I have met many great survivalists from all over this great country. I have heard a lot of good advice on food preserving, silver and gold purchasing, ammo stockpiling and medication/first aid preparation. I have further read numerous books and taken part in numerous survival training programs provided by the United States Army, that have taught me how to protect my family, my community and myself when the Fit Hits the Shan (FHTS). I have utilized learned skills first hand during my tours with the army in Afghanistan and Iraq, survived 2-½ years of homelessness and along with 315 million other Americans, struggled to raise a family of five during these tough economic times. What I learned so far is it doesn’t matter how prepared I have made my household, food supply, finances, security measures, family, neighbors and community; if I haven’t prepared myself, it was all for nothing.
Before take-off at the start of every business trip, the flight attendant reminds you that if the air supply bags drop from the over-head compartment, that you are to place your mask on first before assisting others. The reason behind this is you are useless to anyone else if you are dead from a lack of oxygen. Any fire fighter will share a similar belief when it comes to their SCBA mask and rescuing people from a burning building. Imagine spending half of your life reading about and preparing for the end of the world and when it all goes down, you are morally, mentally and physically un-prepared to handle the new normal.
In this article I will cover the definition of wellness; basic skills one could implement to improve their physical, mental and spiritual well being and resources for improving ones resiliency and the resiliency of ones loved ones. As a disabled combat veteran, I could not stress enough the importance of wellness preparation, maintenance and stability. Please keep in mind however, that even the most prepared or resilient individuals cannot predict or survive everything, just like being a non-smoker doesn’t make you immune to cancer, it can only improves your chances of survival.
For the purpose of this article when I discuss your overall wellness I am referring to your physical, mental and spiritual level of functioning and resiliency. With that said, I am a mental health worker and a full-time student of Social Work. Everything you are reading is based on first-hand experience, training/education, evidence based practices and second and third hand observations. Furthermore there will be disclaimers and notes throughout the article, for your protection and my own. There will also be two sets of information provided for each of the three areas of strengthening/preparing; a list of skills that can be implemented today without the limitations of TEOTWAWKI and a second list that follows the “Back to the Basics” approach for after the FHTS. The majority of these skills are presented at a basic level and are a great way to get starting in improving your overall wellness. For more advanced skills training I encourage you to seek the help of a professional in the area you would like to enhance (i.e. priest, doctor, dietitian, gym, therapist, etc.).
In current day and future days, our individual overall wellness will define how we adapt to our ever changing world. The basic wellness model identifies the three most important areas of our functioning as our physical, mental and spiritual health. SAMSHA expands this model in their “Wellness 10 X 10” model which covers 8 dimensions of wellness. For further information and publication on wellness, please explore the web site above, it is a great resource and provides numerous publications free of charge. Improving your strength and resiliency in any of the three areas will have positive ramifications on the corresponding areas. Likewise, any weaknesses or a chronic issue in any area negatively impacts the other two areas. It is important to work on yourself while encouraging the same in others, but remember, no man (or woman) can be the Pope, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Albert Einstein all in one person. Any improvement in any area greatly improves your overall wellness.
Mind (Mental Health)
Self-disclosure alert. I suffer from chronic Moderate to Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Depression. I would rather try to survive TEOTWAWKI with a like minded individual, then someone free of stress, mental health issues or firsthand hardships. Lucky for me, most Americans are like minded, with mental health issues found in the majority of individuals and no one being immune from the effects of stress. Our chances of experiencing mental health issues are based on our level of susceptibility and vulnerability, as is most physical health concerns. Having a mental health issue does not however make an individual any less capable of survivor, in this writer’s opinion, it makes them stronger. Individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI) are going to find barriers others don’t have to worry about, such as medication management, treatment follow through and symptom management.
When the FHTS, it will only be a matter of time before most individuals will experience a heightened level of adrenaline followed by the phenomenon of “fight or flight” thinking. When this happens your autonomic nervous system goes to work and your survival instincts and natural reactions will come out. For more on the autonomic nervous system and the parasympathetic/sympathetic system please review this article. For simplicity purposes we will refer to this mindset as the zone.
In the military many drills are repeated numerous times in a multitude of scenarios in order to increase the chances of use when in the zone. It doesn’t take much to see how training your natural reactions towards stressful situations to mirror your best chance of survival could be highly effective. Doing this for every scenario and every possible outcome would drive even the most disciplined Special Forces Op or Navy SEAL crazy. To compensate, we look to improve our ability to “bounce back from” the situations we couldn’t prepare enough for, this is called resiliency. This resiliency is what helps us to adapt and overcome minor to severe changes in the world around us.
