Written by Lisa Schneller, Director of ATOD, Delaware County

I often ask my clients to journal about the North Star, encouraging them to reflect on who or what in their life is an ongoing support. We talk about travelers who used the North Star to stay oriented on their journey and to help to navigate their path. It’s a metaphor that has been with us and inspiring humans for thousands of years, offering hope, guidance, and connection. We all have our own North Stars; those people and things that are constant in our life. It may be a close friend or family member. Tending to your garden. Practicing yoga. Tapping into your creativity. What or who are your north stars?

I recently learned that stars sparkle because we are looking at them through the atmosphere. Why do I share this? It’s a nice reminder that what we pay attention to and focus on makes a difference in how we see the world. This then has an effect on how we feel. Our perspective and where we place our energy is part of our power.

Over the past year, many of us have focused on the pandemic, and often, the hard loss parts of it; it’s a challenge not to think about it. This has resulted in an increase in isolation, anxiety, depression and substance use. During hard, unknown times, we can be like a traveler out on the ocean, feeling tossed about in various directions. The winds of the media, concerns about loved ones and fears for our well being have thrown us off course. It can feel overwhelming and hard to anchor. But, there are things you can hold onto that can help ground you. What external forces have caused you to lose your way? And what can we do to orient north? How do we stay true to who we are when faced with these challenges?

It’s helpful to think about who you have been rather than what you are doing when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. When faced with a challenge or having a disagreement, who have you been? Tired? Angry? Empowered? Often, our circumstances guide our boat. Take some time to think about who you want to be?

Next, create a list of your core values. This could be compassion, integrity, honesty, or creativity. If you’re looking for ideas, here’s a list of some core values to start your thinking. Do your best to narrow it down to two or three. Then, reflect on the areas where you are able to live into these values and the times when you feel unable to be true to yourself. This can lead to stress and unhappiness! What can you do to help you steer toward your values, to connect to the things that motivate and inspire you to be your best self?

This is where our North Stars come into play. Our connection to our true sense of who we want to be coupled with those constants in our life that keep us grounded help us to feel centered and calm. When we feel lost, or unsure, seek the people, places, and things that remind you who you are and what you value. Then, do the next best thing. After all, to stay on course, you can’t get wrapped up in the what if’s and the unknowns and ask every single star in the sky what to do. Remember to look up, find your stars, and push forward. One small step at a time.

The ATOD Program for Delaware County is coordinated by Child Guidance Resource Centers and funded by the Delaware County Office of Behavioral Health, Drug and Alcohol Division.