Survival Stress

We've all commented at one point or another about having a stressful day. But most of us don't have a clue as to how debilitating stress can be especially in survival situations. To reduce its impact and to increase the chance of survival in the wilderness, it's important to not only understand stress but to also overcome it. The environment, you physical and mental condition, and the availability of materials all affect the amount of stress you will have to manage.

Environment Stress

There are three environmental factors that will directly impact you in a survival situation. They are the climate (temperature, moisture, and wind), terrain (mountainous, desert, jungle, arctic), and life forms (plants and animals). At first blush these obstacles may seem insurmountable and history has provided plenty of examples of people perishing as a result of unfavorable environmental conditions. Still, there are other stories of survivors that successfully adapted to the given conditions or traveled to another location that was better equipped to meet their needs so we know it can be done. Understanding how the environment might affect you is the first and necessary step to overcoming the unpredictable hardships of nature.

Physical and Psychological Stress

Both the physical and psychological stresses of survival will directly affect your outlook of your situation. If you're not careful, you may lose all hope virtually guaranteeing your death. These stresses may also end up dictating the order in which you meet your needs which is not the ideal way to prioritize. Instead, it is important to make decisions based on logic and not emotion.

Physical stresses are brought about by the physical hardships of survival. Overcoming them requires proper preparation. The six Ps provide a good rule for all wilderness travelers: prior proper preparation prevents poor performance. So what does preparing mean? It involves the following: ensuring that your immunizations are up-to-date, staying well hydrated both before and during any outback adventure, and being physically fit prior to traveling into the wilderness.

The amount of time a survivor goes without rescue will have a significant impact upon his will or drive to survive. As time passes, the survivor's hopes of being found ultimately begin to diminish. With decreased hope comes increased psychological stress. This sort of stress is much more insidious than other forms and you need to be on the look out for it. The basic stresses that will affect you, the survivor, psychologically are as follows: pain, hunger and thirst, heat or cold, fatigue, loneliness, and fear.

Overcoming Survival Stress

The most important key to surviving is the survivor's will. The will or drive to survive is not something that can be bought. However, your will is directly affected by the amount of stress associated with a survival situation. Prior preparation, keeping a clear head and thinking logically, prioritizing your needs, and improvising all will help alleviate some of this stress.

When a problem arises, remember the acronym STOP:

  • S: Stop – Clear your thoughts and focus on the problem.
  • T: Think – Identify practical solutions. Consider each in detail.
  • O: Organize – After looking at your options, pick one. Develop a step-by-step plan from beginning to end.
  • P: Proceed With Your Plan – Be flexible and make adjustments as necessary.

Wilderness Survival by Gregory J. Davenport

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