Note: As identified above, no one is immune to the effects of stress and/or mental health issues. Increasing your resiliency will help reduce your susceptibility but will not make you immune. In our present day society over half of the American population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime and over two-thirds will experience at least a minor episode of depression at some point in life. These statistics are based off of today, when the FHTS, you can only imagine the effects it will have on the average American psyche.
Present Day Skills:
Getting Connected / Social Support System: Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in both good times and bad.
Make every day meaningful: Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
Learn from experience: Think back on how you've coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times. You might even write about past experiences in a journal to help you identify both positive and negative behavior patterns — and guide your behavior in the future.
Remain hopeful: You can't change what's happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
Take care of yourself: Tend to your own needs and feelings, both physically and emotionally. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. To restore an inner sense of peace or calm, practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.
Be proactive: Don't ignore your problems or try to wish them away. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you actively work at it.
Back to the Basics Skills: (Most of the skills identified above can further be use after TEOTWAWKI).
Share your experience and encourage others to do the same: Sharing with others and listening to how others are adapting and moving forward with the changes brought on by TEOTWAWKI can not only help identify gaps in progress in individual and group adaptability, but it names issues, makes them real and provides you the ability to take a problem and make it an obtainable goal.
Continue to document your experience: As identified above, learning from your experience can be a great tool to reduce future effects of stress and change, as well as increase your overall ability to cope.
Develop a Crisis Response Plan: Identify a written plan for how you are going to deal with negative thinking, thoughts of harm or suicide, depression and other mental health symptoms. Sign it and share it with others, make it available for reference.
Use your supports and be a support: Even if you find yourself in an “I am Legend” scenario and you are the last human on earth, you still have the support of your spirituality (see I told you these go hand in hand) and your own mind. With others, be there for them, practicing active listening (actually listening and reflecting on what they say, without judging) and show care and support (if the feelings aren’t there, fake it until you make it). Rely on others for the same. We are a social species and rely on the interactions of others to experience comfort and relief.
Body (Physical Health)
Note: I have read numerous blogs and threads regarding the stockpiling and keeping of prescription and non-prescription medications. As I have seen in those threads, I will also do here and not encourage or condone the use of non-prescribed medication or the abuse of medication. I encourage the proper use and disposal of unused medication when no longer needed. With that said, you are your own person and you know what you need and don’t need. If you have the need and the means, then it is up to you to make those decisions.
There are many aspects that affect your ability to survive TEOTWAWKI in regards to our current and maintainable level of physical functioning and health. For this article we will focus on endurance, susceptibility and positive decision making. For information on trauma care and medical care please review the book “When There is no Doctor.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how the overweight and out of shape will handle the big changes that can come with TEOTWAWKI. Anyone can overcome change with the right skills and mind set. With that said, why make it harder on yourself and wait until the end of the world to decide that it’s time to do something about your 35% body fat or high blood pressure. The first thing I encourage in this area is routine. Start slow and implement one or two things at a time, in other words pace yourself, pace yourself, pace yourself. Trying to be the next Mr. Olympian is not your goal. It is better to be overweight and in shape then be overly fit and unable to complete basic tasks, like running far distances.
Getting into shape goes beyond working out, it is what we eat and how we carry ourselves throughout the day. I could easily say don’t smoke, don’t drink, stay away from drugs, don’t eat red meat, carbs are the devil, so on and so forth, but I am not your doctor. With everything you do for your body, moderation is key. My biggest piece of advice, aside from pacing yourself, is don’t look at improving your physical health as a chore, turn it into something fun, you can do again and again and again.
Present Day Skills:
Get active: All those ads you see on television and on billboards are right. Getting active at least 30 minutes a day can greatly improve your overall health and overall wellness. Try doing something you enjoy such as swimming, walking, playing basketball, jogging, dancing, cleaning, etc.
Get involved: Join a club or start an exercise regime with others such as your family. You don’t need a lot, if any money, to get active and to workout, just if you want the big fancy machines when doing so. Find creative ways to keep the family active throughout the day like walks after supper, playing in the yard after work or doing pushup and sit-up contests during commercials.
Mix it up: Mix up your routine to make things interesting. If you planned to go for a nice walk, turn it into a run. Go hiking or canoeing instead of just lifting weights. If you miss a day, a week or a month, don’t dwell on it, there are 24 hours in a day and tomorrow is another day.
Moderation: Get your body used to moderation in most things you do. Eating, drinking, socialization and other activities are more than fine, when done in moderation. Too much of a good thing, makes it a bad thing. Not to mention when the FHTS, it might be pretty hard living up to your vises and abuses, such as excessive drinking, smoking or overeating.
