The Harvard physician will present a keynote address, sponsored by Veradigm, on Monday, March 18, the first day of the main conference, on how to rewire your brain for less stress and more resilience. In this interview, she shares her personal experience that led to her interest in stress management.

Early in her medical career, when she was still in training and working in emergency rooms in cities riddled with violence, Dr. Aditi Nerurkar began to develop heart palpitations. It was a delayed stress reaction. She just didn’t realize it.

“I went to every doctor imaginable, and they did all these tests and said, ‘your heart’s great. Everything is great. Maybe it’s stress…just try to relax.’ And I thought, stress? Come on. Stress doesn’t happen to people like me.”

Indeed, medical students are trained to be resilient. Early in her training at medical school, one of her teachers told the class that pressure makes diamonds and by the end of medical training, they would all be gleaming diamonds. “So, you’re going into medical training with that ethos.”

Dr. Nerurkar tried to take her doctor’s advice to relax when she wasn’t working. She visited with family and friends, watched movies, went shopping, and even booked time at a spa. Nothing really worked. She decided to think like a scientist and did a deep dive into the research into what stress is, and why does it happen.

“I was able to find my way out of this dark tunnel of stress by doing a whole menu of things, including starting to exercise again, because at the time I was just working a lot, 80 hours a week. I wasn't eating well. I wasn't sleeping well. I wasn't exercising regularly. I was often on technology for my work, and so I really started to make small changes, typically two at a time, and over the course of three months or so, I was able to completely come out of this dark tunnel of stress. My palpitations disappeared, never to come again. That was 25 years ago,” she said.

Dr. Nerurkar became so fascinated by her own experience and the strategies she used to manage stress, that she noticed patterns when talking with patients. She decided to apply for a fellowship in learning about stress and the mind-body connection at Harvard. “I was accepted into the fellowship, and that’s where my journey really took off.”

During her research, she discovered that there is a stress-related component within 60 to 80 percent of all doctor’s visits. Stress is a factor in the doctor’s visit but then, when the workup is completed, the patient is told it’s nothing, it’s just stress. “This happens all too often in regular medical care but only three percent of doctors counsel patients about stress. And so, I saw this wide gap and I wanted my work to close that gap,” she explained.

She became the assistant medical director, and then later the medical director of an integrative medicine program at a Harvard hospital. Her job was to oversee a stress management clinic and she’d see patients who were referred by their doctors for stress-related symptoms. “I addressed the emotional component of chronic illness and that is when I really started seeing lots of patterns with patients the same way that I saw when I saw patients with heart attacks or abdominal pain or you know, all sorts of things that you see in primary care. That's when I realized stress has a pattern too,” she said.

Dr. Nerurkar began to incorporate the stress management strategies that worked for her into her patient care. And, in her debut book, The Five Resets: Rewire Your Brain and Body for Less Stress and More Resilience, she outlines strategies that can be applied immediately and in the long-term.

 RISE National

One of her first tips is to create a digital boundary. Data shows that constant consuming of events, graphic images, and videos—even those thousands of miles away—increases your risk of PTSD and chronic health issues years later. “It’s not first-hand trauma. You're not there on the front lines yet it has an impact on your brain and can increase your risk of PTSD,” she said.

She relates this urge to constantly scroll news sites to the “night watchman phenomenon.”

“When we were all cave people and we slept in tribes and in caves. there was a night watchman who would scan for danger. And now we are our own night watchmen, scanning for danger. And that is why we scroll and scroll, and we feel unsafe. We scroll some more; we scroll some more. And then you get hooked and then you consume some more and then you consume some more,” she said.

In the last few years, she noted, we’ve all experienced unprecedented levels of stress and yet we believe we must keep going, like the fictional Energizer Bunny. It’s become a toxic resilience instead of true resilience.

Resilience, she explained, is your innate biological ability to recover, adapt, and grow in the face of life challenges. True resilience honors human limitations, respects boundaries, celebrates your ability to say no, and it uses the lens of self- compassion and grace. Dr. Nerurkar says she will share strategies during her keynote address at RISE National to help attendees tap into their true resilience.

RISE National 2024 will take place March 17-19 at Music City Center in downtown Nashville.
Dr. Nerurkar will present her keynote address at 3:55 p.m. Monday, March 18. For the complete agenda, featured speakers, and how to register, click


About Dr. Aditi Nerurkar

Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, M.D., MPH is a Harvard physician with expertise in the science of stress, resilience, and burnout. A vibrant and engaging speaker, Dr. Nerurkar offers insights on optimizing mental health, well-being, and productivity. She leaves audiences energized and empowered to take control of their lives with practical, science-backed, and approachable recommendations that can be applied both immediately and in the long-term.

Her debut book, The Five Resets: Rewire Your Brain and Body for Less Stress and More Resilience, was published in January 2024. The Five Resets is a guide to redefining your relationship with stress through five pillars of wisdom that bring together physiological and psychological coping skills, enabling readers to discover the story of resilience within them and live better every day.

Dr. Nerurkar is a lecturer at Harvard Medical School in the Division of Global Health & Social Medicine and serves as the co-director of the Harvard Clinical Clerkship in Community Engagement. Previously, she worked in global public health at a World Health Organization collaboration center in Switzerland, as well as a medical director at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Her work has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNN, and Oprah Magazine, and her published research can be found in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In 2021, she was recognized by Washington Post for her work amplifying the COVID-19 pandemic in India. She is also an on-air medical commentator for various medical outlets including MSNBC and NBC News. She is an internationally recognized Fortune 50 speaker who has delivered unforgettable keynotes at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, the Harvard Business School Women's Conference, IBM, Visa, and Dell Technologies.