Embracing Our Fear

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” –Seneca

As we begin to see many states usher in the process of re-opening their economies, I can’t help but wonder about the fear and anxiety that attends this process. I see photos of crowded beaches, passengers filling planes, and patrons at bars, and I wonder if we might be moving a bit too fast. 

The anxiety and fear that we’ve had to endure the past two months has been palpable, and we are doing our best to embrace the “new normal”. But I wonder, what is the “new normal” supposed to look like? We have learned that we’ll be in a better position if we can face possible threats with a calm mind, alert to our internal signals, but we can’t be expected to anticipate every possible negative outcome. Being told to stop panicking never helps anyone, but we benefit by understanding that being overwhelmed by fear will hurt us more. Our imaginary fears harm us more than reality ever does.

We’ve adapted to this pandemic pretty well, adopting the new safe practices of wearing masks, sanitizing our world, and keeping safe distances, but the fear is still out there. For many it won’t be safe until we have vanquished the virus with a proven vaccine. Fear, however, is not the same as anxiety.  Understand that we are anxious, and it’s because we are facing an uncertain future. Hence, we create our own storyline of outcomes. The solution to this, then, isn’t worrying more—it’s doing all we can to either find clarity, or working to accept that uncertainty is part of our life. Once we’ve faced that reality, some of the shock goes away and we can then think about how to prepare for the journey ahead.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

The New Starting Line

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


“It’s not how you start that’s important, but how you finish.” 

That quote is attributed to Jim George, a Christian minister and inspirational speaker, and it’s a quote you might have heard before. For the most part, I agree with this statement and I have used it a lot in my athletic background. But, there’s also the well-used Nike quote, “there is NO finish line!” I’ve been thinking a lot about the analogies of toeing the starting line these days and finding our way to a new starting line in the midst of this pandemic.

Looking back, I remember the many days of training that built up to race day. The routine, the pain, the sacrifice, and all of the hard work leading up to one moment. When the big day arrived, I could barely contain myself, flushed with the emotions of anxiety and anticipation. All of that preparation, the days of practice, now culminating at this moment. The exhilaration giving way to the knowledge that it was time to be present and perform. It takes a lot of courage to show up at the start line, preparing and dedicating yourself for this particular moment. Trusting that you’ve done the work, but also feeling the fear of the unknown journey ahead. Whether it’s sports, family, work, or favorite pastimes, we’ve all felt that mix of emotions when it’s time to show up at the starting line.

I’m guessing that many of us are anxious to get to the starting line these days. Much of our discipline and preparation has been canceled, changed, or if you’re fortunate enough, postponed. One thing is for sure, we will all have to find our way back to the starting line at some point. So, with the next race on the horizon, there are some things to bear in mind as we inch our way back to that starting line. Here are some thoughts to consider while we wait for the starting gun:

Know that the race will not be the same as before: Maybe it will look like a marathon, or maybe a series of sprints, unexpected hills, and dizzying descents, roots, rocks, and washouts. The race has changed, and we will have to adapt. Reaching the finish line will require emotional agility, adjusting expectations, and a different training regimen. Our jobs, relationships, community, and practice will probably not look the same when the starting line appears, and the best time to prepare yourself is before the race begins.

Technique and tactics are essential: Most successful competitors have spent significant time learning about the necessary tools and techniques that will make the race ahead more enjoyable. It’s not just about showing up, but HOW you show up. How will you handle the new landscape ahead? The best way to prepare is to embrace the change, and develop new tactics for success such as mindfulness, empathic listening, and self-awareness. 

Finding joy and gratitude: Yes, the race might have changed, but this is now a chance to adapt your skills, open your heart to new opportunities, and prepare yourself to show up in a state of readiness. When you arrive at the starting line, you will not doubt yourself, but rather show up in a state of emotional preparedness.  

For those of us who have taken the time to adjust our strategy and technique, it will be the start of a new and amazing journey.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

RSI is Seeking Dress Shirt Donations

We are currently seeking donations of extra-large or bigger dress shirts. Please consider sharing this information with friends or family who may be interested in helping out.

These shirts may be used as a substitute for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while we continue to work hard to gather all of the necessary supplies for our homes and employees.

For any questions or for drop-off and pick-up information, please contact us at (218) 740-7603 or [email protected].

Thank you!

