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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Will to Survive, by Chris H.

Original Article

The "will to survive" is the most important survival tool you will ever have. It is more important than a year supply of food, a Swiss Army knife, or a Bic lighter. What good would a lighter be if you have no desire to make a fire? How can a signal fire result in a rescue if you have lost all hope that it will and don't bother building one? How can your next meal keep you alive if you are unwilling to go and find it? The most common factor identified in stories of extreme survival situations is the person had "the will to survive". Peeling back the layers of their stories you will usually find that after the improvise tools they made, the tricks they used to find water, or the blessings bestowed upon them by the gods, they will always end by attributing their survival to their own will to survive. They never gave up!    

This "will to survive" is a mental state. A conscience decision. A commitment to yourself and others that you absolutely refuse to give up trying to survive, to the last breath, no matter what. It is a psychological game you must play within yourself in a survival situation. You must be in a constant state of positive thinking, confident in your abilities, always ready to solve problems, and forever holding on to hope. Thoughts of how bad an injury hurts, how far you must travel, or how long it's been since you last ate, could be all it takes to mentally wear you down to the point of giving up. Once you give up, death is sure to follow. Never give up!

The will to survive can come from many things. It can come from a strong desire to see your family again, watch your kids grow up, or kiss your spouse. It may be you have a goal in life you haven't met, a place you wanted to see, or a future date you looked forward to. It could stem from the unwillingness to lose or accept failure. It may also be rooted in confidence in your survival skills from years of study and preparation. Whatever the motivation you have that pushes you on and makes you want to live longer is where your will to survive will come from. Focus on it, and never give up!

It is natural to have feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, and even depression when faced with a life threatening situation. You might feel fear of death, anxiety over being lost, anger that you have found yourself in this mess, and depression from thoughts of not seeing your loved ones again. These thoughts can be detrimental. They undermine your will to survive. If not controlled and managed, these thoughts can lead to a loss of morale and failure to perform activities necessary to survival.  They can rob you of precious time, lead to poor judgment, rash decisions, frustration, and compound an already bad situation. It's when you get to depression that you finally lose hope. Thoughts of, "What's the point?" or "I can't take anymore." are basically thoughts of suicide, because you will be giving up and possibly surrendering to death. Never give up!

It is imperative to learn to identify these negative feelings, learn to control them, and understand that they are just that; feelings. And most importantly, you must know that they are your feelings, thus you own them and are in control of them. Only you can decide to react with fear or anger to a given situation or not. Your choice of feelings in a survival situation can be life saving or a death sentence. You might get the physical sensations of fear when in danger, but it is your choice to be afraid.

There is a big difference in feeling fear, and acting afraid. Fear is described as a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger and flee from it or confront it, also known as the "Fight or Flight" response. Fear has a very distinct set of sensations. Butterflies in your stomach, hair on the back of your neck standing up, rapid heartbeat and breath, and heightened awareness. But none of those sensation can actually hurt you. A little fear can, in fact, be helpful. It can make you more cautious, aware, and ready for action. However, if not controlled, fear can lead you to acting afraid. Then you could be rendered unable to react at all. This is commonly called being "frozen by fear". Just like a deer in the headlights, this paralysis can be deadly in a survival situation. Recognize these sensations and acknowledge the sensations as warnings to be more cautious, aware, and ready for action, not to be afraid and freeze up. Then take a deep breath and act.

Finding yourself in a life threatening or survival situation can be frustrating. You might find yourself having to complete difficult tasks with very limited resources, very little time and with your life and/or someone else's life in jeopardy. You may have some failed attempts at finding water, building a fire, or attracting attention. You might be unprepared, fatigued, or even injured. These set backs can lead to more frustration and anger. But cussing, stomping your feet, and throwing a fit will probably not help you. Luckily, anger is another feeling that can be made to be useful. If fear is the 'flight' in the "Fight or Flight" response, anger can be considered to be the 'fight'. You can turn your anger in a bad situation into the "I refuse to lose!" attitude. Anger towards the unfortunate predicament in which you have been placed, can be redirected to give you an unwavering tenacity to try, try again. You can refocus anger to fighting against your crisis instead of just being angry at it.

