Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Emotional health

I’m intrigued by the plight of the 33 Chilean miners, trapped below ground for weeks already, with potentially months more to spend isolated before they’re freed.

As distant as their plight is from my daily life, I think there are some incredible lessons to be drawn from their ordeal.

A recent story by Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein explains that their ability to peacefully co-exist underground, without going nuts or giving up, hinges on a few key emotions:

– hope—but not false hope

– a sense of purpose

– a sense of camaraderie

In addition, Borenstein writes, people in isolating conditions do best when they  keep busy; develop and stick with a routine; and make the best of their time.

Hope, purpose, busyness and camaraderie—they’re the kinds of things that breed resilience and confidence.

So as I read about the miners, I find myself thinking: Isn’t this what we all need—a sense of purpose, hope, social bonds and routines that keep us busy?


On an unrelated note, I visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C. yesterday. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. The works exhibited there represent journalism at its best and provide a moving tour of some of modern history’s most challenging events: Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina and more. Admission is free for children under 18 until Labor Day.


Finally, writer Lindley Estes is looking for people to interview about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If you have the condition or treat patients who have it, please consider calling Lindley at 540-374-5000, ext. 5779. Or, email her at She’s working on a story for Healthy Living.


  • Dseigler2
  • Wellescent Health Blog

    As much as we can admire the emotional strength that these miners are exhibiting to survive their ordeal, I can only imagine the mental trauma that some will face in living through it. Once they are freed, the testament to their resiliency will really be how many of them choose to go back underground again.

  • theresa boutchyard

    i might add (in regards to both the miners and our daily lives )….the ability to deal with “what is” a day at a time is important. Not to anticipate tomorrow but realizing the positive aspects of today keeps our minds in the present and better able to deal with the stresses of life. Letting tomorrow unfold with it’s possibilities is important. That is something we all should have in our daily lives….otherwise we create too much stress with the anticipation of what has not happened yet. one day at a time is enough for me…for tomorrow i might not have :-)

  • Janet

    i appreciate that attitude, theresa, and think there’s a lot of wisdom in trying to be present in the present, instead of ruminating on the past or anticipating the future. that said, all this makes me think a little about another topic i’m curious about — and which touches on what wellescent said — and that’s the power of anticipation. i’ve read that people are actually happier when they’re looking forward to a vacation than they are during their vacation or afterward. so, my hope for those miners is that the anticipation of being freed gives them a mental boost, but that it isn’t followed by a second, perhaps greater emotional ordeal after they’re freed.