Light Up Your Life: Triumphing Over Adversity


Stacy Doumas, M.D.
Director of Education
Department of Psychiatry
Jersey Shore University Medical Center


Many have reflected on the nature of resiliency across life’s peaks and valleys, but few quotes are as relevant as the following, courtesy of Albert Einstein.

“Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

It’s a bit of a paradox. We set out to find happiness and chart our course accordingly, yet the happiness we seek seems truly meaningful only after catastrophe knocks us off that beaten path and sends our best laid plans into disarray.

So how do we keep moving forward when what feels like “the worst that can happen” happens? Is there any “bright side” to look to?

“Triumphing over adversity - whether it’s financial difficulties, loss of a loved one, or health problems - can often seem impossible. But remember, that same adversity also introduces us to new people, leads us to new opportunities and pushes us forward; it can bring out our best selves,” says Stacy Doumas, M.D., Director of Education for the Department of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Doumas adds that the immediate and seemingly overwhelming emotional response to adversity, which can feel insurmountable, is completely normal and can even serve as a necessary call to action.

“There’s no such thing as a 'right' or 'wrong' emotion. Whatever you're feeling - sadness, anger, fear, anxiety – remember, it’s normal. What’s important is how we allow those emotions to control our behavior," Doumas says. "Try to feel negative emotions transiently. Let them come - and then let them go. Be flexible, accept what’s happening, and decide how to move forward.”

She adds that healthy lifestyle, positive mindset, and supportive relationships are all important parts of developing resiliency to confront major life changes.

“Wellness factors - diet, fitness, adequate rest - and techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or simply going for a walk in the fresh air, can help you break free of those negative thought patterns and move forward,” she says. “And our interactions with others - whether they are relationships with friends and family or simply increased kindness or generosity toward strangers – all play a part in our own ability to cope with life changes and difficulties.”

That sort of generosity is exemplified by the story of Molly Burke, who at just four-years-old was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare retinal disease causing loss of vision. Rather than let the illness defeat her, Burke chose to use her experience to help others. She began public speaking at the age of five and has inspired thousands since.

Doumas and Burke recently met with an audience of hundreds to share their message of hope, strength and overcoming adversity. The special inspirational program, “Light Up Your Life: Celebrating Your Life, Helping Others & Finding Hope," was held November 18 at Addison Park in Aberdeen. View photos from the event and more at  Facebook.com/MeridianHealthNJ.