Back to the Basics Skills: (Most of the skills identified above can further be use after TEOTWAWKI).
Stay active: Your gym may now be closed, but the majority of exercises can be fulfilled in small spaces and without the assistance of man-made contraptions. For a giant list of ways to work out under even the most strenuous of circumstances, check out this web site.
Don’t skip a meal: It is better to eat brown rice for three meals a day then it is to skip a meal or two a day. Our bodies need calories to survive and when the FHTS, our standard 2000 daily calorie intake may not be enough.
Take care of yourself: Don’t wait until your cut is infected or your “cold” is a nasty viral infection. Start with your immediate care and always follow up with the preventive care to the best of your ability, for the sake of your health and the health of others around you.
Spirit (Spiritual/Moral Health)
Spirituality is based not on what religion you claim, or even whom you worship. Spirituality is what you believe connects us together, powers the universe, keeps time moving and empowers people to do what is morally right. For some spirituality is found in God (or some deity), nature, art or the universe itself. For myself I find spirituality in my faith in God and in my beliefs in the Catholic faith. My spiritual character has further been developed through trials and tribulations, the military, fatherhood and life experience. Whether you pray to God or baste in the awe of a sunrise over the mountain, we all are at some level aware of our spirituality.
Your moral system is derived from nature and nurture. We learn right and wrong from stories, church, life experience, feelings/emotions, school, society, self-discovery and many other influences. When your moral/ethical system is tested and boundaries are crossed, moral injuries can occur. These injuries can have long lasting effects and take away the drive that keeps one going.
If you are a God fearing man or follow some structured religion, it helps to know where you are going when you die. No matter how much you prepare you will eventually die someday. Accepting death is a struggle every person experiences in their own way. By accepting death and defining your reason for life, you have provided the strongest desire for survival. I know my eternal resting place is among the saints in heaven. Knowing this and having already accepted death through war and tribulation, I know I survive to honor the blessing of life God has bestowed upon me. My faith is Catholicism, but my spirituality is defined by my relationship with God and how I honor him and my fellow man.
Note: There has been a regular theme in this article about priorities, without that word actually being used. Defining ones ethics and values is one thing, but prioritizing them is another. For me it goes; God, family, myself, country, community, work. View this PDF for a questioner if you need help identifying your values.
Present Day Skills:
Pray: Prayer/meditation is an amazing tool for improving your spirituality. Whether you pray to God or look into yourself for strength, doing so can bring your closer to the thing that ties us all together.
Get involved: Get involved in your local church. Participating in mass/service is one thing, but getting involved with the Monday thru Saturday activities can help strengthen your beliefs and improve your spiritual fitness. Socializing with others of like mind and spirit encourages growth. If you don’t go to church or don’t believe in a higher power, you can still get involved. Spend more time doing what makes you feel closer to your spirit, if it’s fishing, fish; if it’s nature, hike and if it’s the stars, keep your eyes to the sky. Learn what you can about what empowers you; it can only make you stronger.
Read: Some religions and spiritual paths come with manuals, while others must be found in various different books. Owning a manual (i.e. Bible, Torah, etc.) that you never read, is like trying to fly a plane full of passengers without having ever left the ground or taken flying lessons.
Put your spirit into what you do: If you are conducting an inventory of your preparations, practice praying and thanking God for his gifts. Utilize mindfulness to enhance the experience of whatever activity or hobby you are taking part in. You can be mindful canning or cooking dinner, just as easy with practice as you can when in nature or experiencing a wave of spirituality.
Back to the Basics Skills:
Keep the faith: When the FHTS, this can be easier said than done. Morals and values are tested in hard times. The stronger you are in your spirituality the better you will be able to do this come TEOTWAWKI. Continue the list of things above to the best of your ability with what is still around. This last part may be hard, but find God in what has happened. Remember that God had to go through hell to open the gates of heaven; sometimes being like him (being a Christian) isn’t easy.
Pray, pray, pray: God protects us (please read Psalm 91) and wants us to live in his blessing of life. For non-believers, meditation can help stabilize the mess of stress and moral injury brought on by TEOTWAWKI. When the world is at its darkest and prayer seems futile, at a minimum, one can pray to thank God for another day every morning, taking heed in the continuation of life.
Final Note: Death is inevitable for everyone, ignoring that robes you of true appreciation for life. With death there is a rebirth and in this rebirth eternal life can finally begin. To all of my fellow survivalists and preppers I wish you a blessed life and encourage you to always help others by giving them bread and teaching them to fish.
Thank you and God Bless.