As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts, researchers are finding that simple interventions can help build emotional resilience — the ability to adapt to challenges and change — and increase positive emotions.
A recent study conducted across 87 countries by researchers from Harvard, Stanford and other universities found that using a simple method to help people think differently about their situations improved their emotional response.
Developing healthy thinking patterns is one of many topics covered in “Finding Strength in the Lord: Emotional Resilience,” a manual and course offered by Self-Reliance Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help members and their friends adapt to challenges with courage and faith centered in the Savior.
“There’s no shortage of emotional trials or struggles that we’re going to have,” said Derek Hagey, Family Services program manager who helped develop the Emotional Resilience manual. “The development of this program really is to help those who are looking at the future and saying, ‘I want to develop some skills to help me.’ …
“Let’s strengthen our emotional resilience now. Let’s build those skills that we need. Let’s develop that mindset of hope.”
In addition to developing healthy thinking patterns, the Emotional Resilience manual includes resources for managing stress and anxiety, understanding sadness and depression, overcoming anger, managing addictive behaviors and building healthy relationships.
The request to develop the manual came prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hagey said.
Designed for anyone and everyone, the manual and course are not meant to be a replacement for therapy, he emphasized, but rather an introductory resource for developing skills, building hope and experiencing healthy relationships.
“The central part of all of this is the Savior and turning to our Savior throughout the whole course,” Hagey said. “Christ bore all the infirmities of this world — not just some or not just the sins — but all infirmities, so that He can know how to succor us and help us through our struggles. … With Him, there’s always hope.”
Some Latter-day Saint congregations have started organizing virtual and in-person group meetings, based on local conditions and directions, to go through the Emotional Resilience manual together with a facilitator.
Elizabeth Valencia of the Dayton Ohio Stake is one of many who has participated in an Emotional Resilience group. She described the course as introspective and said she learned how to develop “a healthy response to life experiences rather than be derailed by them.”
Valencia said the most impactful part of the manual for her was Chapter 2: Healthy Thinking Patterns. As a reminder of what she learned, she still has a picture on her computer screen of the Savior talking to a woman at the well (John 4).
“In the picture, she’s looking at Him, and He’s looking back at her,” Valencia said. “I put [Doctrine and Covenants 6:36] there because one of the things you’re talking about is recognizing inaccurate thinking patterns … and to try and look to the Savior in every thought.”
During the weekly meetings, Valencia said, “you talk about dealing with life and how to find strength through the teachings of Jesus Christ and support from other people.”
“You don’t have to share if you don’t want to,” she added, “but you learn a lot about a lot of things … from depression to exercise to taking care of your body to communication with other people. It covers a wide, wide variety of topics that can help us to be emotionally and spiritually stronger than we were when we started.”
Valencia said she would participate in the manualized-study course again. “There is so much content there, and I think at different times in your life, there are different things that you would learn from the different modules.”
Valencia’s husband, Dayton Ohio Stake President Ricardo Valencia, commented on the importance of emotional resilience for members in his area and the enduring impact of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s general conference talk “Like a Broken Vessel.”
“We’re so grateful that an Apostle would address [mental and emotional health], and the fact that the Church has continued to see that as a need and come out with a course like this to help address those needs — I think it just makes a great point that the Lord is mindful of us and that He’s putting forth the resources to bless His people,” President Valencia said.
The emotional resilience materials are currently available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian and other languages, with 10 additional languages forthcoming. Other self-reliance manuals offered by the Church are titled “Personal Finances,” “Starting and Growing My Business,” “Find a Better Job” and “Education for Better Work.”
Learn more at ChurchofJesusChrist.org/self-reliance/manuals-and-videos.