Positive Transformation During This Difficult Time

Written by: Roni Horak, RSI Clinical Director for Behavioral Health and Counseling Services


Our vision for moving forward continues to shift as our world is adapting to many changes in our safety needs, protocols, and day-to-day practices. Living in a time of pandemic is difficult, to say the least. However, how we choose to navigate this journey can have a profound impact on what our lives will look like on the other side of this. If, for a moment, we were to work with the notion that the only choice was to navigate this time period with a mindset of opportunity for personal growth, what would our world look like? What positive changes would we see?  Embracing an “opportunity mindset” and framework when in difficult situations will help us rise to a level of positive transformation.    


This is a time to look for transformation in ourselves and our lives.


A time for changes, of discarding things that bogged you down and brought negativity or influenced you to go outside of your own values or ethics. It’s making small agreements with yourself about what will continue to be important in your life and what you want to let go of.


A time to focus on long-awaited goals and dreams, of looking at the things we felt we didn’t have the time for and can now dedicate ourselves to accomplishing.


A time to prioritize what we value, and what we want to spend more time doing in the future. A time to recognize what has been put to the side due to the rush of life, conflicts, or lack of support. 


This is a time of refocus and renewal.



Learn more about Roni’s work at RSI on our Outpatient Counseling page.

Our COVID-19 Response

Written by: Claire Farmer-Lies, Marketing and Communications Specialist


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, RSI has updated and shifted many of our day-to-day practices in an
effort to keep our homes, supported individuals, communities, and employees as safe as possible. Most
importantly, we have been, and will continue to follow the official guidelines from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota
Department of Human Services (DHS).

For information on our COVID-19 Response Plan, community and employee resources, and how we are continuing to provide services, please visit our webpage: www.residentialservices.org/covid

We will continue to revise our COVID-19 webpage with updates on our Response Plan, so please refer to
the page for the most up-to-date information from RSI.

It’s National Nurses Week!

Written by: Claire Farmer-Lies, Marketing and Communications Specialist


National Nurses Week starts today and goes til May 12th!

We are so grateful for our team of talented RNs and LPNs, and the crucial support they provide to our homes, the people we support, and to all of our direct-care employees.

An excerpt from a letter to our Health Services team, written by Executive Director Jon Nelson:

May 6, 2020 is National Nurses Day, part of National Nurses Week that runs through May 12, 2020. May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. If you do not know who she is you should Google her. Especially because our very own Health Services Director, Mary Hallsten, is nominated for the Florence award this year. This award recognizes the nurses in our region who best represents the traits of Florence Nightingale – Empathy, Innovation, and Mission.

When Mary learned of her nomination, she was quick to point out that any success she has had is due to the wonderful group of nurses at RSI.

RSI’s nurses had us prepared for dealing with something like COVID-19 because of all the training, protocols, and support mechanisms they have put in place. Their focus on the details of proper handwashing, cleaning and sanitation, use of protective equipment, and monitoring people for signs and symptoms, has put us in a good position to manage the concerns that come with COVID-19. None of us should take this for granted. Having nurses available to support us during this crisis is making the fear and anxiety that comes with COVID-19 more manageable.

Please join me in thanking RSI’s nurses for everything they do every day at RSI. For the caring and compassion they bring to their jobs and for their commitment to supporting anyone who wants to live more independently at RSI. Please extend a word of appreciation to any nurse you see this week and let them know you recognize the value they bring to RSI.

Thank you to all RSI nurses, you deserve the recognition.


Searching for Certainty in Uncertain Times

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


I’m probably like many people these days, spending a lot of time trying to dissect the news and educating myself on how best to navigate these uncertain waters. Unless I’m missing something, I have yet to see anything certain about the path ahead. We think there are experts, looking to science and modeling, who can see the future ahead. However, we often see these claims refuted, only to be replaced with blame and frustration. We make ourselves delirious, spinning our minds through the same handful of scenarios we come up with over and over, never feeling any closer to a resolution.

However, it seems a great paradox of life that it is actually through embracing the uncertainty, we thrive. Our lives are greatly determined by what we do when faced with uncertainty. Without uncertainty, we might never grow because we would never be pushed beyond our comfort zones. Contrary to popular ideas, not knowing exactly what will happen in our lives is okay. In fact, it can actually be quite liberating…if you can begin to let go. We are all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in our lives. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living with unpredictability, while others find the randomness in life deeply distressing. But, we all have our limit. If you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and worry, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. As they say, “we’re all in this together!”

I don’t pretend to have all (or any) answers to this new crisis, as it’s new ground to cover and the landscape is a little less defined. However, I do know that worrying about the future is a bit tricky.  Unfortunately, chronic worrying can’t give you more control over uncontrollable events; instead, it just robs you of enjoyment in the present, saps your energy, and keeps you up at night. But, there are healthier ways to cope—and that begins with adjusting your current mindset. 

