Staying Mentally Well in Wilderness Survival

Staying Mentally Well in Wilderness Survival

Hank Robertson

While there’s a lot of physical action needed for surviving in the wilderness, there’s also something that’s equally – if not more important than that. You have to watch your mindset during this time.

Staying mentally well in wilderness survival can help you make it through anything. It’s easy to be out of your element and start to feel panic and distress about the situation, but that will only lead to your demise.

The Situation Is Always Better than It Seems 

There’s no doubt that when something happens that shakes you out of your normal routine, it can create a chaos mentality. A kind of shock may set in as you begin to think about everything that’s now different or what it is that you’ve lost.

Any time life takes an unexpected twist and seems to toss you into the deep end of the water, the only choice you really have is to swim. When the comfort zone and routines in life are ripped away, it can cause both physical and mental stress.

What most people do is they don’t automatically begin to think about all the things that have gone right for them. Instead, they dwell on the negative. They allow themselves to look back at the past, instead of focusing forward on what can be.

When you’re in a wilderness survival situation, everything you think, see and feel can seem bleak. But this is only at first. This is what happens as the dust is still settling, as you’re still trying to find your bearings.

When you’re faced with survival, it’s a common tactic for most people to immediately begin to think about everything that’s gone wrong. They forget to see that first and foremost, they’re alive.

They have survived something that upset their normal world. What you need to realize is that surviving something traumatic and lifechanging is actually the first step toward thriving.

You survived, and it wasn’t pure luck that made that happen. You made it through for a reason and that reason is because you do have the ability to adjust and to live and thrive in the situation that you’re in.

When things seem bleak, you have to adopt the mindset that you’re not as bad off as you think you are. Things are never as bleak as they first appear. So what you have to do is take stock of everything that’s gone right for you.

First, you’re alive. You’re strong and capable. You can create shelter because you’re smart enough to figure that out. Humans have a natural survival instinct and you just need to quit looking at what’s gone wrong, and don’t dwell on the bleakness.

You must change your mindset from ‘what have a lost’ to ‘what do I stand to gain’ in this situation. Count what you’re thankful for. Maybe you have clothes and shoes to wear. Maybe you had a bug out bag ready to go so you’re not completely without.

If you don’t have one, maybe you have skills that you know how to use to find animals for food or you have the means to catch fish or you know which plants are edible. Nothing is ever as bleak or dark as it first appears to be. Given the correct mindset, you’ll see that your situation has many positives and isn’t as bad as it seems.

Panicking Is the Worst Thing You Can Do 

When faced with wilderness survival, it’s human nature to feel panic. This is a feeling of fear that’s overwhelming and can make your actions irresponsible or irrational. You’re suddenly thrust into a situation that you never imagined you’d have to deal with.

Maybe you even prepared for it with some survivalist skills, but now that the time is upon you, you don’t feel ready. That’s what panic does to a person. When you panic, it can make you forget everything that you know how to do.

You have to let go of the panic because you have to be able to think clearly and panic won’t let that happen. When you panic, it only makes whatever situation you’re facing much worse.

If you have a clear head, though, you can get through anything because when you’re thinking straight, the brain is able to come up with solutions. Panic chokes off the thought processes.

In some cases, panic can cause a person to freeze. They can’t remember what they’re supposed to do even if they’ve had training. You must be able to think logically for your survival’s sake.

Even though experiencing some panic is normal, you can’t let it be in control. When panic is running the show, it can hinder you from taking the survival steps that you need to implement.

You need to act swiftly and without logical reason and not be the type who freezes in a panic. By rushing, you can miss key points to your survival or you’ll waste valuable time having to redo something because in your panic, you overlooked stuff.

When faced with a panic worthy situation you sometimes need to fight to stay calm. It’s necessary for you to survive. Some people believe that if they’ve prepared for whatever may come, then they won’t be one of the ones to panic.

But the truth is that you don’t know how you’ll react until you’re actually face to face with the survival situation. What you have to realize is that when you feel panicked, give yourself a fast mental countdown from 3 to 1 and then decide those are the only seconds you’ll allow yourself to panic until it’s time to take action.

Then do whatever it is that needs to be done. When you’re counting backward from 3 to 1 take a deep breath because deep breaths help to calm the mind. You don’t want to panic because not only does it waste your time but it can also drain your energy, and cause you to lose crucial seconds when survival time counts.

You have to give yourself a quick mental shake, and tell yourself to pull it together so that you can think clearly. To fight panic, weigh whatever issue or risk it is that you’re facing. If it’s finding shelter, go through the survival steps that you learned.

Think About the Consequences 

Keeping a clear head is something you have to do to make it when your life depends on it. Part of keeping a clear head is to think ahead. Whatever action you take doesn’t end there.

Your reactions are the consequences of the choices that you make. Sometimes, the consequences are minimal and there’s an easy way to correct the action that you took. But other times, the consequences are big, long lasting and there’s just no easy way, if any, to undo what’s happened.

In your normal life, taking action without really thinking about the consequences won’t be as big of a deal in some cases. In a wilderness survival situation, you can’t afford to think without weighing the total cost.

