Psychological and Physical Survival – Part 3, by K.B. MD

(Continued from Part 2. This concludes the article.)

Part 3 – Preventive Strategies

Yesterday, in Part 2 we covered disaster’s effects such as depression, grief, and PTSD. Today in Part 3, we will focus on numerous preventive strategies. It is imperative to work proactively at protecting the psychological health of your entire group. This will require advance study and forethought for some unless you are blessed to have an individual in your group with medical and/or counseling experience to call upon. Nevertheless, it is crucial to think, read, and plan for psychological stress management as we do for other aspects of survival. Also keep in mind that these are skills and preparations that you definitely will use as an individual during your life even if there is no disaster or TEOTWAWKI. We will all face stress and loss which we will endure more successfully with some of the skills covered below and which will assist us in helping others in our homes and communities.

While I am a licensed M.D., retired disabled, I am not a psychiatrist and remind our readers that I am neither diagnosing nor prescribing. Please obtain prompt medical care from licensed practitioners as long as they are available.

Three Areas to Strengthen

There are three areas that we will focus our attention on strengthening. They are physical, emotional, and spiritual. Some of you will already be acquainted with portions of the material, but there is certain to be new food for thought and helpful references listed below for further study.

Physical (Fitness, Work, and Withdrawal)

We all know the benefits of regular scheduled exercise in managing stress. Put yourself on a 3 or 4 times a week fitness program after medical clearance from your practitioner. Even after a disaster when there will be excessive physical work, people will still need opportunities to unwind such as a relaxing walk or private time for meditation or prayer. Now is also the time to focus on a healthier diet. Decrease reliance on junk food, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. With medical assistance, deal with health problems now and learn which medications are absolutely required for your survival. Aim for a better, healthier you, whatever that is, given your age and medical situation.

In TEOTWAWKI, there will be more work than hours and people to do it. Work smarter, not harder,  whenever possible. Figure out the fastest, easiest way to tackle the task at hand. Use time management skills and focus on efficiency. Utilize the buddy system for dangerous or emotionally stressful work for safety and psychological back-up. Each person must also learn to set limits to preserve his own ability to function and remain useful to others.

After TEOTWAWKI, pay attention to sleep, hygiene, nutrition, and signs of stress. People will also be dealing with withdrawal from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and medications. Keep in mind that 1 out of 6 Americans is already on anti-depressants or other medications for mental issues. I encourage you to research possible herbal alternatives in the many fine herbal articles found on Survivalblog. Please also find listed below a number of articles dealing with medication withdrawal and the psychology of survival.


This will be the longest and most varied section. There are numerous techniques for managing stress. Figure out which works best for you, but be ready with a list of options to help others in your group. The leader will also need to decide what group routines and traditions to implement for the  emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the community.

Calming Techniques

First are calming techniques. These include guided imagery and visualization to create a relaxed state of mind, progressive muscle relaxation to loosen tense muscle groups, deep breathing, biofeedback, and meditation. This is not an exhaustive list. Never forget the power of human touch such as hand holding, rubbing hands/feet/temples, or back/neck massage. The gentle touch of an empathetic person can be powerful soothing medicine and help decrease pain and panic. Combine it with the recitation of a favorite psalm or song.

We are all aware of support animals these days and how they lower our blood pressure and heart rates. Some police departments have a loveable dog “on staff” to decrease stress for our men and women in law enforcement. Consider the calming influence that someone’s mellow pet may have on your group. This can be especially important for children. There is nothing like the unconditional love and acceptance of a pet. Remember that calming techniques are best employed before maximum crisis! Practice calming techniques mid-morning and at various points during the day to prevent rising stress levels.   Monitor muscular tension in your body during the day. Calming techniques can also be employed to ease a person into sleep. Journaling is another way for people to express their feelings and rid themselves of tension. Find out what techniques work best for you and use them throughout your life.

Routines and Traditions

Second are routines and traditions. They bring structure and a feeling of security and normalcy to our lives. How many of you remember the television show “The Waltons” and their evening routine of wishing everyone good-night? Employ whatever strengthens your group such has mealtime prayers while holding hands, beginning or ending the day in a circle and singing the doxology, regular worship times, evening Scripture reading, and bedtimes routines for children with stories/songs, prayers, and tucking into bed. Remember to include celebrations in the regular life of your group.

Positive Thinking

Third is the power of positive thinking. Never surrender. Keep hope alive. Monitor the self-talk in your own head. Do not allow defeatism or negativity to creep in. Repeat statements to yourself that are brief and positive and model it for the group. Survival depends greatly upon sustaining the hope of help from the government, friends, family, and God. Never stomp on someone’s hope. Recite favorite uplifting affirmations or lines from Scripture such as Philippians 4:13. People with determination survive despite great odds.

