Maintaining Good Morale in a Survival Situation, by Lisa F.
Saturday, Dec 10, 2011
While much has been written about the essentials of survival (emergency shelter, fire-making, water purification, defense, hunting, bug-out-bags, etc.), few survival experts have focused on ideas and tactics for maintaining morale and good mental health in a stressful and possibly sustained emergency situation. This essay is intended to arm the reader, figuratively speaking, with some tools for helping people stay positive and energized while under stress. These tips and ideas will be useful for any group, whether or not it includes children, or an individual. The games are not my inventions; rather, I’ve picked them up over the years from work at camps and with team building groups.
For your kit:
- Consider including a travel chess set; you can make or purchase an inexpensive vinyl roll-up chess board and plastic pieces that add negligible weight or bulk to your bug-out-bag but can provide endless hours of mentally stimulating and fun activity, at the same time developing and honing strategic thinking skills.
- A deck of cards with instruction sheet for different games.
- A simple rubber ball (remember those solid pink ones from when you were a kid?) The repetitive motion of rhythmic bouncing against a wall can be meditative; a ball is all you need to play a competitive game of handball with a friend. This item may have other survival uses as well (to get a line up into a tree, perhaps?)\
- A compact book of stories that can be read and re-read. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books is delightful for adults and for kids and makes for a great read-aloud; readers can create fun voices for the different animal characters or put on short plays to tell the stories.
Games for when you have room to run around and can make noise:
- Everybody’s It – in this energizing tag game that gets everybody laughing, simply determine boundaries and start playing! Every person is “it” and can tag anyone else; once tagged, a player is out and must sit or crouch where they are. A fun twist is to let out players continue in the game; they can tag others, as long as they don’t move from their position. The last person standing is the winner.
- Elbow Tag - everyone finds a partner and they stand together with elbows linked. Each pair spreads out throughout the playing area. The leader picks one pair to be the first players involved in the chase; one is the runner and the other is the chaser. If the chaser catches the runner, they switch roles. If the runner chooses, they can hook elbows on any end of the any pairs standing in the playing area. When this happens, the person in the pair who has not been hooked onto must run and become the new runner. Play this game until people get tired or bored; there is no winner or losers.
- Snake Tag - start out with three to four in a group. Try to get as many groups as possible and leave a person as "it". Have the members of each group attach together by holding onto the waist of the person in front of them to form a snake. The person in front is the head and the person in back is the tail. To start, the person that is "it" must catch the tail of one of the snakes and attached to it. If he is successful, the head must come off and he is now "it". You are to twist and turn your snake to keep from losing your head.
- Eye Contact Partner Tag (Good for indoors) - pair up players. During the game the only person that you can tag is your partner. For the tag, you must make eye contact with your partner. All players must keep their eyes open (except for the occasional blink) and at shoulder-head level during play (so no looking up in the sky or down at the ground). Most non-“it” players will make eye contact with other non-“it” players as to avoid looking at their partner. For a better tag ratio, limit eye contact with any other player to 5 seconds. Before starting make sure everyone understands the boundary area – the smaller the better (keep it safe). Then ask each pair to decide who will be “it” first. All the “it”s gather in the middle of the playing area. (At this time the non-“it” players are looking for some sort of hiding advantage within the playing area.) When the facilitator says “go”, the “it”s go off to find and make eye contact with their partners. Once the tag is made the new “it” must turn around three times before going after his or her partner for the tag-back.
Games that don’t involve running around:
- Common Links - divide the players into 3 or 4 groups. Each group has to come up with 5-10 facts that are common to everyone in the group (and write them down?). After about 5 minutes, gather all the groups together and share the 5-10 facts. For each fact that the group has that no other group has, they get a point. So if two groups had "have a dog" they wouldn't get a point for that. The team with the most points wins.
- Sing Down - split group into teams of 3-5 (they’ll need pen and paper) and direct them to list as many songs that include a given word (e.g. “blue”) in the title or lyrics. After about 5 minutes, call time; they may not add any more songs to their lists. In turn, each team must sing part of one of their songs. Teams may not repeat songs that have already been sung; if they do so, they are out. The winning team is the last to have a song remaining on their list.
- Graveyard - One person is chosen to be the gatekeeper. Everyone else lies down on the ground; after the countdown from 10, no one can move. The gatekeeper has to catch people moving to get them out. Once a person is out they can help the gatekeeper try to get other people out. The gatekeeper cannot touch anyone but can say funny things to get people to move or laugh.
- Rhythm Maker – the group should sit down cross-legged on the floor in a large circle; the rhythm maker's job is to change the rhythm of the group. A volunteer leaves the room and later comes back into the middle of the circle to guess who the rhythm maker is. Make sure the group understands that they do not want to be obvious about who the rhythm maker is. The person guessing gets three chances to guess whom the one changing the group’s rhythm is. If she guesses correctly, she gets to choose who the next rhythm maker is after the previous rhythm maker leaves the room to get ready to guess. Therefore, rhythm maker becomes the one who guesses, the one who guessed becomes the one who chooses the next rhythm maker unless they could not guess correctly, then they have to be the security guard. (The one who makes sure the person who is going to guess does not peek).
- Stinky fish – the group has a clothesline or other clip, which becomes the undesirable “stinky fish.” The object is to attach the “stinky fish” to a player’s person (not their pack or any item they are carrying) without them noticing. Now they are “it” or the “stinky fish” and have to find an unwitting player to which they can attach the clip. This game can go on until the “stinky fish” is lost; you’d be surprised how long a group might keep it going.
- Who’s Got the Fruit? – each player chooses the name of a fruit; each fruit may be claimed by only one player. This is a virtual tag game; whoever has “got the fruit” is “it.” The way that the person starting the game (or whoever is “it” at any point during the game) passes off the fruit is by saying the name of a player’s fruit three times in succession without being blocked; a targeted player blocks an attack by interrupting the sequence of 3 by saying the name of the fruit him or herself. For example, if I have “got the fruit” and want to get rid of it, and one of my fellow players is “apple”, I might say “apple apple apple”, or I might more casually work the word into conversation: “I sure miss apple pie…apple apple!”
Other ideas and resources:
A quick internet search using the terms “minute mysteries” or “brain teasers” will find countless activities you can add to your repertoire. Crossword puzzle or Sudoku books would also be welcome in many a survival camp. You could plan calisthenics or stretching as a group, using yoga cards or your own memories, to get people together and focused on feeling good. Most activities can be made into games or friendly competitions with the right attitude; it goes without saying that a positive attitude and orientation towards collaboration may be the most crucial tools in your survival toolkit. The best thing about these activities is that you don’t have to wait for a survival situation to use them!
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