Stress blog

Spirituality — A source of strength amid adversity

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. December 19, 2009

As a cancer and hospice physician, I care for people at the end of their lives. The average survival time for patients we see in our hospital is about 22 days. Daily I see the importance of spirituality as individuals reach out for consolation and strength from outside of themselves. The name that they use for this higher power may be different. It may be God, Prophet, Lord or Allah — or it may be an unnamed force.

I've come to believe that the need for spirituality — belief in a higher power — must be inherent in humans, much like the need for water and oxygen. We may have different belief systems, but at the end of the day we all reach for something over and above ourselves. As many of you have commented, taking care of ourselves includes nurturing our spirituality.

On a far lighter note, I want to share with you a new symptom of stress. I woke early one morning, did my usual workout and then hurriedly dressed for work. When a patient asked me to write a prescription, I reached into my jacket pocket for a pen. Much to my amazement (and my patient's), I pulled out a toothbrush! I think this is a new benchmark for burnout.

Has anyone else ever put their toothbrush in their pocket thinking it was a pen? A reminder that we need to slow down and live in the moment.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Dec. 19, 2009