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Keeping Your Mind Present in the Midst of Chaos

Mental preparedness is often the most over-looked aspect of prepping. Being able to maintain your presence of mind in an emergency is far more valuable than any number of canned beans.

presence of mind 


a calm state of mind that allows one to think clearly or act effectively in an emergency.


Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012

In the event of an emergency, your state of mind can be more powerful than any prep you may have purchased.

It’s perfectly natural to feel some panic in a life-threatening situation, but it is your ability to overcome that panic and make good decisions that will ensure the survival of you and your family.

It’s important to understand what panic is. t is a collection of physical symptoms that are the human body’s attempt to survive. Unfortunately, the body is acting separately from the brain, and this can have some devastating physiological effects that countermand real survival.

According to the DSM-IV, these are the physical symptoms of panic:

  • palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • feeling of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea or abdominal distress
  • feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • fear of dying
  • paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations.
  • chills or hot flushes

As you can see, panic can be physically debilitating. If you are focusing on being unable to breathe, you aren’t going to be dealing with the actual threats surrounding you.

Avoiding panic is number one way that you can be prepared. But how can you override your body’s natural tendency for “fight or flight”?

1.)  Take a second to address the fact that what you are feeling is panic and that it is NOT life-threatening. By remembering the symptoms of panic, your brain can begin to override those symptoms. For example, you know that tightness in your chest is not an actual heart attack – it’s a symptom of the adrenaline coursing through your body.

2.)  Begin to desensitize yourself to feelings of panic. You can do this by (safely) putting yourself in high adrenaline situations. Extreme sports like racing pell-mell down a bike path, white water rafting and rock climbing all test your mettle physically and mentally. Bungee jumping, parachuting, zip lining, scuba-diving – even scary movies can get your heart pounding.  Anything that gives you an “I’m-gonna-die” rush can help you become accustomed to the feeling of adrenaline coursing through your veins.

3.)  Become competent in the necessary skills. Spend time learning to deal with emergencies so that your training becomes second nature. Practice things like shooting on the move, trail-running, and defensive driving. Take courses like first aid, CPR, wilderness search and rescue, or orienteering to become more comfortable in extreme situations. Practice your skills often enough that you don’t have to think about them – they are your immediate reflexive response.

4.)  Maintain excellent equipment. The knowledge that you can rely on your equipment is peace of mind. Equipment that you are comfortable with and that is well-maintained can be vital to your survival. Knowing that your gun will not misfire gives you the confidence necessary to defend yourself with it, for example.

5.)  Be prepared. Have your bug-out bag fully stocked and at the ready. Have a bug-out bag in both your vehicle and your home. Have your camping gear stashed in one place to make it easier to grab and go. Have weapons maintained, loaded and ready to use. Have a back-up plan, and then a back up plan for your back up plan.

6.)  Play “war games”. Run possible scenarios in your mind. What would you do if your area was being evacuated because of an impending storm? What would you do if you heard the warning sirens at the nuclear electrical facility nearby? What if there was an earthquake? Martial law? A long-term power outage? Thinking about possible situations that could arise can help you to prepare for each eventuality. The fact that you’ve considered these possibilities at all puts you a giant leap ahead of most other people, and having thought about a situation and come up with plans of action can off-set panic and help you to feel more confident.

Mental preparedness is often the most over-looked aspect of prepping. Being able to maintain your presence of mind in an emergency is far more valuable than any number of canned beans. Having a brain that is functioning efficiently while those around you are panicking can put you valuable steps ahead of the masses.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on August 1st, 2012