remind ourselves to be kind, to be gentle, and to be respectful of our colleagues as we are with our clients.

We find ourselves needing to focus on whatever practices have grounded us in the past, on identifying and leveraging our support systems and on committing to assisting others.

We also have to remind ourselves that we will eventually be able to look back and say we survived.

We will get through this.

HOPE Center services include phone support, emergency shelter, counseling, hospital support and legal advocacy. For assistance for yourself or someone else, call our 24-hour Safeline: 800-607-2330. For more information, visit us at hopecentermn.org.

Erica Staab-Absher is executive director of the HOPE Center. Reach the center at 507-332-0882.

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