Stress blog

Life lessons from the desert

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. November 29, 2011

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Because of a wonderful professional opportunity, my wife and I were able to travel to South Africa and visit a fascinating neighboring country called Namibia. This is a land of incomparable beauty, unbelievable animal and plant diversity, and the home of approximately 3 million very educated, peaceful inhabitants — all in an area about the size of Texas.

We had the chance to spend time at selected watering holes throughout this desert area. As we sat and watched the animals, I was struck by what we can learn from them.

  • Conserve energy. The animals, especially the elephants, the zebras and the antelope, budget their energy. Because of the punishing heat, life-sustaining activities such as gathering food are done early in the morning or after sundown when the weather is more hospitable.
  • Stick with the pack. In most circumstances, these animals travel in herds. Obviously, there is safety in numbers, and I have some vivid memories of an elephant herd waiting while a reluctant youngster caught up with the rest of the herd. There was one circumstance where a zebra could not keep up with the rest of his pack, and he became a vivid example of the law of survival when he was seized by a lion.
  • Watch out for one another. As each of these animals approached the watering hole, there was no mad dash for water. Each took their time. Each was respectful. If danger was sighted, one member at the watering hole signaled to his fellow citizens to flee and find shelter. In other words, the community looked out for itself.

I learned some powerful lessons in sub-Saharan Africa that will stick with me. I hope they are valuable to you too. Be safe and be well.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

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Nov. 29, 2011