Recently, Principal Mrs Maryanne Davis spoke to our Senior students about being emotionally agile and what that looks like in the real-world. She explained how learning now to “bounce-back” and to be resilient when things don’t exactly go as planned, will not only help students deal with any current difficulties, but also help deal with challenges later in life.

Today I want to talk about being agile and what that means day-by-day. I’m not talking about being physically agile, but rather about being emotionally agile.

When we look at the ads on TV or the way teenagers are portrayed in the movies, it seems as though life is really easy ... the sun is always shining, everyone is laughing, they’re wearing the right clothes and saying the right thing and it appears as though they don’t have any problems, or that problems are solved really easily and everything is perfect.

However, for every-day people living every-day lives it is a lot harder. The outcome takes a lot longer and is much more unpredictable.

Resilience can help you be one of those people who’ve ‘got bounce’ and can, above all, let it go!

Principal Mrs Davis with Senior girls

Throughout your time at school, you may have heard the phrase “bounce back” and you will have been encouraged to bounce back or be resilient when you face bumps on the road of life. I want you to think about this and perhaps apply it a little differently as you encounter the challenges of Senior School .

What are some tips that can help you learn to be resilient? Here are my tips to help to build resilience and improve your ability to bounce back and let it go! They are my adaptations of the American Psychological Society’s Tips to Build Resilience*.

Remember that these are just tips and that just as every person’s challenges are different the best way to handle challenges faced is also different. Remember that nothing will help if you are not prepared to let it go!

Look at the ants, monkeys and elephants

I have often talked about the ants, the monkey, and the elephant. There are small issues we face every day. Little things like little ants nibbling at your toes. You don’t really mind the ants; you can stomp on them or push them on another course and make them go away. However, ants are also small and really easy to ignore. Sometimes we just pretend that those ants (those little issues) aren’t even there.

However, when we ignore the ants nibbling at our toes, they don’t disappear, they grow into dirty, smelly monkeys that sit on your shoulder and yabber, yabber endlessly in your ear. They mess up your life in the playground and stop you from concentrating in class.

Even so, sometimes we ignore the dirty smelly monkeys on our shoulders, and when we do that, they grow into elephants that you simply can’t shift and that just weigh you down.

That little problem that started out as an ant is now the size of an elephant... So what do you need to do to stop ants growing into dirty, smelly monkeys or even elephants in your life?


Engage with others and with your feelings

You need to talk to the adults at home or here at school about the ants that are nibbling at your toes. Mum, dad, the other adults at home, your teachers, your BOND teacher, the counsellors and chaplains, Miss Romberg or Mr Wilkins or Miss Nunn.

All of these people have more life experience than you do, even if it seems they never were your age. They can help you to deal with little issues and help you manage them on your own in the future. They can also help you to get help from someone else if that’s needed. They are also really good at recognising the times when you think you have an elephant
in your life when in fact it is only an ant!

Also, engage more widely. This is good for general mental health and an ability to keep things in perspective. Get connected to your community, whether it’s as part of a
church group, a sporting group, a drama group or a knitting group. Make the effort to join a group - don’t wait for the group to come to you!

Engage with your feelings. Find a way to express yourself individually and with others. The tough stuff can make our emotions rage, sometimes emotions are hard to identify and hard to control. Capture your emotions in a way that assists you; maybe by singing, dancing, starting a journal, or creating art.

When you engage with your emotions you can more easily express yourself.

Take care of yourself

Create a hassle-free zone. Make your room or another space at home into a “hassle-free zone” ... not that you keep everyone out of, but that you make it as hassle free as possible. To do this you may need to be strong and brave, and take your social media out of your room.

You also need to understand that if others in your family are facing challenges they might want and need to spend time with you in your space and you should strive to be strong enough to make sure this can happen. I wonder if you remember or still have your childhood cuddly blanket or special toy that brought you comfort? Identify what is your stress reliever now ... what brings joy to your soul?

While you may be doing all kinds of new things, don’t forget the parts of your life that give you comfort: whether it’s the sport or music you do before class, whether it is prayer group with friends, or attending youth fellowship, playing your guitar and singing, painting or photography, swimming or running, playing chess with dad or mum or shopping with a friend. Just as when you were a baby and you had a security blanket or special toy – work out what gives you comfort now.

Be sure to take care of yourself - physically, mentally and spiritually. And get sleep ... there’s a lot going on, and it’s going to be tough to face if you’re grumpy and falling asleep on your feet.

Imitate Christ

Jesus said:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second which is equally as important is ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:27-38

This is what Ut Prosim is all about: looking away from yourself and towards the needs of others. You can’t serve or love others if you don’t look away from yourself and your own needs.

Help somebody… nothing gets your mind off your own problems like helping someone else solve theirs. You can start at home by looking for ways to help others in your family; clean up not only your own room but help your sister or brother to do theirs. Do the washing … wash it, hang it, fold it and put it away! not only will that help others your family, they will wonder if they have an alien in their midst!

Take control

When there is tough stuff going on in your life, set yourself small goals, little steps to move forward, take one small step at a time. During a really hard time, just getting out of bed and going to school may be all you can handle, but even accomplishing that small step can help.

Bad times make us feel out of control. Grab some of that control back by taking decisive action and patting yourself on the back when you actually take that action, however small.

Go easy on yourself and others

When something bad happens in your life, the weight of whatever you’re going through may heighten daily stresses. Your emotions might already be all over the place because of hormones and physical changes; the uncertainty during a tragedy or trauma can make these shifts seem more extreme. Be prepared for this and go a little easy on yourself, and on your friends. Remember they have stresses in their lives of which you might not be aware.

Own your own stuff ups

Apart from Christ, no one is perfect. We all stuff up. If you don’t acknowledge that there is something you need to address and let go of, it is impossible to bounce back. You need to own up to what you have said or done that is wrong, and make a change in what you do.

If you deny your stuff ups, if you get your parents to insist that you never lie, that you would never be mean, that you would never post something that shouldn’t have been posted, you won’t be able to move on and we won’t be able to help you to do it.

Bounce back and let it go

You can learn to bounce back, but just because you learn to bounce back doesn’t mean you won’t feel stressed or anxious. You might have times when you aren’t happy - and that’s OK.

Bouncing back and letting go is a journey, and each person will take their own time along the way. The skills of bouncing back and letting go that you will learn during really bad times, are good skills to have every day and they will be useful even after the bad times end.

Acknowledgments: American Psychological Association Thanks to Mary K. Alvord, Ph.D, Robin Gurwitch, Ph.D., Jana Martin, Ph.D., and Ronald S. Palomares, Ph.D., who assisted with this article. Updated May 2011

*American Psychological Society’s Tips to Build Resilience