Survival training is an adventurous sport with many interesting angles: It requires knowledge of various techniques in disciplines like orientation, climbing or botanical and meteorological knowledge that will empower us to use the manifold resources of nature as well as sort out it’s dangers.
Survival training as a sport discipline is fun and also enables body and mind. We reassure ourselves and our capacity of improvisation, fight for existence and prepares us for real survival situations.
But even then, we seldom think that some day it may be us confronting such a situation for real. Even if we have eaten bugs and slept in a cold cave for fun, we don’t expect this to happen when we just go out for a hiking weekend.
But the psychological advantage of having done some survival training helps to confront difficult situations that may arise somehow. Every climber or camper can get into a situation where he is lost or uncommunicated by a sudden storm. In savage regions the risk of not getting found after a small accident are high. We shouldn’t’t think that just because Google Earth has everything cartographied and we can see it on the web, we will get found if lost in the wild. That’s just not how it works.
And be sure that when such a moment arrives all training will be somewhere behind the mental and emotional stress in that very moment of being along in a remote place.
Survival techniques help to overcome the superficial helpless situation, but our worst enemies lie within us: fear, panic, desperation and loss of faith in ourselves.
The real power of survival lies within ourselves. And this is what we need to train most. Survival is about resistance. And the most precious muscle is our mental strength, our will to succeed, to survive, and a psychological attitude of not letting in in irrational fear.
Fear and panic can be our best friends or our worst enemies
Everybody gets afraid when being alone or lost far away from civilization. Fear is a natural reaction for every animal when facing hostile elements. And for us, fear is the natural hormonal response that triggers our senses and prepares the body for escape or fight. In this sense, fear is our best friends.
Panic however is our worst enemy. Panic is the other side of fear, it makes us loose control, get destructive and irrational or fall in despair.
Fear is health, but panic is death.
Knowing, learning and training survival techniques can help us to overcome panic and just let the fear stay. Controlled fear makes us think better and clearer. Fear makes us analyze the situation, take the right decisions and get into action. And once we get to action, fear is controllable.
Not our best friends neither: Solitude and Boredom
Once the immediate action we need to take are done, we could just feel alone and bored. Hours go by in a dark hole or cave, we know someone is out there looking for us and organizing a rescue operation, but we still feel that time stands still. This can depressed some people. The recipe to overcome these feelings is the same as the one to overcome fear: get your mind to think. Keeping active doing things, keeping the mind occupied with useful stuff is a good way to keep distracted from negative feelings.
Finally: Take some minimum safety precautions
- Leave a description of your route for people at home
- Always take a small survival kit in your backpack and a survival guide in case you don’t know basic skills. Better, read it before getting out.
- Be prepared to wait for long time. If you suffer a car accident, best thing is to keep near the vehicle. If we get too far away, chances are that other won’t find us. One of the worst moments from a psychological point of view is to hear or see a possible rescue pass along without seeing us. This can be very depressing and we have to be mentally prepared to not getting noticed.
- Being in a good physical condition is essential too. This done’t mean we should think we are younger and stronger than we really are, but nothing worse to get depressed than not feeling empowered to do anything. People are always capable to overcome their own boundaries when it’s necessary. They often are just not aware of their real strength.
How to behave if you get lost in the wild
First: Analyze the situation and make a plan
- Is someone hurt?
- Is there any imminent danger?
- How is the water and food situation?
Make a list of priorities. Like first aid help, preparing signals, getting water, getting shelter, getting food or preparing to leave.
Second: Don’t hurry unnecessarily
If there is no medical urgency, take your time to prepare and gather your strength. There is not point in getting exhausted by physical activity if the only factor driving us is our sense of time and our fear. Every action must make some sense in order not to waste our energy, we need a plan.
Remember where you are: Is this near a route someone else will soon follow? Is there any refuge in the area? Take your time to draw a basic mental map of the location. Mark the way to prevent circling around, as this is also a psychological trap we should avoid.
Control fear and panic: The mind must be occupied with practical things in order to avoid panic. We need to keep optimistic and confident, without losing the sense of reality of course.
Value your life: The will to survive has to be the power battery for all our actions and has to prevent us from doing anything stupid that might get us killed.