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"I recommend almost dying to everyone. It's character building. You get a much clearer perspective on what's important and what's not." Carl Sagan, Astronomer

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To register for stress management programs and services, contact Rana Chudnofsky at 617.643.6068 or

Some people respond to traumatic experiences in their lives -- illness, death of a loved one, disability, loss of one's job -- with incredible resiliency. They view the experience as a way to grow and develop, to find greater meaning and purpose in their lives. They see the trauma as a "turning point" or a "wake up call" and think of themselves as survivors, not victims. That's resiliency. Resilient folks spend little time wishing their lives would return to what used to be. They understand that the "used to be" is gone. They are able to create a new way of going on and being ... a new "now."

The need for resiliency and meaning extends beyond those experiencing a crisis or a serious illness to the legions who live with everyday stress. How many of us work long hours and take more work home at night and on weekends? We drive home in heavy traffic, get take-out food for dinner, and talk on a cell phones while eating. Then we watch the news (more bad than good) and go to bed. We may ask ourselves "What was wonderful in that day?"

We may have closed down entire compartments of our lives. Life rolls along : predictable, safe and boring. We are often angry, feel unappreciated, and complain that we feel stuck but don't know what or how to change. We've forgotten how to have fun.

In our clinical programs, we help participants look at themselves through new eyes and see their medical condition as an opportunity to really make positive changes. We ask BIG questions, and when people begin the journey of answering these questions, they experience a shift from a feeling of loss of control and despair to one of gratitude, hope, optimism, and joy. They begin to find new meaning and purpose in their lives, all of which have a positive impact on both their emotional and physical health.

Resiliency Exercise

The following exercise can help you begin the process of developing some resiliency and changing your life view:

Get a piece of paper and a pen. Find a quiet place and comfortable chair. Close your eyes, take a few easy breaths and begin to contemplate your goals, plans, dreams, and fantasies about your future, for next week or six months from now.

Think of these five BIG questions:

  • What is meaningful in your life right now?
  • What are your passions?
  • Why are you here?
  • What are the gifts you have to give?
  • What is God's will for you to do?

Be open to all possibilities without judgement or editing with regard to career, relationships, play, health, spirituality, altruism. When you have some answers, write them down. Some of what you write may seem very important, some less so. If the important ones seem too overwhelming or impossible, break them down into smaller, achievable steps.

If six months from now you have not made some steps toward your goals, think about what is wrong in the picture. Usually we don't make chnages out of fear. More importantly, when you begin to make these things happen and your gaols for the future become your "now," notice how you feel emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Remember, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."

Read other articles about Managing Stress.

This article was provided by Mind/Body Medical Institute.
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