The expected life transitions of high school seniors—college, trade school, the military or a full-time job—are especially frustrating and stressful during a global pandemic. As seniors navigate new milestones, they are also dealing with unanticipated roadblocks. Due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions, they now face myriad questions, which may include financial instability within the family; health concerns for loved ones; uncertainty from their chosen post-secondary college (online or on campus?); a volatile job market. How should our seniors face these unknown challenges? How should anyone?
Resilience can help. Psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.” Although resilience is not an inherent trait, it can be fostered and developed. Like a muscle, the more it’s exercised, the stronger it will become.
One of the core components of building resilience is healthy thinking. Identify negative thoughts and patterns with an understanding that most of the negative self-talk we have is untrue. With practice, you’ll begin to recognize when this dialogue begins in your head. Replacing negative internal dialogue with positive self-talk will make it your new truth.
Pinpoint sources of stress in your life. Is there some situation in particular that triggers feelings of frustration? Perhaps there are concerns about the uncertainties surrounding college in the fall? If that is the case, do what you can to alleviate this stress by staying in touch with the admissions office or a college advisor. Create a list of questions so you don’t forget anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it; seek support and take action where it is possible.
Develop and work towards concrete goals. Taking small steps can foster a sense of accomplishment and progress, mitigating the likelihood of being overwhelmed by doing too much at once. This process boosts your confidence in your ability to overcome difficult situations, increasing your capacity
Another core component in building resilience is wellness. Take care of your body by exercising and eating healthy foods; rest, meditate, and be patient with yourself and the world around you.
Congratulations, Class of 2020! You have already shown creativity, grit and grace when confronting the challenges of these extraordinary times. Using the strategies of fostering wellness; embracing healthy thinking; building connections with understanding and empathetic people; and finding meaning by being proactive and moving towards your goals, will go a long way in building resilience for now, and into your promising futures.
Outreach Teen & Family Services  is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth age 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. www.outreachteen.org. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.