I have recently been pondering the far-reaching implications of a grid-down economic collapse situation–commonly called The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) in survivalist circles. One of the under-emphasized implications of TEOTWAWKI will be the psychological stress of the situation–both upon you and upon your neighbors. For many years, psychologists have used the Holmes-Rahe Social Adjustment Scale (also commonly called the “Life Events Stress Scale”) to gauge the level of stress that their patients are experiencing. I can foresee that a TEOTWAWKI situation will be off the scale for any of your neighbors that are not prepared. In short, a lot of them are going to come unglued. If you live in a city or suburb, expect to see a lot of your neighbors become so profoundly stressed that they will develop manias, phobias,and compulsions. You can also expect a good portion if them to commit irrational and criminal acts. With both the land line and cellular phone systems down, even if the police are still on duty, they will not know where to respond. I anticipate that the stress level will be lower in rural areas, but still profound. Just the loss of access to the mass media will cause stress in a lots of individuals. Think back to the emotional trauma that the survivors of Hurricane Katrina went through. Now imagine a nationwide crisis, with no relief in sight. It will be “YOYO” (You’re on Your Own) time, and it won’t be pretty.
The Life Events Stress Scale is a useful tool for characterizing the stress that an individual is experiencing. You’ve probably seen this scale presented in a high school or college course. Looking at this scale, can you imagine the cumulative level of stress that you will feel when the power grid goes down and the 18-wheelers stop rolling? Now picture yourself as one of your “Joe Sixpack” neighbors. Typically, he has: no food storage plan, no alternative home heating plan, no alternative power system, no stored fuel for his vehicles, no method for treating pond water (when water stops miraculously pouring from the faucet.) Talk about stress!
|Life Events – Scale of Impact||Score|
|Death of spouse||100|
|Marital separation from mate||65|
|Detention in jail, other institution||63|
|Death of a close family member||63|
|Major personal injury or illness||53|
|Fired from work||47|
|Major change in the health or behavior of a family member||44|
|Gaining a new family member (e.g., through birth, adoption, oldster moving, etc.)||39|
|Major business re-adjustment (e.g., merger, reorganization, bankruptcy)||39|
|Major change in financial status||38|
|Death of close friend||37|
|Change to different line of work||36|
|Major change in the number of arguments with spouse||35|
|Taking out a mortgage or loan for a major purchase||31|
|Foreclosure on a mortgage or loan||30|
|Major change in responsibilities at work||29|
|Son or daughter leaving home (e.g., marriage, attending college)||29|
|Trouble with In-laws||29|
|Outstanding personal achievement||28|
|Spouse beginning or ceasing to work outside the home||26|
|Beginning or ceasing formal schooling||26|
|Major change in living conditions||25|
|Revision of personal habits (dress, manners, associations, etc.)||24|
|Trouble with boss||23|
|Major change in working hours or conditions||20|
|Change in residence||20|
|Change to a new school||20|
|Major change in usual type and/or amount of recreation||19|
|Major change in church activities (a lot more or less than usual)||19|
|Major change in social activities (clubs, dancing, movies, visiting)||18|
|Taking out a mortgage or loan for a lesser purchase (e.g., for a car, TV, freezer, etc.)||17|
|Major change in sleeping habits||16|
|Major change in the number of family get-togethers||15|
|Major change in eating habits||15|
|Minor violations of the law (e.g. traffic tickets, etc. )||11|
Looking at this scale and comparing it with the potential psychological effects of a grid-down economic collapse situation, you can see why I often emphasize:
1.) The importance of living at your intended retreat before times get bad. Moving by itself is quite stressful. Can you imagine the stress of moving under duress? How about the stress of having to leave the majority of your possessions behind? Make the move now and you will obviate that stress.
2.) Communications– consider the stress of being out of contact with loved ones in the event of TEOTWAWKI. Invest in a HF ham radio transceiver. Someday you may be glad that you did.
3.) Food storage. If you have lots of food stored, you won’t have to worry about whether or not you can eat, or the stress of seeing your children go hungry.
4.) Storing extra for charity. Obviously you cannot store enough food to feed all of your neighbors. This is why moving to a rural agricultural area makes sense. Odds are that you will be living in an area where the majority of your neighbors already have a vegetable garden and do home canning. Many will already have livestock. So it will just be a minority that will have no stored food at all. If you have extra wheat, rice, beans, and gardening seed to distribute, then you will be doing your Christian duty, and you will probably be building valuable friendships in the process.
5.) Addictions. What will life for your family be like without cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, and television? The more addictions that you can eliminate now, will equate to less stress after the onset of TEOTWAWKI. The side benefits will be that your family will be healthier and able to withstand the other stresses without succumbing to disease.
6.) Alternative power and heat. Having no power will be a huge stress. You can judge how stressful it will be to your family by their present-day reactions to local short-term power failures. How will you cook without power for the stove, oven, or microwave? How will you keep warm? Lights? What about recreation? Our kids are book worms but vast majority of children and teenagers that we know de-stress by watching DVDs, playing electronic games, and listening to their music. Can you supply alternative power for electronic de-stressing devices?
7.) Long term “house guests.” Odds are that you will have relatives arrive on your doorstep on TEOTWAWKI+1. (You are the member of the family that they tease for being “over-prepared.” But guess where they will go when the Schumer hits the fan? Your house. Think in terms of storing extra gardening tools, gloves, bedding, linens–and even more blankets or tarps to improvise privacy screens, et cetera. Think this through, folks.
8.) Life without television. We only owned a TV for two years of our 18 years of marriage. We sold it before our last move because we concluded that it was a huge waste of time. There is an old saying: “Its easy to get along with what you’ve never had.”
In addition to the major sources of stress that I mentioned, ponder the umpteen minor stressers that will come with TEOTWAWKI. Do your best to eliminate as many sources of stress as possible, in advance.
Reference: “Social Readjustment Rating Scale” – Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. Published in Journal of Psychosomatic Research,1967, Vol. II, p. 214.