This is a quality towards which many strive, but often fall short. I think it is even more complicated for those of us who also are fighting hard to manage other challenges. It is easy to overreact. Sometimes you just can’t stop the flood of emotions that come over you when you are presented with the unexpected. For me, learning to be resilient is a work in progress.
This fall, all my faculties were tested when I went to take the ACT. I have certain accommodations because of my disabilities and, therefore, I need to specially schedule my ACT so that I have one-on-one proctoring in my own testing environment. The plan, since August, was for me to sit for the ACT during the October offering. I was fully signed up. We had coordinated with the local administrator to ensure that everything was in place. The night before I was set to take the test, doing some last-minute studying, we received a phone call from that administrator. They had forgotten to certify the test on their end and so no physical test had been mailed out; there was no way I could sit for the test the next morning as planned. I was devastated and reeling emotionally. I had begun my ACT preparations back in May and had been diligently learning, practicing, and studying for six months, all in anticipation of this day. And now, not even 12 hours before I was supposed to take one of the most important tests of my life to date, I was being told, through no fault of my own, there was no test for me to take. So, what did I do? How did I handle it?
At first, I was livid, in a complete emotional state. I could only place blame, rant, and rave. But then I tried hard to focus on the positives. Because I have an approved special testing accommodation, my test did not have to be given the next day. I had a 2-week window in which I was allowed to complete the test. We confirmed that the test could be mailed to the administrator the following Monday and the following weekend I could sit for the test; this would enable me to take the test within my approved timeframe. I became grateful that I at least had this option and that I would not need to wait another two months until the next official testing date. I also realized that having another week before testing would give me additional time to study and would allow me to participate in one more review class before taking the actual test.
Ultimately, I decided to view this set-back as a blessing in disguise. I ended up doing well on the test, but not as well as I ultimately wanted; and thus, I did want to take the test again in December, the next official testing date. The only problem is that my school doesn’t offer the test at that time. However, because the administrator had made the mistake for the October test, they were willing to make an exception and schedule me for the December test. I sat for that test and improved my score. I would not have been able to take that December test in the way that I did if the earlier administrative mishap hadn’t happened.
So, what is my lesson learned and why use this story as an example? Resiliency is difficult but with the right mindset, you can train your brain how to reset itself from an initial reaction. In many situations, there might be a bright side that you can uncover if you dig deep. The first step is to climb down from the emotional peak where you are teetering. When I was little, if I went into “emotion mind”, my mom had a paper wheel for me to spin where the pointer would land on an activity that I could do to calm myself down. On it were choices such as listening to music, playing with Legos (still a favorite of mine to this day!), taking a walk, smell something nice, take deep breaths, hit a pillow, etc. I am older now and no longer need the external impetus to remind me of all the things I can do to find my Zen. I often choose creating Lego masterpieces, using boxing equipment to exercise, or listening to the Calm app on my phone to meditate. Another technique my whole family uses is called “Motivation and Inspiration.” My family has a shared digital photo album on our phones called “Motivation and Inspiration.” Each of us saves memes, pictures, and other tidbits that we think might be helpful to peruse on days where we are struggling. Browsing this folder is often a go-to for me when I need help bouncing back. Here are a few quotes from that compilation that I find particularly helpful in such times:
- “When you are in a dark place and you think you’ve been buried, you’re actually being planted.” Christine Caine
- “For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.” Zoe Skylar
- “Sometimes what’s meant to break you, makes you brave.”
Mean Girls, The Musical
- “Never reply when you’re angry. Never make a promise when you’re happy. Never make a decision when you’re sad.” Anonymous
- “OPTIMIST: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a CHA-CHA.” Robert Brault
There are so many mandatory classes that we must take in High School as graduation requirements. I wish one of them was called Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation. The world would be a better place if everyone was proactively equipped with the tools necessary to be resilient.