By Matt Joski, Kewaunee County Sheriff
Although the subject of resiliency has been deeply embedded in my own mind since receiving the training last spring, this month of suicide prevention awareness and my opportunities to share information on the QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) program has heightened my interest and passion on the need to build resiliency. Just as physical exercise and diet are the building blocks to an improved physical wellbeing, mental exercises are just as crucial to building a stronger mental wellbeing. Just as you would not be able to go from a physically sedimentary lifestyle to a highly demanding physical exertion event, you cannot go from an unconditioned mental state to a critical or challenging event. In both cases, you need to train, and yes your brain is just another muscle that can be strengthened through exercise.
This week I want to share a perspective on a resource we all have, our individual character strengths. We may not think of these strengths or the important role they play each and every day, but they are there as a product of all of our life experiences or as a result of those who have impacted our lives. The challenge is not merely acknowledging these character strengths, but applying them effectively during those times of both struggle and accomplishment. While we all possess character strengths at some degree such as honesty, courage, forgiveness, creativity or humor, we may struggle when to maximize or minimize a given character strength for the best outcome in our relationships or interactions. A good example of this would be what I would consider one of my own character strengths of Humor. If I am not able to apply this strength in an appropriate setting, it could be viewed as insensitive or unprofessional. Likewise, if I over apply my character strength of Judgment into a situation which would be best served by another character strength of compassion I would not be as effective to those I am assisting.
Another consideration in understanding character strengths is taking the time to know other’s character strengths. This is important as we all interact at some point and the need to be sensitive to each other’s perspectives and values can be the difference between a long lasting friendship and a dysfunctional interaction. The good news is that we can actually work to build on a character strength that we aspire to possess. Just as practice and exercise can improve our runtime or endurance, challenging ourselves mentally can build our mental strengths as well.
The first step is to take inventory in what we feel are our own character strengths. Once we make that list, share it with a family member or a friend. Many times those around us have a better perspective of our character strengths than we do. This is because our character is defined by our actions and our actions are a result of our character. You may find out that what you thought was one of your greatest character strengths is not the case, but rather a different character strength you never considered. The important message is that we all have unique character strengths and that we have the ability to manage these strengths to see us through the difficult times as well as to build stronger relationships with those around us.