We’ve all been told that kids are resilient—and they are in many ways. Even so, suicide stands as the second leading cause of death for kids ages 10–14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, anxiety has skyrocketed among young adults, the labor force is short-staffed and overstressed and divorce rates have climbed in recent years. It seems we’re falling short of the dictionary definition of resilience: the power or ability to recover quickly from a setback, depression, illness, overwork or other adversity. And it’s not all in our heads.
Here we take a look at how humans develop resilience over the decades. It’s about how you move, what you absorb and who’s on your side.
When the whole world is new and “all fall down” the name of the game, it’s no surprise that young kids need physical security from attentive caregivers. Death by accident or injury is the number one cause of childhood mortality. Parents, extended family members and caregivers also provide emotional security. It’s the unseen side of resilience, rooted in community connection.
As kids enter school, open lines of communication can help guard against behavioral health issues. Engage, get on your young one’s level and ask detailed questions that elicit detailed responses. “Children have much more to say than parents believe,” says Matthew Gelber, a Devon-based psychotherapist specializing in families and children. “How you talk to them makes all the difference.”
Ask clarifying questions, point by point—even if you think you know what they mean. “This means not asking—or accepting—one-word questions or answers,” Gelber says. “The healthiest child has parents who want to hear what the child has to say. Learn the ways to draw your kids out.”
At this crucial stage, mental and emotional resilience becomes just as important as physical resilience. By their teen years, many kids are spending as much time with their peers as they are with family. Still, the latter continues to impact their sense of belonging. “If you make your children’s mental health as primary a goal as their physical health, you can be out front of issues,” says Gelber.
Finding the right mental health treatment plan for your child is never easy. “Grab a cup of coffee and block out the time to figure it out—it takes time,” says Holly O’Connell, founder and executive director of Path to Hope. “Mental health is part of physical health. Start with your pediatrician or family doctor.”
Founded in Exton in 2018, Path to Hope is on a mission to guide and support individuals in navigating the mental health landscape. The nonprofit offers these tips for parents:
“Getting out of, ‘I just don’t feel good,’ can be so overwhelming, but feeling healthy and happy is your birthright,” says Ashley Robertson, the 29-year-old general manager of CycleBar in Exton and a wellness influencer. “And if you’re not? There are things we can do to help that.”
A strong athlete at Downingtown East High School, Robertson learned about the positive impact of movement on mental health as a psychology student. But even she went through a period when she got away from regular workouts. A 2016 visit to CycleBar changed her life. “Classes are a great way to figure out what you’re interested in, but it can be daunting to think in yearlong goals. Just show up one time, then another time,” says Robertson. “Plenty of people have had their lives changed by an exercise class.”
Robertson’s number one message for wellness: Renature yourself. “Examine the things that have always been biologically healthy—move more, get outside,” she says “With every step, every bit that you add, you begin to feel better.”
These are also the years when organized sports become a key component in many kids’ lives. Physical activity burns off the energy fueled by raging hormones, aiding in more balanced emotional health.
The 20s end with a thud, and our youthful vigor is challenged by injuries, poor eating habits, kids and careers—and preventive care becomes a buzz word. It’s time to manage stress and get ahead of those genetic markers for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It’s also a good time to reassess and perhaps extend your workouts. “I see two mindsets—those who think they have to do these huge, strenuous workouts for any results, and those who just don’t think they can do it,” says Cindy Brauer, founder of Mojo Fitness in Wayne. “It’s about sustainability, longevity and joy.”
It’s also about frequency and consistency, not intensity and power (which can lead to injury). “A workout should be the best part of your day, not a chore,” Brauer says. “Find ways to weave it into your schedule.”
Everyone wants to be in better shape as we age. “At 45, you start losing fast-twitch muscle fibers, and the only way to reverse that is strength training,” says Newtown Square-based personal trainer Scott Satell. “Lifting needs to be done in a safe, efficient and effective way.”
A lifelong sports devotee, Satell wrestled at Lafayette College, assisted former Harriton High School wrestling coach Bill Zimmerman and has coached more than 70 youth teams. “People don’t work out because it’s not convenient,” he says. “They think it takes too long, and they’re already pressured by life’s responsibilities.”
Satell is now a part of the nationwide Exercise Coach team, which delivers individualized attention by appointment. Using AI-driven machines, optimal ranges of motion are programed by the coach then adjusted to users as they progress. “The AI takes the complexity out of working out,” Satell says. “The machines are safe, and appointments remove the intimidation of a gym atmosphere for older adults or novice lifters.”
In our sixth decade and beyond, preventive physical care is front and center. “Screenings save lives,” says Dr. Marianne Ritchie, a gastroenterologist, an instructor at Jefferson University and host of the national health show Your Radio Doctor.
With early detection, nine out of 10 people survive at least five years after colon cancer, which is the second leading cause of death in men and women. Founded in 2014 by Ritchie, the Blue Lights Campaign aims to raise awareness of colon cancer. Over 30 buildings in Philadelphia and every state capital in the nation will shine blue in March as part of the widespread effort to promote screenings for colorectal cancer.
Other screenings your doctor might recommend include cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. For men, prostate screenings are a must, as are breast cancer screenings for women (at least until age 75).
Related: Main Line Wellness Guru Ashley Robertson on Healthy Eating