This thinking before acting process is a part of your survival skills and you need to practice it. When you don’t act rashly without thought, then you’re exercising both caution and self-control, two habits you desperately need when trying to survive.

If you’re not in an immediate life-threatening situation, then you have time to think things through. Before you do anything, you should take a moment to see the big picture. When you’re in the wilderness, that’s sometimes not a person’s natural go-to thought process.

They only see the immediate need such as taking care of the hunger today, so they might dip too far into their rations. But if you eat more than you’ve budgeted from your food today, you run the risk of going hungry – if not the next day, then in the future.

You have to weigh the consequences of the hunger today with having no food if you’re not careful enough to say no to yourself. There’s an exercise that you can do when you’re in a situation where you have to be careful to survive.

Every time you need to take action, pause. Just give yourself a few minutes where you do nothing but think. During those few minutes that you’re waiting, think about the exact action that you need to take.

Then ask yourself if there are any other alternate actions you should take instead. If the answer is no, then question the action that you need to take. Look at the best thing that can happen from your decision.

Then think about what the worst thing is that could come from the choice that you’re making. Sometimes the consequences will outweigh the need to act, or you’ll find the consequences are lighter if you take another path instead. And sometimes the action isn’t worth doing at all.

Find a Way to Entertain Yourself 

When people aren’t in a survival setting, there are all sorts of entertainment options. There are televisions and radios, personal music devices and game consoles. Homes are filled with ways to keep boredom at bay.

People get online and entertain themselves that way or they spend hours on their cell phones. If you don’t like the entertainment choices that you have at home, you can hop into your vehicle and go find something else to do to fill your time.

But in a situation where your normal life has been disrupted, most of those options aren’t going to be available to you. You may not have electricity or access to a steady supply of batteries.

In some cases, there won’t be solar power. You may not be able to use a car or roads might be too dangerous to use. When your means of entertainment and relaxation are gone, you need to find a way to replace them.

At first, in a wilderness survival situation, your mind is going to be occupied with figuring out your new normal. You’re going to concentrate on whatever it is that you have to do just to be able to survive.

But surprisingly, eventually, you will settle into your new normal. Humans are extremely resilient. In the beginning, many of your days are going to be consumed with work. You’ll be busy with your new shelter, handling your food source, finding your water source and battling any threats to your survival.

Even so, you can’t spend all your days just working. You weren’t meant to live that way even in a survival lifestyle. Working hard all day every day of the week is a recipe for wearing you down.

It’ll take a toll on your physical energy as well as your mental and emotional energy. It might be tempting to work until you drop off to sleep but it’s not healthy or safe. When you’re physically and mentally exhausted, you can’t react as quickly in situations where quick action is called for.

Plus, you can’t think straight. Wearing yourself out is never a good idea, not when you need to stay sharp. What you have to do is figure out a way to entertain yourself using what you have on hand.

You’ll need to take some time off from the focus of surviving and look for ways to relax. This is an important step in helping to keep you healthy. When you don’t take time off and relax – especially in harrowing situations, it keeps your stress level higher.

And these higher stress levels can make you lose sleep as well as give you trouble with your digestive system. You need to be in the best health possible and you need to be as calm and stress free as possible.

You can’t do that if you’re focusing all your time on working all the time. Take time off and find a way to destress – even if it’s something as simple as lying on the ground watching the sky. Or go exploring in your area and see what you can find in nature.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst 

It’s important to keep as positive a mindset as possible when you’re faced with wilderness survival. Studies have shown that people who hope for the best are more likely to be successful in their endeavors than people who don’t.

A good example of hoping for the best is to hope to find clean drinking water, but being prepared with items that can make the water you do find suitable for use. When you temper your hope with preparation, you can lower the risk of a situation being worse than what it is.

Many people try to plan ahead for bad situations – and you should certainly do that. Planning ahead can make a stressful situation a lot calmer than it could be had you not planned anything in advance.

What you have to keep in mind is that just because you planned ahead doesn’t mean that everything is going to go the way that you had planned. Things that can go wrong usually have a tendency of going wrong.

That’s just the way that life is. It’s hard to know everything that you’re going to run across or situations that are going to impact your planning when you’re not there yet. It’s not until you’re faced with a situation that you have the knowledge that you didn’t have back when you were planning.

You don’t want to develop a negative mindset and become pessimistic about everything. People who look at all the negative things that could go wrong can develop the type of thinking that actually expects to have life hand them only bad stuff.

It’s best not to allow that kind of thinking to prevail. You don’t want to dwell on what could go wrong and you certainly don’t want to look for what can go wrong. What you want to do is simply make sure that if something does happen to go wrong that you have a backup plan.

When you have a backup plan, you have something to fall back on. You’ll know immediately what action steps you need to take to make things go as smoothly as possible.

Plus, when you have a backup plan, it can help to ease your mind and you won’t be as tempted to give in to anxiety. It’ll also help to keep stress levels down. So go ahead and keep a positive mindset, make your plans and then think about alternate actions you need to take in case those plans just don’t work out for you.

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