Anxiety is probably not a feeling that will help you much in a survival situation. Physical effects of anxiety can produce heart palpitations, muscle weakness and tension, fatigue, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headaches. Anxiety not only manifests physical effects, but those effects can lead to trouble concentrating, acting jumpy, being combative, paranoid, or panicking. An anxiety attack, in some cases, can cause hyperventilating and losing consciousness. All of which can be life threatening in a survival situation.

If you have lost the mental game completely you might find yourself at the most dangerous feeling; depression. The loss of all hope. Hopelessness often results in apathy, indifference, and even in some extreme cases, suicide. That is the complete opposite of the "will to survive". Depression and hopelessness can leave you feeling you have nothing left to rely on but luck. Relying on just luck to save you gives you a very low chance of surviving anything. If you are lost at sea and are rescued by a lone passing ship, that can be plain luck, but struggling to stay alive and attempting to signal said passing ship, that is the "will to survive".

As we know, knowledge is power. You can power up your "will to survive" right now. Start by educating yourself in survival techniques in different emergency or disaster situations you may face. Just having knowledge of dangers and the skills to deal with them, should they arise, increases your chances of survival exponentially. This could give you the confidence you need to face your challenges. Write down important numbers, make a plan, buy supplies, read a book or take a class. Do whatever you can to prepare ahead of time for a disaster or emergency situation. It can improve your outlook, your will to survive and your chances to survive it.

The will to survive is about having strength. It is not about how much you can bench press or your muscle mass. It's a strength that comes from within. It's a belief in yourself, a certitude in your chances, and a faith in your outcome. A strong conviction that your goal of surviving will be realized. It's having the mental might to dispel all doubt, the spiritual courage to commit to the challenges, and the gut resolve to see it through.

Should you have to face a survival situation, keep what is motivating you to survive in the front of your thoughts. Focus strongly on that. It will give reason to your "will to survive" and block out any feelings of despair. Remember that your emotions belong to you and you are in control of the emotion you choose. The "will to survive" is positive thinking. The "will to survive" is controlling your fear and anxiety, redirecting your anger, and always staying optimistic about your chances. The will to survive can be empowered by increasing your knowledge of survival techniques and being prepared.  The "will to survive" is having the strength to NEVER GIVE UP! 

Disaster Plans and Decision Making

Original Article

Today I want to touch on a few higher level preparedness concepts that I haven’t really talked about before. They’re all around planning ahead of time.
Planning ahead of time is critical because when you’re under stress you won’t be able to think straight. Even if you have time to sit down and consider the situation, your brain just won’t work right if you’re under any significant kind of stress.
It’s critical to have some of those basic decisions and plans already made. You can certainly change them, but having a place to start helps tremendously.

Do We Stay or Do We Go?

decide 200x135 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingA key decision point to make for any decision is whether you stay (bug in) or go (bug out) of wherever you happen to be.

Rudy’s Note: The last part is an important distinction, because too many people focus on plans at home, and not wherever they happen to be.
To expand on that a bit, you MUST have plans and decisions made based on places you commonly go, such as work or school, as well as a set of ‘go-to plans’ for when you’re somewhere you don’t have specific plans for.
The basic guidance is pretty simple here. The question you have to answer is:
Will we be safer if we leave, or will we be safer if we stay?
Once you answer that question, your decision should be pretty clear.

Emergency Action Plan

HouseFire 2 200x150 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingPossibly the most important plan to have is one that covers what to do if you don’t have time to think. This is the ‘smoke detector at 3am, we gotta get out NOW‘ plan.

And I do mean get out now.
You should plan on being able to go from zero to done on this plan within 60-90 seconds of starting. Clearly this isn’t much time to think, so you MUST have a plan in place for this that is completely generic. Not much adaptation is possible with this little time to react.
Drilling on this plan is pretty darn important. You absolutely HAVE to practice this until it becomes instinctual. And your kids have to know what to do at the drop of the hat as well. And don’t forget to run a drill in the middle of the night once in a while.

