Whether prepping for a EOTWAWKI situation or any potential disaster or emergency in everyday life, the most important and powerful tool at your disposal is your own mind. A person can have all of the fanciest survival gear and equipment, but without the proper mindset and training it is all nothing more than a cool looking, expensive pile of useless junk. Even a person who has studied countless books, guides, and manuals for every survival situation imaginable can be rendered completely inept in the moment of an emergency, when all that knowledge is needed the most.
If you wish to avoid being one of those who either freezes up in indecision or breaks down under the stress of the moment, then you’ll need to cultivate a mental and emotional toughness that will get you through any circumstances life may throw at you. With the proper knowledge, practice, and training, you too will be able to train your brain to:
- maintain your composure during high-stress situations,
- quickly adapt to new and rapidly changing events around you,
- lessen the shock and crippling terror caused by extreme circumstances, and
- strengthen your ability to think effectively during an emergency.
The other most important skill to learn in the area of mental preparedness is to teach yourself how to remain positive and to avoid letting yourself slip into the different kinds of negative thinking that will greatly hamper your ability to successfully handle emergency situations.
Cultivate a strong mental toughness.
First things first, everybody has a breaking point! Whether it is something as traumatizing as seeing a loved one killed in front of you or the frustration and hopelessness of being trapped somewhere for days or even weeks on end, each individual person has a limit to how much they can endure psychologically. The trick to improving your readiness mindset is to push this limit further and further before some kind of disaster or emergency occurs. Just like the saying, “the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle,” this is also true of your mental strength. Some would have everyone else, and even themselves for that matter, believe that they are the toughest, hardest person to walk the Earth and that nothing could ever break them. Many times, these are the same people that freeze up or shut down when a high-intensity situation actually presents itself. Never have too much pride to admit that you can always learn more and constantly improve your skills. There is no such thing as a finish line in training! You can always be stronger, faster, tougher, and smarter!
This brings us to the first rule of mental preparedness: be realistic. If you are filling yourself with false bravado and acting as if you have no need for strengthening your mental mindset, you are only depriving yourself. Unfortunately, this attitude can get you and the people around you injured or killed. It is better to keep an open mind and be receptive to learning anything and everything you can than to be stuck in a real life emergency and realize that you have no clue what to do. Not only that, but you are just as likely to do the wrong thing, which could also cause more harm than good. Being a hot-shot and acting as though you know everything will only make you look stupid and force you to waste time and energy on fruitless endeavors. Don’t guess; know! Don’t assume, just because you are smart, that you can just “figure it out” as you go. There is no substitute for knowledge and experience.
Another part of being realistic involves knowing your own physical and mental limitations. For example: don’t assume you can fight off an attacker if you have never had any kind of self-defense training or experience. Don’t lie to yourself. Just because you’ve seen fighting on TV or you may have even read one of those hand-to-hand combat guides, it doesn’t mean you’ll magically be an expert the first time you try it for real. If you have never done something before, don’t just assume that a surge of adrenaline will give you some kind of super powers to do it later. This is a good way to get yourself killed or injured.
Along with being realistic is knowing your limits. Test yourself. If you are serious about preparing for any kind of emergency or survival, you should be training yourself physically as well as mentally. In doing so, you will learn what your physical limits and capabilities are. Plan your survival strategies accordingly.
Mentally push yourself.
The number one way to increase your mental preparedness and mental strength is to push your mental limits. To do so, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Some examples of this would be:
- read a book, instead of watching TV;
- walk or ride a bike to the store, instead of driving;
- eat healthier foods, even if you didn’t previously like the taste;
- wake up earlier to go for a jog before work; and
- drink water (preferably filtered water) instead of pop.
These are just a few simple things you can do to overcome your mental complacency and make yourself more adaptable to any situation. The goal is to train your brain to be more willing to do whatever needs to be done and to break your psychological resistance to doing things that may seem hard or unpleasant. This way, should you ever be in an actual survival situation, you will be more mentally prepared to do whatever you have to do to survive.
Another aspect of strengthening your mental toughness is to push past those thoughts and feelings of wanting to stop. For example, before getting out of the shower, turn the water temperature to cold and push yourself to do it longer each time. This will not only increase your mental strength but also your mind will get used to the feeling of “shock” from the cold water. One day, should you ever find yourself in a situation where maybe you fall through the ice atop a pond, you will be used to the initial shock of the cold water and will be able to react quicker. Remember, the point is to train your brain to be used to any situation that may come at you.
This also includes building “muscle memory”. Obviously, your muscles do not possess an actual memory of their own. It is the brain that remembers specific muscle movement that has been repeated thousands of times. It is said that it takes repeating something 2,500 times for it to become muscle memory, or instinctual. Think about something you do, or have done, for years. Whether it be riding a bike, typing, starting your car, or opening a can of pop. Over years of doing these things, it almost feels as though your body is in auto-pilot because you have done it the same way over and over again to the point where you don’t even have to think about it to do it. This same technique can be used to prepare yourself for survival scenarios.
By practicing something over and over, you will train your brain to be used to the situation. Then, when the real thing happens, you will already be used to what you are supposed to do. This will make it easier to focus your mind on other details. This is why soldiers and sports players run drills repeatedly. This way, when it comes time to do it for real, it is burned into their memory, giving them the ability to focus on other specific details unique to the moment. In addition, you will be much calmer and more confident in yourself, knowing that you’ve practiced many different scenarios, thereby making you that much more able to handle any emergency that may occur.
Out of all of the possible survival skills and tools that a person can acquire, mental preparedness is not only the most important, but it has the added benefit of being free. One need not spend exorbitant amounts of money or have any storage space limitations for this set of tools. In addition, the more you strengthen your mentality and thinking skills, the less money you will end up spending on things that you could possibly do without. For example: there are many tools and items that it may seem like you need but can be improvised if given the proper knowledge and practice. Someone with an extensive set of survival skills can be dropped into the forest with nothing more than a knife and flint and can take care of all of his basic needs by using these two simple tools. He can fashion weapons, make shelter, hunt/kill/cook food, distill water, and even make clothing. He can do all of this with two simple tools, the skills and knowledge to put them to use, and the mental strength and will to survive.
What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger…if you let it.
For me personally, I have gained more mental strength from the hardships, trials, and tribulations I have endured throughout my life. The trick is to analyze the situation afterwards. What did you do that helped get you through it? How did you keep your mind from shutting down or giving up? What seemed to help your attitude at the time?
It’s easy to understand how somebody who has never experienced any hardships in their life could break down under the pressure of an emergency. Likewise, someone who is used to hard situations won’t find it all that shocking when another one presents itself. For example: someone who is used to going out into the wilderness alone with nobody else to rely on may not only find himself absent any sense of being overwhelmed if they became stranded miles away from civilization, but they could even find that they are comfortable in that situation. Conditioning is just as important from a mental standpoint as it is physically, more so even, in my opinion.
Another benefit of having experienced difficult situations is that you can look back at those experiences and tell yourself that you’ve been through worse; that this is nothing compared to that; or that if you could make it through the difficulty of the past you can make it through this challenge. I’m not suggesting that anyone purposely put themselves in dangerous or life and death situations on purpose; however, what you can do is to incrementally increase the difficulty of your training. Push yourself to walk farther than you think you can. Teach yourself to navigate without a compass. Force yourself to remain hidden in one spot for as many hours as you can. These are just a couple of examples of things you can do to train yourself for possible survival scenarios. The mental toughness training will come from the fact that at some point during these exercises, your brain will begin trying to convince you to give up. It is only when you push through these thoughts that you begin to strengthen your mental (and often, physical) preparedness.