For myself, I have to begin by forcing myself to look at my mindset. What real control do I have to save our world, our community, even our businesses? However, I do have control of who I contact, how I contact them, and what message I convey. It all comes down to my attitude and emotional response, and that can make a difference to a person who needs love and connection in their life. Some of my recent conversations have been transformative, yet so simple. I don’t think that we as human beings are looking for anything sensational at this point, but it is in the reflection and reassurance that we get our strength.

I think there is a sense of peace when we can learn to accept uncertainty, and recognize when you feel the need to be certain. One of the surest ways to avoid excessive worrying about the future is to focus on the present. Instead of trying to predict what might happen, switch your attention to what IS happening right now. By being fully connected to the present, you can interrupt the negative assumptions and catastrophic predictions running through your mind. I have heard it said that the furthest distance in the universe is from the head to the heart, but it is in the stillness that we find this path. It is in the quiet space that we can get out of our heads and connect deeply with ourselves, thereby allowing ourselves to be open to possibilities and opportunities when they arrive. But, here’s the big takeaway: this might take a new dedication, a new mindset, and a new way of seeing yourself and the world. But, I do think that this is a time to be kind to yourself, be more curious, and attend to your need for becoming more grounded in the reality of uncertainty.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Supporting our Children While Caring for Ourselves

Written by: Roni Horak, RSI Clinical Director for Behavioral Health and Counseling Services


Everyone struggles in their own way, and we always view the world from our own lens. When we experience challenging moments and traumatic events, we naturally react and respond in different ways as well. Through the aging process, we also develop tools and coping mechanisms based on our past traumas, triumphs, and life experiences. 

Have you ever noticed that when you are around calm people you feel calm? Similar emotional exchanges can occur with stress, anxiety, and frustration coming from others, and we may respond in the same way. Young people are no different in this. While children have the ability to experience a range of emotions and challenges just like adults, they may rely more on changes in behavior and emotional dysregulation to express their feelings.

Helping children during this time can be challenging, as we are also attempting to understand what’s going on around us and trying to maintain balance. Parents will make more progress by taking care of themselves and by “putting their oxygen mask on first” so that they can take care of others. In my practice, I often use metaphors to help us understand concepts, and this is one I find particularly helpful. I know there are parents out there trying to manage these sudden and drastic changes to our everyday life, so there is no better time to make sure you put your “oxygen mask” on first right now. Allow yourself some grace during this time. I know that things have changed in so many ways and you’re suddenly cooking more meals, doing more cleaning, helping your children with eLearning, and spending long hours at home. So, to all the parents out there: you are amazing and you are doing the best you can, so remember to be patient with yourself. It’s also important to extend that patience to the children in your life who may be struggling to understand everything that is going on in the world right now.

A round of applause for all of the young people who have been through so much this year and continue to push through. They are staying in more, they are away from friends and loved ones, they have new routines and rules, and so many other changes that they may not understand fully. Children can be extremely resilient but every day our little humans are experiencing this right along with us.  


Things to watch for during this time:

Here are some things that can indicate anxiety, fear, stress, and confusion in children: 

  • Excessive crying or irritation
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating (undereating or binge eating)
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Irritability and “acting out” 
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Decreased concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Small tasks appear to be overwhelming

Ways to support children:

  • Reassure safety by going over everything that your household is doing to prevent illness such as good exercise, cleanliness, and social distancing.
  • Offer to help them look at what they CAN control and let the rest go. Offer to help them look at what they CAN do versus what they aren’t able to do at this time.
  • Honor and validate their feelings. Facilitate a conversation about what each family member is feeling during dinner time and share how your family unit will overcome.
  • Encourage and model a hopeful attitude. This will pass in time, and our lives are forever changed, so look at the positive aspects this time has provided and will continue to provide for our new future.
  • Share tools and coping options such as stretching, tag in the yard, yoga, or writing a letter to a friend or loved one.
  • Limit news coverage. We want to stay informed, but excessive coverage may have a negative impact on emotions and increase fear.
  • Monitor misinterpretation of news and correct it. Pay attention that comes from organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other credible sources.
  • Keep a routine (structure your day, take breaks, and maintain a high-quality evening routine that promotes good sleep)
  • Find connections in new forms (phone calls, handwritten letters, and video meetings)
  • Last but not least for the parents and caregivers, “put your own oxygen mask on first.”



Learn more about Roni’s work at RSI on our Outpatient Counseling page.