There are countless articles dealing with the how to of survival and tons of equipment for survival success but I wanted to bring up what it takes mentally to survive. I believe that a person who has all of the best equipment and plans can still fail miserably if not mentally prepared. The mind is a wonderful thing but if it’s not properly maintained, it can destroy you. Fear is a feeling that can paralyze you, make you sick and cripple you. Fear is a natural response to situations that surprise you, confuse you and cloud your better judgment.
By Chuck Savage, a contributing author
I have been tricked by it many times and have had to learn how to control it. The first step is in learning to control that overwhelming feeling that comes over you. There are many techniques that you can learn such as deep breathing exercises, changing your point of focus and meditation on your desired outcome. The first thing though is to face the source of your fear. One thing I’ve noticed about horses and other animals is that after the initial flight response of fear, they spin around to face what scared them to begin with.
By doing this, they can identify if it is a true threat or just the wind blowing in the trees. We, as humans, have an early flight response but we also have much more reasoning power than most animals. It’s a known fact that a persons’ survival success is heavily dependent on our mind set and attitude. Let’s look at some ways to stay focused with a good attitude, increasing our odds of successful survival.
Knowledge Dispels Fear
Many times fear overtakes us because of our lack of knowledge. I’ve heard people say “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”. What a lie! Ignorance breeds fear. I suggest reading regularly on subjects that you are not sure of, especially subjects that would be helpful in survival situations. An example that I read about was the dynamics of defending your home, written by a tactical expert who had actually been in close quarter combat situations and had to shoot someone. I know that reading about it is totally different from experiencing it but the knowledge will help you know what you can expect. Granted, no book or article can take away the fear or effects of fear like a rising pulse rate, sweats, shakes and even not being able to move. But knowledge can play a huge role in helping to diminishing the fears that you might face in a given situation.
Planning Helps You Be Prepared
There is no way a person can plan for every situation but you can reduce problems by looking ahead and planning. Many people go through life without planning ahead. My personality would go crazy in that environment. Lack of planning stresses me out, which affects my attitude and mind set. On the other hand, I know many folks who operate better by taking things as they come. I’m not saying this is wrong if it works for them. I just believe that some pre-planning would be good for them.
Also Read: Psychology of Solitude
Pre-planning will help you to secure ahead of time needed resources to get you through emergencies, and if needed, evacuation if it becomes necessary. Planning ahead helps you set priorities and helps you avoid making costly mistakes last minute. It gives you peace of mind knowing that you have done what you can to be ready for emergencies.
Confidence Built By Training
Go back in time to your Jedi Knight training when Yoda struggled to train Luke. Luke had awesome physical skills, great tools including that much coveted light saber but it was his mind that had to be coaxed into the game. Having the confidence that comes from experience and training helps you to fight off fear and depression that could otherwise overwhelm you when trying to survive. Take time to put in practice the skills needed to survive. For example, I’m sure you have watched a TV survival expert show you over and over again how to make a fire drill. But how many times have you made one that really works? I challenge you to try it the next time you go out on a family camping trip.
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Think of all of the other important skills that you should practice before you find yourself having to purify drinking water from a stream or make a shelter from what’s at hand. Training is good for you physically and mentally. It will give you endurance to keep moving toward your goal of survival.
Develop A Positive Mindset
As I said earlier, it is extremely important to develop a positive attitude and mindset. These are a few tips that I have used to get my mind back in the game.
1. Assess my situation (use the facts, not the what ifs)
2. Take inventory of my assets (tools, equipment, skills, water, food etc.)
3. Prioritize immediate actions. (what’s the most important thing to do first and then later)
4. What will help or encourage me? (shelter, fire, water)
5. Relax and focus on what’s positive (my wife would start humming a random song about now, her way to relax)
As I think about developing and keeping a positive mindset, the Tom Hanks movie comes to my mind, Castaway. The movie is really good at showing the affects that survival situations have on your mind. If I recall, he had a picture of his wife to help remind him of his reason to keep going. He kept track of how long he had been on the island. Then his imaginary friend, Wilson, the soccer ball helped him with companionship.
I would say that any and all sources of encouragement should be used to keep upbeat and positive. For example, pictures or mementos of loved ones, thinking of rescue at any moment or even the warmth of a fire will help.
Don’t Lose Faith
A person’s faith or beliefs are critical to keeping a positive outlook that will end in a positive outcome. We all need to have faith or believe in someone or something. Some believe in God, some Allah, some Buddha and the list goes on and on. Atheists even believe in science and we can all believe in ourselves. The bottom line is that if you are in a survival situation you need to find something to believe in. It will help encourage you, guide you and anchor you in times of need. We prepare and constantly think about what may go wrong with our world and future, and spend large amounts of time dwelling and preparing for negative outcomes. This kind of thinking could have a negative effect on our mental state. A wise man will feed his mind positive things while preparing for the unknown.
We Are What We Think
It’s been said that “we are what we think” and in many ways this is true. Survival definitely starts in the mind and it’s up to us to fill our minds with those things that will help us to be as prepared as we can be when it comes to our survival