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Annie Bryan: What Does Resilience Mean When You’re 19?

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I have asked Annie Bryan, someone very dear to me, to write a guest blog about what ‘resilience’ means to her as a 19-year old woman. It seems a long time since I was that age and the world has changed beyond recognition for young adults. Her insights are invaluable and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Here’s Annie :-)

Picture of Annie Bryan

And here’s her first blog.

What does resilience mean when you’re 19?

I remember hearing secondary school teachers always talking about resilience; at the time I didn’t think much of it. I was one of those annoyingly lucky kids in school who was good at everything. Obviously, this was great for me! But, because I didn’t find many things difficult, I never really learned to deal with failure and defeat.


Resilience in College

The first time I came across something that truly challenged me was A level Chemistry. Moving to college from a fairly small school was a big jump, as my classes were now full of really intelligent people. When I realised that the people around me could easily understand and complete the work, yet I was struggling to keep up, it knocked my confidence massively.

Whenever I’d get handed back an assessment that I thought I’d done badly on, I would immediately compare it to the good grades I’d been getting in my other two subjects, and let my emotions get the better of me. So, in the first year of Chemistry, I just gave up trying, even to the extent where I would skip the lessons on topics I found difficult! Admittedly, this was not the most productive use of my time, but I had not yet learned how to be resilient.

Text books

As exams got closer and closer in the second year, I came to the realisation that if my mindset did not change regarding Chemistry, I would not be getting the high grades I needed to get into University. I began to think about how I worked best, and how I could prevent myself from feeling frustrated and stressed. Now, I know that I’m a bit of a control freak. For me, planning things and making lists calms me down.

So, from that point onwards, whenever I’d get a poorly graded test back, I would make lists of all the topics I struggled on, and what I needed to work on. I also realised that sometimes I’d be revising from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to sleep! Therefore, another way I became more resilient was to rest, and allow myself to have weekends off; meaning when I started working again on Monday, my brain would not seem to feel so tired. These things definitely made me feel a lot more positive, which helped me bounce back.

In the end, I was most happy with the B I got in Chemistry, even though it was my lowest grade because I had learned that if I kept on trying at something I would succeed.



The Biggest Resilience Test Yet

So, as I went off to Uni, I thought I had this resilience thing cracked. I couldn’t wait to move to a big city! However, my time at Uni didn’t really go to plan – like life often doesn’t.

To cut a long story short, I ended up having a pretty traumatic experience and had to drop out of Uni after only a few months. It was a sad time for me; I’d fallen in love with my course, the city and I’d made some amazing friends there. I was envious of everyone else, continuing to study without any problems, and I think I had a huge fear of missing out.

From a young age, I’d known I’d wanted to go to University; I’d never considered any other options. Now that my plan hadn’t worked out, I felt so scared and confused about what was next for me.

Woman with head in hands looking at laptop and papers

Making Sense Of The Challenge And Moving Forward

This was a whole different kind of stressful situation; I remember feeling like I was never going to bounce back. The Uni suggested I tried counselling; something I would have never considered. It really helped me to make sense of the way I was feeling and realise I needed to find a new sense of purpose to stop me feeling so lost.

Deborah’s book also came at a great time for me; I put her and my counsellor’s tips on building resilience into practice. Some ways I did this was to get more fresh air by going for short walks where I was surrounded by nature, and I chose to improve my diet by going vegan. I now eat way more fresh fruit and vegetables, which is much better for my mental wellbeing.

Additionally, I spend a lot more time cooking new things, which alongside my new self-employed job and other pastimes, are helping to give me a sense of purpose. Also, as I mentioned about me being a control freak, adapting to this situation has taught me that I can’t control every aspect of my life, which has been a tough, but a very necessary lesson to learn.

What resilience means to me

So, over my 19 years on this planet, I’ve learned that resilience is different for each person, and is definitely not something you can learn in a day! I guess for me, bouncing back is about learning to be more in control of my emotions, rather than letting my emotions control me when things get hard. But I’m sure there is a lot more for me to learn…