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Strength: how can we be strong?

The word strength gets thrown around a lot, ranging anywhere from physical to mental capabilities. Someone can be seen as literally strong for being able to bench press half their body weight, another person can be seen as emotionally strong for not crying at the ending of Old Yeller. There’s a wide range for which we acknowledge what strength means to us, dependent really on what we individually understand strength to mean. And we aren’t always our best judge of character.

During the pandemic, many of us have been called to be strong in different ways. In some ways this is physical, like healthcare workers working long hours with less staff, some of whom also work additional hours in vaccination clinics. Some people have kept strong emotionally, as many people lost their jobs during the pandemic and have struggled to find new career paths and how to navigate networking and job markets when everything has been moved online. Some have had to be strong mentally as children participate in online schooling while parents juggle working from home and keeping some sort of normalcy in a situation that wasn’t supposed to be normal, one that two years later is starting to scarily become familiar.

It can bring on a sense of panic, I know it does for me at times when I think about the early months of 2020 before all this happened, how quickly things can change, and lives can be uprooted. It’s scary when the norm becomes abnormal and then as things progress the abnormal starts to feel normal. It can be depressing and can cause us to feel a wide range of emotions as we try to navigate a world that seems to change on a daily. How can we be strong, be ready, when we don’t always know what we have to be strong for? ‍

Simple: you don’t.

This may seem ironic considering the first pillar in STEEL stands for Strength, but it isn’t possible for a person to be strong all the time. Even the strongest structures break, and people need to take breaks in order to keep their strength, especially during a global time of stress. But even taking a break can seem panic-inducing, like if we take a break for even the briefest of moments the world around us will come tumbling down. So here are some ways to relax while keeping productive as a way to conserve and build strength.

For those who want to learn something new:

Coursera is a great website that offers free online courses for users. Early on in the pandemic I took the Indigenous Canada course offered by the University of Alberta and learned so much about Indigenous culture, the history of colonization in Canada, and Indigenous relationships within Canada today than was ever mentioned during my own studies in school.

JSTOR is a great database if you’re curious about researching a topic that interested you back in the day, looking up primary historical pictures, or just looking for academic articles on a topic that’s recently caught your fancy. The best part? When you make an account with JSTOR you get 100 free articles a month!

Mango Languages is much like Duolingo with over 70 languages you can explore, minus the annoying owl. It’s a wonderful app and with a Hamilton Public Library card you can access the resource for free!

For the artist:

Canva gives me the same joy that hours of playing on Paint did in high school. From Instagram posts to presentations, to photo collages and videos Canva gives at on of free resources for artists to play with branding. There is an option for payment, but Canva also offers a wide range of free features for artists to play around in.

The Arty Crowd is a digital hub created by the Hamilton Arts Council as a way for artists to network, advertise, and connect with other Hamilton artists to help the arts sector grow in our amazingly creative city. By creating a profile, artists are able to submit events to their own opportunities and find ones to join, employment, and arts events around the city.

For those who need a rest:

Smiling Mind is a free meditation app, I’ve used it a lot before going to bed when my mind doesn’t want to stop nagging me. There are a number of meditations for kids, adults, families, classrooms, at work, as well as in other languages.

Yoga with Adrienne is a wonderful Youtuber who does a number of yoga routines from super easy to difficult depending on what you’re comfortable with. I know it’s an age-old saying but getting moving really does help and I find yoga can be such an easy way to start and end your day and bring some peace to your body.

Remember: You don’t have to be strong all the time, we can’t be strong unless we take time to rest and recuperate and that is nothing to feel guilty over. Taking time for yourself, for your wants, needs, and health is the most important thing and carving out even just a small part of the day for that can make a world of difference. ‍

-Writer and playwright from Hamilton, Ontario

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