Health Officers and Spiritual Leaders

Fourth is the effectiveness of the health officer and/or spiritual leader. They have an important role in providing comfort, encouragement, and counseling. Their job is also to watch for signs of illness- mental, physical, or spiritual in the members of the group. Beware of signs of burn-out (isolation, irritability)and forms of mental illness such as panic attacks, phobias, PTSD, paranoia, obsessive compulsive disorder etc. Maintain confidentiality as much as possible. Keep special watch over those under the greatest stress such as people in combat, first response, burial detail, and leadership roles. Also be alert for compassion fatigue of counselors and care providers. In providing a support system, the health officer or spiritual leader needs to be available to listen, offer advice, and provide emotional support. It is important to be visible as much as possible during meals, breaks, and before bedtime. Check in on individuals after a traumatic event or loss such as armed conflict, death, or serious injury. Pursue conversation even after hearing, “I’m O.K.” Respond with, “No, really, how are you?” Continue to watch over the tough-guy type who says he doesn’t need any help. He is vulnerable too. I have intentionally omitted information about herbal medications as they are covered very well in the SurvivalBlog archives.


Last is spiritual which is the most important. If you are not a spiritual individual, then feel free to skip these few lines. If you are, then I am preaching to the choir so I’ll be brief: Love God. Attend church. Make time for daily prayer and Scripture reading. Grow closer and rely on Him.

Know that He loves you. When burdened, hand Him your cares and get a good night’s sleep.


It is my prayer that this three-part series will be helpful to readers now and in the future.   Please feel free to write about your favorite techniques in the comments section. We can all learn from each other. May we never face a national disaster or TEOTWAWKI. Included at the bottom are articles and websites for further knowledge. Best wishes to all, – K.B., M.D.

Some useful links to supplement Part 3:

Mental Health: A Guide for Faith Leaders


  1. Thank you for taking your time writing this educational, helpful 3-part article. I am passing this along to a few people who suffer at this time from what you described. It came at a most appropriate time. I also believe this will be helpful in the near future as to what is coming. Your reference to certain scriptures for support from our ultimate helpmate is important.

  2. Hey Dr. K.B., I really enjoyed this series, lots of useful information. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on pets. I’ve never tried “head meds” but they can’t be as good as having a cat or dog. 🙂

  3. Useful information and definitely adds to our store of preparedness knowledge. One additional resource on the subject I’d recommend reading is a report prepared by IBM (yes, IBM) entitled ‘Psychological support for survivors of disaster: A practical guide’. This report was the first resource that got me thinking about the psychological aspects of preparedness:

    1. JM, thanks for the link to that report. It appears to be good but will take some time for me to read the full 59-page report. If anyone here knows a pastor or counselor or psychologist who believes in preparedness, I encourage you to share K.B’s article & maybe this link. The topic of emotional & psychological health is not discussed much on prepper sites, so let’s do what we can to raise awareness by passing along resources like this.

  4. Thank you, Dr. K.B., for this thoughtful series in an area that we don’t hear much about in the prepper community -psychological/emotional health. The sections on prevention & area to strengthen are esp helpful. I will share this w/ my pastor & a prepper friend that has a background as a mental health counselor. God bless u.

  5. This is an article all readers should print and save for future reference. It contains valuable information that may be difficult to access when truly needed.

  6. I’ve always been fascinated with survival. I’ve read many life stories and books on the topic
    I’ve also had the chance at overcoming quite a few difficulties. So, after my husband was injured on the job we had to live on almost nothing. We had 2 toddlers and I was pregnant and we were hauling water. I found it helpful to keep as regular of a routine as usual and look for things to be grateful for. It was hard but we got through it. After our house fire we had 4 children and were able to stay with friends until we found new housing. Our kids didn’t seem unduly traumatized because I worked at trying to create a routine and also made fun activities for them to get involved in. Kids reduce stress through playing and by being reassured that you have it under control. I believe it’s important to have meaningful work, feeling that what you do counts. Also being appreciated and appreciating what others do helps reduce stress. Under extreme stress all the regular recommendations probably won’t be possible. But we can control our outlook and look for ways to overcome whatever we’re given to go through.

    1. Oh, Sis. What a powerful statement: “But we can control our outlook and look for ways to overcome whatever we’re given to go through.”

      I was first exposed to this ideal by Victor Frankl, who survived incarceration in three concentration camps.
      He explored the approach in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning”.

      He also made a statement you might appreciate: “Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story, and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness, unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

      Carry on

  7. Thanks for the very useful perspective on these scenarios. However, I am somewhat skeptical that a generation now characterized by “comfort llamas”, and “cry rooms” would ever be able to storm the beaches of Normandy or pilot an F4F in the battle of Midway. Of course, this may just be the difference between college students and worker bees. And don’t say it, I have been both.

  8. K.B., you brought us some great wisdom.

    Especially your statement about touch. I still remember the day I was in great pain after surgery at the VA and my dear friend, Doug, sat next to me holding my hand as I wept. That tenderness, at a time when my sweet spouse was not available, so helped me through a very rough time. He took me home a couple hours later so I could be there when my honey arrived.

    So, yes, the humble power of touch.

    Carry on

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