Self-care: the importance of developing resilience in young people

What does true self-care mean, and how do we have more of it in our lives? What’s the difference between self-care and resilience, and how can we use both to improve our mental and overall health? Self-care and resilience are learned. While individuals have responsibility to practice their skills in these areas, societies, culture, and systems (including the healthcare system and the people within) can contribute greatly to improving self-care and resilience.

So, what is self-care?

One could mistake self-care to simply mean the ways in which we can engage in leisure and relaxation; activities that require little personal investment of time and effort. However, initiating care of oneself (body, mind, and spirit) requires active participation. Self-care is more than just an antidote to the daily stressors. It is foundational for developing and growing resilience, the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capital. It requires, firstly, self-awareness and self-knowledge, identifying the parts that need compassion, nurturing, and restoration. Secondly, then, comes actively cultivating those that need attention. Self-care is increasingly recognised as necessary for optimal health and wellbeing.1,2,3

What is resilience, and how does self-care then feed into it?

Much like self-care, resilience is defined broadly, taking on different meanings depending on which constructs, theories, models, and variables are considered.4 Resilience is: the strength to withstand, stamina to endure, flexibility to work around, and suppleness to bounce back from a given situation. Resilience is not any one of these points individually, it is rather (and even more than) the summation of them all. It enables one to wisely use available resources to not just survive, but to thrive!

How is the skill of resilience practiced?

Most people discover their resilience accidentally, which is oftentimes the result of having coped with and/or overcome a particular challenge. Rarely do we give further consideration to maintaining or developing this newfound capacity. People who have not yet faced significant challenges, particularly children and young people, often remain unaware of their capacity for resilience. For some this means they either remain too afraid to take on particular challenges in life, or their resilience is depleted over time because they do not know how to replenish it.

The young and less experienced also struggle to differentiate between the toxic positivity that is so prevalent today, the unrealistic expectations that are amplified through social media, and resilience that is built on true self-awareness and situational awareness.5

Cultivating resilience through active self-care is not solely dependent on individual efforts, as the systems and structures within which the individual exists also influence their ability to engage in self-care.6 Health practitioners have a responsibility for, and an essential role in, promoting self-care, thereby enhancing the resilience of their patients and clients. Self-care practices that nurture resilience should be taught from a young age, so that individuals can reap the benefits throughout their lives.


This includes improving health literacy and enhancing the variables that contribute to overall positive health and wellbeing, i.e., sleep, rest, recovery, diet, exercise, social connection, and spiritual connection (thought of as connecting ourselves with what gives us meaning and purpose).7 When we can support families and young people to address these multiple factors simultaneously by breaking them down into ‘bite-sized’ changes across the different areas, the overall outcome (gains) will be much greater than the sum of the parts.8

In conclusion

The disciplined self-care required for developing resilience was once deeply enshrined in cultural and spiritual traditions and codes. To ensure the rigorous practice of each of the variables that makes one more resilient.6 In the secular world of siloed and deconstructed social systems, it falls on all who hold responsibility for children i.e., health professionals, teachers, and parents and carers, to take up the mantle of teaching these skills. Young people need to be taught to honour the complexity of the whole human person, the integration of mind, body, and spirit.


These essential lessons, when learned early, ensure the intentional and purposeful development of effective skills to foster resilience. This in turn bolsters self-esteem, and self-agency, the ability to take calculated risks in life, to participate fully and to strive for their highest goals. Growing in resilience paves the way for authentic self-expression, living life to the fullest potential with utmost integrity, to thrive and live a transformational life, pushing through expectations and limits.

  1. Rock, D. & Page, LJ.  (2009 Coaching with the brain in mind: foundations for practice, Wiley Hoboken, N.J.
  2. Godfrey, C. M., Harrison, M. B., Lysaght, R., Lamb, M., Graham, I. D., & Oakley, P. (2010). The experience of self-care: a systematic review. JBI library of systematic reviews8(34), 1351–1460.
  3. Mills, J., Wand, T., & Fraser, J. A. (2018). Exploring the meaning and practice of self-care among palliative care nurses and doctors: a qualitative study. BMC palliative care17(1), 63.
  4. Ledesma, J. (2014) ‘Conceptual Frameworks and Research Models on Resilience in Leadership’, SAGE Open. doi: 10.1177/2158244014545464.
  5. Zimmerman M. A. (2013). Resiliency theory: a strengths-based approach to research and practice for adolescent health. Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education40(4), 381–383.
  6. Narasimhan M, Allotey P, Hardon A. (2019) Self care interventions to advance health and wellbeing: a conceptual framework to inform normative guidance. The BMJ (
  7. Hornor G. (2017) Resilience. J Pediatr Health Care; 31(3):384-390. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2016.09.005
  8. GINSBURG, K. R., JABLOW, M. M., & GINSBURG, K. R. (2011). Building resilience in children and teens: giving kids roots and wings. Elk Grove Village, IL, American Academy of Pediatrics.

This article has been written for the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM) by the documented original author. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the ASLM or its Board.

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