Urgent Action Plan

tornado and a house 200x159 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingAn extension of your Emergency Action Plan, the Urgent Action Plan incorporates the steps from your EAP, but without quite as much urgency. You have time to think, get more stuff together, and be more deliberate about your actions.
With the EAP, you’re getting out of the house with whatever you have on and you can grab on the way out.  This is when you have a few more minutes and you can grab a couple changes of clothes, a pre-positioned bag that already has clothes, etc, or some irreplaceable items.
This is NOT a plan where you can grab everything you need.  You may not have to get out RIGHT NOW but you have to get out PRETTY DARN QUICK.

It’s the ‘An F5 Tornado was spotted a couple miles away and it’s headed right for us‘ plan. Plan on having about five minutes to act on this plan.

Time To Go Plan

pillow fort 200x157 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingThis plan is what you jump on if you make the decision to bug out of your location. You should actually have multiple sections of this plan based on how much time you have before you need to beat feet.
Depending on time frame, this plan will include getting your vehicle ready, securing important documents, irreplaceable items, more clothes, and securing your home. How much of each you can do will be driven completely by how much time you have.
You should have a checklist for each time frame, and even better would be to have multiple checklists, so you can give your son Joshua the ‘one hour check the car’ checklist and daughter Elizabeth the ‘six hour get clothes and bedding’ checklist, while you and your wife cover other stuff.
Rudy’s Note: No, it’s not a violation of child labor laws to expect your kids to participate in executing your plan. In fact, I think you’re foolish if you don’t. Even simply having older kids keeping younger kids occupied and happy helps.

Never Mind, Let’s Stay Plan

BombShelter 200x154 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingThis plan is what to do when you decide to stay home. Maybe you don’t have time to evacuate the area before danger strikes, or your immediate area will be unaffected.
Again, you should have checklists to go down, in order of priority. For consistency’s sake, I like using the same time frames as the ‘Time To Go Plan’ … it helps, trust me.
For this plan you may have things like securing the house, distributing alternative communication methods, moving important items to a safe area in the house, etc.
Once again, be sure to keep your kids in the loop here. Keeping them busy will help against the inevitable panic.

Men, This One Is For You

man listening to woman 200x132 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingGuys, I can’t understate the importance of being the rock in an emergency situation. If you remain calm and collected, at least as much as possible, your family will feel more secure.
You MUST be decisive as well. Emergencies are no time to be messing around waffling about trying to make a decision. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act … then rinse and repeat.
Sometimes that decision will involve forcing people to do what they don’t want to. Maybe your kid doesn’t want to leave their favorite stuffed animals but the situation dictates that they do. Or maybe your wife doesn’t agree with your decision to leave. In an emergency, your word is law, period.
I know it may sound misogynistic to some, but while I believe that a marriage is an equal partnership, I also believe that we as men are designed (by God or by nature, whatever your belief structure is) to be that decisive actor or benevolent dictator in an emergency.

On the flip side, that doesn’t mean you should lord it over someone else in your family. If you do that, you deserve the ass kicking that’s coming your way… Reserve the veto pen for true emergencies.

Ladies, Here’s Your Turn

woman listening 200x150 Disaster Plans and Decision MakingSpeaking as a guy who is an imperfect husband, most men have a natural tendency to take things to a bit of an extreme. You are a tempering agent for this. Make sure that your spouse is being realistic.
My beloved wife will regularly bring me back to reality when I go off into la-la land about something or other. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her being there to do that for me.
To keep this relevant to the topic at hand, if you don’t create these plans and make these decisions together, make sure you review them and agree with them.
I guarantee that your priorities and your husbands priorities will not match, especially when it comes to those irreplaceable items and memories. If you don’t review and agree to what those priorities are ahead of time, this will be an instant and serious problem as soon as you have to execute the plan. And that’s NOT the time to be having a major argument about those priorities.
Rudy’s Note: Guys, since I know you’re reading this too, just because this is in the Ladies section does NOT absolve you from responsibility. The planning phase is not the time to be dictatorial.
Men and women are wired differently, and they think differently.  So include your wife. She WILL see things you don’t. I guarantee it. Respect her opinions and insights.  Period. End of story.

Ignore this advice at your own peril.

Wrapping Up

Well, this got alot longer than I intended. I plan to elaborate on some of these ideas with some concrete actions you can take soon. Please let me know in the comments or via email if there’s anything you’d like to hear more about in particular.